After an intense qualifying process, Isabella Whittaker represented Penn at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships on June 10, earning herself an All-America Honorable Mention.
The Championships process started with two preliminary tournaments: the East Region Preliminaries and West Region Preliminaries. A total of 48 student athletes per event were accepted to each tournament based on their top performance of the season. The Red and Blue sent 10 athletes, five women and five men, to the East Region Preliminaries, which were held from May 26-May 29 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
On the women’s side, senior captain Camille Dickson competed in long jump, junior Tamara Grahovac in triple jump, junior Claire Moreau in high jump, junior Haley Rizek in 400-meter hurdles, and freshman Isabella Whittaker in the 400m. On the men’s side, junior Noah Carey and senior captain Ryan Renken competed in the 5,000m, junior William Hare and sophomore Michael Keehan in the 3,000m steeplechase, and senior Anthony Russo in the 10,000m.
The athletes earned their qualifying scores at different events throughout the Track and Field Season. Renken and Carey earned their qualifying times at the Penn Challenge, the first meet of the season on March 27. Moreau earned her spot at the TCNJ Last Chance meet, the last meet of the season, on May 13.
Dickson, Rizek, Keehan, Hare, and Russo all earned their best times at the Philadelphia Metropolitan Collegiate Invitational at the end of April. Dickson’s qualifying distance of 6.24 meters is the program record for long jump. Whittaker and Grahovac earned their spots through their performance at the Penn Twilight meet on May 1. At that meet, Whittaker earned a time of 52.50. In addition to being her qualifying score, this time also held the honor of becoming Penn’s new 400m program record.
Whittaker held the 13th seed in the 400m, the highest rank of any of these Penn track and field athletes in their respective events. Russo was not far behind, with a qualifying seed of 15th in the 10,000m.
The top 12 competitors from each individual event in Jacksonville were then accepted into the Championships competition. Although Whittaker was the only athlete from Penn to make the cut, the Quakers put up a fair fight. Russo scored 17th, putting him just four ranks short of qualifying for the Championship. Dickson finished in 20th place, Grahovac in 42nd, Moreau in 30th, Rizek in 38th, Carey in 23rd, Renken in 33rd, and Keehan at 36th.
Whittaker placed 11th in the quarterfinals with a time of 51.92. This was a new personal-best and program-best score, breaking her previous program-record time of 52.50. Her time was only the third by a woman in Ivy-League history to set a sub-52 second mark in the 400m. She was one of just four Ivy League students to make it past the Preliminaries into the Championships.
At the Championship tournament, hosted by the University of Oregon, she ran in the second of three semifinal heats. Her time of 53.42 put her in 24th place, not enough to advance to the finals. As a freshman, this was the first time that Whittaker competed at a national tournament while representing the Quakers, and it sets her up to compete at more high-level tournaments for Penn in the future.
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