JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sophomores Tom Awad and Kelsey Hay each advanced for the University of Pennsylvania track and field teams during the NCAA East Preliminary Round on Thursday at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.
On the track, the top five from each heat automatically advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. Awad finished fifth in his heat at 3:49.64 to reach Saturday's quarterfinal in the men's 1,500 meters (6:30 p.m.). He made a dramatic push in the last 200 meters to move past the first round. Running around 10th place until that mark, the East Norwich, N.Y., native used a final kick to pass five competitors and earn a spot in the next round of the NCAA Championships.
In each field event, the top 12 finishers advance to compete in the finals of the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., June 11-14. Hay finished 12th overall with a toss of 48.89 meters (160-04 ft.). That was Hay's second throw of the day and placed her eighth in her flight and 10th overall at the meet heading into the flight finals. Through the final three rounds of throws, that mark remained her best and Hay moved down to 12th overall, but clinched the her spot in Oregon.
Sophomore Tom Pitt, who qualified for the NCAA Championships in two events, was the first to compete for the Red and Blue. He was 44th in the first round of the long jump. His best leap measured 6.85 meters (22-05.75 ft.). Pitt's meet will continue on Saturday as he also qualified for the NCAA's in the high jump.
The first Quaker on the track was junior Tom Timmins in the men's 400-meter hurdles. It also marked the first track event of the NCAA meet. Timmins, who ranks 10th all-time in the event at Penn, just missed on improving that mark. He finished in 52.46 which placed him 32nd overall and just three-tenths of a second from one of the 24 qualifying spots for the NCAA quarterfinals.
Shortly after Awad advanced, freshman Ashley Montgomery competed in the NCAA first round of the women's 1,500 meters. She was 11th in her heat and 43rd overall with a finish of 4:32.18. She finished her rookie season fourth in the Penn record book in the event and was also a part of the fifth-fastest distance medley relay in school history.
In Penn's final event of the day, freshman Brendan Shearn finished 20th in the men's 10,000 meters. He was just a few seconds off his career-best mark of 29:49.04 which also ranks fourth all-time at Penn. He crossed the finish line on Thursday night in 30:32.61.
In all, Penn has sent a modern-day school record of 14 athletes to the NCAA Championships. The Quakers will be busy during the final two days of competition as well.
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, sophomore Brendan Smith and freshman Nick Tuck will race for a spot in the NCAA Finals in the men's steeplechase at 8:50 p.m.
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.).
A full recap of the East Preliminary rounds of the NCAA Championships will be available at PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of each day's events.