BETHLEHEM, Pa. - On a difficult day for everyone involved with the University of Pennsylvania track & field programs, several members of the team competed at the Angry Birds Invitational hosted by Lehigh University.
Saturday morning came with the awful news that a member of the team had passed away the previous night. Madison Holleran was a freshman distance runner on the team.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our teammate and friend, Madison Holleran,” said Penn’s Director of Track & Field/Cross Country, Steve Dolan, in a statement issued by the University. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. This is a challenging time for everyone involved with the program, but we will support each other in the weeks to come and help her teammates and friends find their own ways to honor her memory. We will always carry her in our hearts.”
With regard to Saturday’s meet, Dolan and his staff left it in the hands of the athletes scheduled to make the trip to Lehigh.
“We met with the teams early Saturday morning,” said Dolan. “We let those who were scheduled to travel to Lehigh know that if they felt competing was in their best interest then we would support them, and those who felt more comfortable staying back on campus would support that as well. With that in mind, a few coaches accompanied those who wanted to compete, while many of us stayed together on campus.
“Different people are going to grieve in different ways,” he continued. “For some, that means being in a bus with their teammates and coaches, then supporting each other on the track. For others, that means staying here on campus with their teammates and friends. We wanted to let the men and women of our program know that we support them whichever way they choose to deal with this sad occasion and honor their teammate.”
For those that competed with heavy hearts, each turned in spirtied and determined performances. A few Quakers even earned a spot atop the podium. The Red and Blue swept the high jump between Maalik Reynolds and Noel Jancewicz. Lydia Ali won the women's 200 meters and the men's 4x400-meter relay also posted a victory.
Reynolds enters his final season in the Red and Blue with three All-America honors in the high jump. He got off to a good start in search of adding to those accolades with a win at Rauch Fieldhouse. The Atlanta, Ga., native passed until the bar was raised to 2.09 meters. He was the only competitor to clear that bar and did so on his first attempt. He finished with a winning jump of 2.15 meters (7 feet, 1/2 inches).
Jancewicz was in a highly-contested high jump on the women's side. Five competitors cleared 1.60 meters, but the field was trimmed down to only two who passed the bar at 1.65 meters (5-05 ft.). Jancewicz just missed on three attempts at 1.70 meters, but earned the win with the tiebreaker.
On the track, Ali ran to victory in the women's 200 meters with a winning time of 26.25. That was just a stride ahead of Danielle Albergo who was running on her home track and finished in 26.46. Later, Ian Parnell, Timothy Hamlett, James Killian and Tom Timmins combined to win the men's 4x400-meter relay with a finish of 3:24.01.
In the men's shot put, three of Penn's tosses were among the school's all-time top 10. Sam Mattis is now sixth all-time with a second-place toss of 16.52 meters (54-02.50), while freshman Billy Bishop's toss of 16.16 meters (53-00.25 ft.) was fourth at the meet and junior Marcus LaRoche's effort of 16.11 (52-10.25 ft.) placed him fifth. Bishop is now 10th all-time at Penn, while LaRoche's toss would have placed him ninth all-time at Penn prior to the tosses by Mattis and Bishop.
In addition, junior Jordan Jett was the runner-up in the triple jump. He was consistent through his final five jumps and his final leap was his best at 13.96 meters (45-09.75 ft.). Of the five competitors in the pole vault, John Li was the only one to pass the bar at 4.10 meters and finished with a winning clearance of 4.25 meters (13-11.25 ft.).
On the track, sophomore Ben Bowers was the runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.40, and in the 3,000 meters, Chris Hatler and Kirk Webb finished third (8:46.06) and fourth (8:48.41), respectively for the Quakers. The Penn men also shined in the 400 meters. Timmins led the 2-3-4 finish for the Quakers with a time of 50.44. That was just in front of Hamlett (51.43) and Killian (51.61).
The women were also impressive on Saturday. Jenny Thompson was the runner-up in the triple jump. Her third jump of 11.19 meters (36-08.50 ft.) was just nine centimeters short of the winner and well in front of the rest of the field. Also in the field, Cora Butler began her career in the Red and Blue with a fourth-place finish of 5.13 meters (16-10 ft.) in the long jump. Nailah Hill also had an nice debut with a fifth-place finish in the shot put. Her best toss landed at 12.26 meters (40-02.75 ft.).
Senior Gabrielle Piper scored in the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles for the Quakers. She was the runner-up in the 60 meters with a time of 7.80. That was just better than Ali's fourth-place time of 7.82. Piper was third in the hurdles as she sprinted to a finish of 8.99.
The women finished fourth as a team with 77 points, while the men were third with 113 points. Next week the Quakers are closer to home at the Haverford College Invitational on Saturday.