GREENSBORO, N.C. - Freshman Sam Mattis and sophomores Mato Bekelja and Tom Timmins capped successful seasons for the University of Pennsylvania men's track and field team on Thursday at the NCAA East Preliminary Round.
Mattis was the first Quaker to compete at the NCAA meet and finished just one spot shy of qualifying for the NCAA Finals in the discus. The top 12 advanced to the national championship event and the East Brunswick, N.J. native finished 13th. Of the 48 competitors, the top 16 advanced beyond the preliminaries. Mattis qualified for Thursday's final after his second throw landed at 53.37 meters (175 feet, 1 inch) and placed him 15th after the preliminaries. He then bested that effort with his second-to-last throw of 53.76 meters (176-04 ft.). That moved him up two places, but finished just two feet shy of the top 12.
Timmins was the first member of the Red and Blue to take to North Carolina A&T's Irwin Belk Track. He competed in the NCAA First Round of the 400-meter hurdles and was eighth in his heat. The Phoenixville, Pa., native finished in 58.59 to place 47th against some of the nation's best. A short while later, in the NCAA First Round of the 800 meters, Bekelja was also eighth in his heat. He finished in 1:54.35 and placed 44th overall in his NCAA debut.
Mattis finished the season as the school record holder in the discus. He also set the Heps meet record when he claimed the heptagonal championship and first-team All-Ivy honors with his toss of 58.34 meters (191-05 ft.). Timmins and Bekelja also finished the season in the school record book. Timmins is 10th in the 400 hurdles with a career-best time of 52.23, while Bekelja owns the same spot in the outdoor 800 meters with a mark of 1:49.62 earlier this year.
The Penn men still have four more competing at the NCAA meet. On Friday, Brendan Smith (steeple, 9:30 p.m.) and Jake Brenza (shot put, 5 p.m.) will compete, while Saturday will feature Thomas Awad (5,000m, 8:45 p.m.) and Maalik Reynolds (high jump, 6 p.m.).
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 (Greensboro, N.C.) and West (Austin, Texas), which host the NCAA first round and quarterfinal round in each event as well as some of the NCAA semifinals.
The top 24 finishers in the first round advance to the quarterfinals where the top 12 will advance to compete in the semifinals and finals of the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., June 5-8.
A full recap of each day's events can be found at PennAthletics.com.