With the weather warming up to the crowds of guests, and event schedules growing denser with names of nationally recognizable talents, day two of the Penn Relays invited crowds to more sunny hours of electric competition.
Runners of programs across the country grew more comfortable to warm up down Locust Walk, and more of the Red and Blue were seen on the track compared to the first day. The College Women's 4x400 Championship of America heats featured four of Penn’s underclassmen: sophomores Isabella Whittaker and Aliya Garozzo, and freshmen Jocelyn Niemiec and Caia Gelli.
Penn’s choice of lineups to include more underclassmen was intentional to provide them more exposure to competition while also allowing senior athletes to reserve their energy for the season finale. And the choice was met with reward, as the underclassman lineup placed fourth overall, with their clean runs and teamwork easing them into a qualifying 3:37.74 time.
“We told ourselves that we were just going to come out and compete, and that's what we did,” Whittaker said. “We knew that we needed to get, like, top two in our heat and then some, so we just wanted to try to win our heat.”
This race highlights Whittaker’s return from injury ahead of the Ivy League Heptagonals next weekend, which are held in as intense an anticipation as the Penn Relays.
“I think it's also really good that we have Penn Relays right before,” Niemiec said. “I feel like this meet gives us a lot of momentum, because it's such a fun meet that we do good here, and we get the ball rolling, and next week, we really hit it hard.”
The energy of the crowd in attendance ballooned in response to the edge of competitiveness presented on the track. Not a moment was met with inaction, as volunteers and athletes swarmed to maintain the turnover of events by the minute.
Penn’s hurdlers made the most of collecting the energy of the crowd and translating it into their results. Senior Enoch Cheung scored a personal record in the 110m hurdles with his finish of 14.30, which did not qualify for finals, but received great congratulations from his teammates.
“I think it was a really solid race,” Cheung said. “I definitely feel like I still have stuff to work on, but I'm really like proud of being able to go out there and compete at such a high level.”
As one of the few on the team who has experienced the Penn Relays before, Cheung felt the responsibility to pass on the excitement of the weekend in adequate representation to the underclassmen.
“It feels like I have to explain to everyone how exciting it is, and get everyone to put their heart into it and everything,” Cheung said, “but I do feel like kind of an emotional leader in that sense.”
Senior Haley Rizek and junior Katherine Muccio needed no such reminder to build their enthusiasm for the Penn Relays, as they observed a heartfelt reflection of their first Penn Relays today during the 100m hurdles.
“We were in the 100-meter hurdles … so we essentially ran it the same time,” Rizek said. “So that was really special. My first Penn Relays experience was with Katherine, and my last one will also be with Katherine.”
“And it's nice because it's three classes' first Penn Relays,” Muccio said. “So it's like, what an experience for all of us to like do it together. It's just been such a long time. So good to be back.”
While one more day of the Penn Relays remains, the Quakers are already focused in preparation for next weekend.
“I'm expecting our women's team to absolutely get after it and rip the competition to shreds,” Rizek said. “I don't think that the rest of the Ivy League is ready for the intensity that we're gonna bring. So we’re bringing all the energy.”