Run, run, and run some more. That’s what’s been on the menu for Penn women’s track and field junior Bronwyn Patterson virtually every day since she began running competitively in high school; and she doesn’t want it any other way.
Patterson was on an absolute tear last season, earning Indoor first-team All-Ivy and Outdoor second-team All-Ivy honors, as well as Indoor second-team All-America, all for the 800 meters. She also ran the second fastest indoor 800m in program history last season with a time of 2:04.54, as well as the third fastest indoor 1,000m, clocking in at 2:48.30.
While her success on the track would probably make one think Patterson has been running since it was humanly possible for her, in reality, she started out as a lacrosse player.
When she got to high school, playing lacrosse was a given, but she started running outside of it to stay in shape for the season. Her sophomore year, Patterson began running cross country and track while still playing club lacrosse, until she finally gave it up for good. After a total of 12 years playing lacrosse, Patterson had decided to fully commit to running — a decision that would prove to be the right one as time played out.
However, lacrosse still played a role in determining where she would end up for college, as Penn was initially on her radar for playing her original sport.
“Penn was actually my dream school for lacrosse, so I knew that I wanted to go here regardless, but then when I made the jump from lacrosse to track I actually came to visit Penn and I saw the track team workout,” Patterson said. “Then once I switched to doing track full time, I was like, ‘Oh, I should actually really look at them.’”
Since arriving at Penn as a freshman, Patterson has been running cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring. Breaks are not something that Patterson gets to enjoy very often.
“This season is unique in that I'm racing the earliest I ever have. I finished cross country up last Friday, I took the weekend off, and then I started training again on Monday for [a] meet up in Boston on Dec. 3.”
While switching from running the standard 6k race in cross country to focusing on shorter distances like the 800m, 1,000m, and the mile may seem daunting, Patterson has a positive outlook on the transition.
“Since I'm doing mid-distance, I'm able to transition relatively easily, but for me the transition is just shifting the focus of the workout," she said. "I'll still be doing distance runs throughout the week and a long run, but the mileage is less because the workouts are a lot more speed focused.”
Now that the cross country season is officially wrapped up, Patterson has nothing but track to focus on for the remainder of the year, with indoor track around the corner. Fortunately for Patterson, this is where she excels, and she attributes this primarily to the fact that on an indoor track, each lap is only 200m long, versus an outdoor track that is 400m.
“I like indoor better because I'm someone who likes the uniformity of the laps on an indoor track,” Patterson said. “So for the 800 when you're running four laps on an indoor track, you know exactly the splits you need to hit and for me that's really helpful.”
Her preference towards indoor track also led to an Ivy League title in the 800m last season and secured a trip to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, a title that she will be looking to defend coming into this season. However, Patterson is sure not to put too much pressure on herself as she understands the nature of the sport.
“I think people can get caught up in times very easily. I’m actually someone who is not necessarily married to the time … I want to just do the best that I can in every race,” Patterson said. “I think me being successful would just be giving it everything I can on that day, and I don't really think I can ask for anything more from myself.”
The success Patterson has had so far in her track and field career is unquestionable, but it has not always been smooth sailing throughout the process.
“My freshman year was pretty tough coming into college after [COVID-19]. I definitely struggled mentally with getting into the hurt of track,” Patterson said. “I mean, people talk about it all the time and it's kind of a joke, but track is very painful and you go into this pain cave, and once you get to a certain level, especially once you get to college athletics, that pain can be pretty daunting.”
She has also battled through some injuries, most notably with some foot problems throughout last summer that had her questioning whether she would be in shape and prepared for the cross country season. Fortunately, everything worked out, and she is carrying that momentum with her for track.
“Trying to do it for the Red and Blue and do it for something bigger than yourself and keeping that in the back of my head is super motivating to me,” Patterson said.
Fueled by what she describes as an incredibly supportive environment, where everyone cheers everyone on and uplifts each other through thick and thin, greatness is on the horizon.
“I'm so excited for the season,” Patterson said. “I think the team has momentum like never before, and I'm really excited to see how we do, especially in the winter and spring coming up.”