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Penn track and field competed at the Pepsi Florida Relays and the Raleigh Relays on Mar. 28-30.

Credit: Samantha Turner

This past weekend Penn’s track and field teams split up to compete in two meets: the Pepsi Florida Relays and the Raleigh Relays, comprising the ultimate track weekend. The sprinters and jumpers traveled to Gainesville, Fla, while the distance runners and throwers headed to Raleigh, N.C.

Though the teams were physically separated they remained linked in spirit, as each group put their best foot forward in their respective meets. The Quakers broke multiple program records and established new personal bests, setting a great precedent for the upcoming outdoor season. 

“The goal of coming south this weekend is trying to get warmer weather earlier this season,” Penn coach Steve Dolan said. “We were hoping that we could maybe get some performances that would help people [qualify] for the NCAA championships.”

One of the women’s team’s best hurdlers, senior Aliya Garozzo, set a new program record for the 400-meter hurdles, completing it in 57.97 seconds. The previous record, set in 2019, was held by Skyla Wilson at 58.26. 

“I definitely felt nervous,” Garozzo recalled. “But more than anything, [I] was just excited to be there. It was a great opportunity [with] great conditions.” The team’s previous meet last weekend took place in the pouring rain at Franklin Field, so the sunny weather in Florida was a nice change of pace.

Freshman hurdler Ryan Matulonis also set a PR in the 400-meter hurdles, completing the race in 51.60, ultimately ranking him ninth on the program’s all-time list. Assistant coach Chené Townsend reported that the sprinters weren’t feeling their best due to a rushed practice schedule before the meet. Despite their unfortunate luck, the team shook off their nerves and pushed through to complete incredible times. 

The women’s 4x100-meter relay team — composed of Garozzo, sophomore sprinters Moforehan Abinusawa and Christiana Nwachuku, and senior sprinter Isabella Whittaker — also set a new program record in Friday’s preliminary race, running the relay in 44.36. They broke the record again on Saturday with a new time of 43.96, though sophomore sprinter Daniella Oyenuga subbed for Garozzo. This new time ranks the team eighth nationally for the 4x100 relay, and will hopefully take them to nationals. 

Other notable performances in Florida include junior sprinter Jocelyn Niemiec setting a PR in the 200m at 24.40, and junior mid-distance runner Titus Bretzke running 1:48.49 in the men’s 800m, a personal best and fifth on the program’s all-time list. Junior pole vaulter James Rhoads also set a new PR at 5.50m, which is also tied for second in program history, while freshman sprinter Nayyir Newash-Campbell set a personal best of 47.39 in the 400m.

Several states away, the distance runners put forth equally impressive performances at the Raleigh Relays, hosted by NC State. Each of the five athletes who ran the women’s 1500m set a new PR, with junior distance runner Bronwyn Patterson ranking ninth on the program’s all-time list. She also set a personal best in the 800m at 2:03.42 alongside her teammate, junior mid-distance runner Chloe Hassman, who achieved a PR at 2:08.67. 

Patterson has previously won the 800m in the Ivy League and her new time is the second-fastest time in Penn’s history. Her success this weekend only gives her more excitement for the future. 

“I really … would not have asked for a better opener really,” Patterson said. “The way that I felt and the way that I can see the season going, I’m really excited to just see where those limits are.” 

Similar to Patterson, junior distance runner Edwin Klanke and sophomore distance runner Liam Going also set personal bests in both the 1500m and 800m. Klanke finished the 1500m at 3:46.98 and the 800m at 1:50.43, while Going finished the 1500m in 3:50.00 and the 800m in 1:50.57. 

Three women’s athletes competed in the 10,000-meter race — sophomore distance runner Lily Murphy and senior distance runner Maeve Stiles, who ran in the 10,000m Invitational, while junior distance runner Anastasia Russell ran in the main race. Stiles set a PR, running it in 33:11.24, while Murphy finished third out of 35 competitors in 32:40.92. These are the two best times in Penn’s program history and Murphy’s time is the second-fastest of all time in Ivy League history, behind Courtney Smith of Harvard, who set her record in 2016.

“You just go to sleep,” Stiles responded when asked about the repetitiveness of the 10,000m. “You just try to zone out … for as long as possible until it starts to hurt.”

Another remarkable performance this weekend comes from senior distance runner Olivia Morganti, who ran the 3000-meter steeplechase in 10:15.16. With this time, Dolan is hopeful that Morganti will qualify for the NCAA Preliminaries. 

Of the five athletes — three women, two men — who competed in the discus throw, four set personal bests. Most notably, sophomore thrower Angeludi Asaah’s PR of 49.08 meters ranks third on the program’s all time list.

During the busy track and field season, with meets almost every weekend, there’s little time to slow down. But the packed schedule seems to exhilarate the athletes. 

“I’m looking forward for us to keep going as far as we can,” Garozzo said. “I feel like we don’t really have any limits at this point. We’re just growing and I’m really excited to just see where that takes us.” The Quakers’ next meet is the Penn Invitational at Franklin Field on April 6.