PHILADELPHIA - A record-setting number of Quakers are heading to the opening rounds of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Jacksonville, Fla., May 29-31. A school-record 14 athletes -- three women and 11 men -- will represent the University of Pennsylvania at North Florida's Hodges Stadium this weekend.
The NCAA Championship meet extends over two weekends in a three-week span at three different sites. The first weekend - known as the NCAA Preliminary Round - is broken up into two different sites - East (Jacksonville, Fla.) and West (Fayetteville, Ark.), which host the NCAA first round and quarterfinal round in each event as well as some of the NCAA semifinals.
In each event, the top 12 finishers from the East Preliminary and the top 12 from the West will advance to compete in the finals of the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., June 11-14.
Sophomore Tom Pitt will be the first to represent the Quakers at the NCAA Championships. He will compete in the First Round of the long jump on Thursday at 2 p.m. Junior Tom Timmins will be the first on the track when he competes in the 400-hurdles at 4:30 p.m.. Also on the track on the first day of competition will be Thomas Awad (5:30 p.m.) and Ashley Montgomery (6 p.m.) in the men's and women's 1,500 meters, respectively. Junior Mato Bekelja and sophomore Drew Magaha will compete in the first round of the men's 800 meters at 8:10 p.m., and freshman Brendan Shearn and will be in the men's 10,000 meters at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, sophomore Kelsey Hay will vie for a spot in Oregon in the women's javelin at 5:30 p.m.
Should they advance, Timmins, Bekelja and Magaha will compete on Friday in the NCAA quarterfinals of their respective events. Also on Friday, sophomore Ben Bowers will compete in the first round of the 110-meter hurdles at 5 p.m., and Gabrielle Piper will run in the opening round of the 100-meter hurdles at 5:30 p.m. Later that night, sophomore Brendan Smith and freshman Nick Tuck will race for a spot in the NCAA Final in the men's steeplechase at 8:50 p.m.
Saturday will mark the quarterfinals of the 1,500 meters and both hurdles events. Other Penn athletes competing on the final day in Jacksonville will be sophomore Sam Mattis in the men's discus (noon), Pitt and senior All-American Maalik Reynolds in the men's high jump (5 p.m.), and Awad in the 5,000 meters (8:05 p.m.).
Penn's previous modern-day record of NCAA qualifiers was 11 -- set last year in Steve Dolan's first season at the helm of the Quakers. The 11 men's qualifers this year are also a men's program record since the current NCAA format began in 2010.
A full recap of the opening rounds of the NCAA Championships will be available at PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of each day's events.