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Now-senior Enoch Cheung wins first place in the 110-meter hurdles during the Philadelphia Metropolitan Collegiate Invitational at Franklin Field on April 24, 2021. Credit: Chase Sutton

Effective training, dedicated coaches, and resilient spirit have, according to coach Steve Dolan, turned the Penn track and field program into one that boasts impressive results at competitions with consistent success. 

This year, the consistent success now characteristic of the Penn program has continued. The Quakers concluded the first month of the new year with several new entries into their record book. Just over a month into the season, women’s indoor track already set ten new records, while the men have added 14 new entries. And they are only just getting ready for the peak of the season.

“We actually compete each week, and the goal is to keep getting better so we’re kind of building momentum towards the end of the season,” Dolan said.

Among the new records are some freshman names.

Freshman sprinter Caia Gelli is up and running, making a name for herself on the team and setting new program records like a welcome habit. Gelli made it to top-ten in the 400-meter dash with an impressive time of 56.22 seconds, placing her right below alumna Paige Madison, who ran 56.03 seconds back in 2010. Gelli also ran 24.29 seconds in the 200 dash, placing her fifth on the all-time leaderboard.

According to Dolan, support from the team has been instrumental to the Gelli's early career success.

Freshman distance runner Bronwyn Patterson also showed off her skills in the mile, running for an impressive time of 4:45.82, putting her in third place for the fastest time behind alumnae Maddie Villalba and Ashley Montgomery.

“It is a big adjustment to college because most of the athletes on our team, across all event groups, were sort of stars in high school on their teams or even in the state levels and so forth,” Dolan said. “It is a big adjustment when you’re in college and everybody is a really strong competitor."

On the men’s side, the freshmen are also proving their need for speed, notching times that place them high up in the Penn record books. Freshman mid-distance runner Edwin Klanke placed seventh on the top-ten 800 list with a strong time of 1:50.94. Freshman Titus Bretzke caught up right behind him with a time of 1:51.05.

"The nice thing now, if you look at our schedule, [is that] we’re heading into our fifth indoor track meet," Dolan said. "So at this point, I think a lot of the freshmen are getting more comfortable and acquainted with the college level and are able to compete.”

Veteran members on the team are also showing their affinity for achievement, setting records of their own. Senior distance runner Ray Sellaro notched a top-three time on the 1,000, running 2:23.57 — 27 milliseconds from second place and 45 milliseconds from first place. 

Sellaro also set the second-highest time for the mile run with a time of 3:57.89, only 86 milliseconds away from the all-time record. Senior Enoch Cheung had the fourth-highest all-time in hurdles with a time of 8.06 seconds, and senior jumper Tamara Grahovac made it into the top-ten with a skilled 11.78-meter jump. 

Of course, setting all these records requires that the athletes have the right mindset and stay motivated, which Dolan centers as an important focus for the team.

“Everyone gets a little nervous and anxious right before a competition, but in the training, we prepare them well so they know what to expect," Dolan said. "And they feel confident in themselves and the work they’ve done in practice."

Ahead of the meet this past weekend, Dolan shared his strategy on preparing the team for further opportunities to make history.

“We’re actually a couple [of] weeks away from the Ivy League Championships, so we really want the team to be the best by then," Dolan said. "We also have [the] outdoor season to come, so it’s not specific to one week. It’s kind of getting better each week, which is our main philosophy.”