PHILADELPHIA - As hosts to the world's oldest and largest relay carnival, the University of Pennsylvania women's outdoor track and field team posted one of its best weekends of the year and capped the regular season at the 118th Penn Relays. As highlights, senior Kristen Judge won the Eastern high jump and sophomore Kersie Jhabvala ran the sixth-fastest 10,000 meters in program history.
There were 49,810 in attendance Saturday at historic Franklin Field, and a total of 112,416 during the three-day relay carnival. The final day total was the third-best for a Saturday at the Penn Relays, while the overall total ranks as fifth-most all-time in the event's 118-year history.
It was quite a start and end to Day One. In front of 23,075 fans, Judge was in one of the meet's opening events on Thursday morning. Fighting some occasional light rain, 12 competitors reached 1.68 meters (5 feet, 6 inches), but none passed the next height. Judge was the only flawless jumper to that point though, and won the tiebreaker to claim the Penn Relays title.
Then in the last event of Day One, Jhabvala posted a personal best in the 10,000 meters and moved up in the school record book. The Cary, N.C., native finished 15th overall with a time of 36:56.46. That improved upon her previous collegiate best by nearly 10 seconds and moved her one place higher to sixth-place all-time at Penn. Jhabvala is now one of just seven women in program history to break 37 minutes in the event.
All four of Penn's 4x100-meter relay team members on Thursday rank in Penn's all-time top ten in the event. It showed. The Quakers won their heat and finished 21st against 84 of the best teams in the nation. Sophomore Gabrielle Piper started and handed to senior Leah Brown. Then senior Emily Townsend sprinted the stick to junior Nony Onyeador, who blew past two runners to break the tape. Their time of 46.71 easily qualified the Red and Blue for Friday's ECAC final, where they finished fifth with a time of 47.09.
The Quakers continued to excel on the big stage during the first day of Penn Relays with the team's best 4x400-meter relay of the year. Penn's four senior co-captains combined to beat the team's previous season-best effort by more than three seconds. Renee McDougall took the lead leg and gave the baton to Paige Madison. After Victoria Strickland finished her lap, Leah Brown made up a lot of ground to surge the Red and Blue into second-place. She passed Cornell and stopped the clock at 3:43.43 - five-hundreths of a second in front of the Big Red.
Penn's relay success continued into Friday where the 4x200-meter relay finished fifth in their heat and 26th overall with a mark of 1:40.62 - the fifth-best mark in school history. Then the Quakers competed against the top teams in the country in the Sprint Medley Championship of America where Piper, Heather Bong, Shakele Seaton and Veronica Salcido finished in 4:07.80 to place 29th.
On Saturday, in the 4x800-meter relay, Strickland, Salcido, Chelsea Delaney and Adriane McCray held the lead for the majority of their heat. However, Harvard, who won the entire event, overtook the Quakers in the final turn. Overall, Penn finished fourth with their mark of 8:58.51.
Only three women topped Davielle Brown in the pole vault on Thursday morning. Following the tiebreakers, the junior finished seventh among 24 vaulters at 3.65 meters (11 feet, 11 3/4 inches). She passed each of the first two heights on her first try and her final height on the second attempt. Junior Jillian Hart was 16th at 3.50 meters (11-05.75 ft.).
In Thursday's javelin, junior Morgan Wheeler posted another impressive effort. Her toss of 44.13 meters (144-09 ft.) marked her third meet over 44 meters this year and placed her third overall. Wheeler is in position to reach the NCAA Championships for the second straight year in the event.
Madison also finished 24th out of 76 competitors in the 400-meter hurdles on Day One. She was third in her heat with a time of 1:01.76.
In the remaining field events, junior Charlotte Pope was 26th in the hammer at 43.61 meters (143-0 ft.) and 25th in the shot put at 12.32 meters (40-05 ft.). Senior Corinne Rich was 30th in the discus with a toss of 37.02 (121-05 ft.) and senior Catherine Okoukoni was 13th in the long jump with a leap of 5.46 meters (17-11 ft.). Okoukoni was also 14th in the triple jump with a leap of 11.47 meters (37-07.50 ft.).
In the other distance events on Thursday night, junior Margaret Diacont was 22nd in the steeplechase at 11:25.13 and senior Laura Steel was 16th in the 3,000 meters with a personal-best mark of 9:50.47 - just 13 tenths of a second from reaching Penn's all-time top 10.
Penn has completed the 2012 outdoor regular season. In addition to hosting Penn Relays for the 118th consecutive year, the Quakers will also host the 2012 Heptagonal Outdoor Championships at Franklin Field. The Ivy League will converge on the West Philadelphia stadium May 5-6.
Penn at The Penn Relays:
4x100 Relay: 5-Penn (46.71p, 57.01f)
4x200 Relay: 26-Penn (1:40.62)
4x400 Relay: 2-Penn (3:43.43)
4x800 Relay: 4-Penn (8:58.51)
Sprint Medley Relay: 29-Penn (4:07.80)
400-Meter Hurdles: 37-Madison (1:01.76)
Steeplechase: 22-Diacont (11:25.13)
3,000 Meters: 16-Steel (9:50.47)
10,000 Meters: 15-Jhabvala (36:56.46)
Pole Vault: 7-D. Brown (3.65m), 16-Hart (3.50m)
Hammer: 26-Pope (43.61m)
High Jump: 1-Judge (1.68m)
Shot Put: 25-Pope (12.32m)
Discus: 30-Rich (37.02m)
Long Jump: 13-Okoukoni (5.46m)
Triple Jump: 14-Okoukoni (11.47m), 19-Thompson (11.10m)
Javelin: 3-Wheeler (44.13m)