NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Nine members of the University of Pennsylvania women's track and field team moved on to the finals during day one of the 2011 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships on Saturday at Yale's Cuyler Athletic Complex in New Haven, Conn. The meet was temporarily delayed due to lightning in the early afternoon hours, but all scheduled events were completed and the Quakers currently stand in sixth-place through six scored events.
Championship Sunday begins with the resumption of the heptathlon plus the finals for the triple jump at 11 a.m. The 2011 Heptagonal team champion will be announced around 5 p.m. For live updates and results throughout the meet, see the link atop this release.
Sophomore Leslie Kovach capped the first day of competition by rewriting her own school record in the 10,000 meters. Just a week after posting the fastest time in Penn history in the event, Kovach became the first member of the Red and Blue to break the 35-minute mark. She took nearly another 30 seconds off her record with a fifth-place time of 34:51.93 - nearly a full 90 seconds faster than any other Quaker in history.
Junior Catherine Okoukoni used a career-best effort to get into the scoring in the long jump. The Weston, Fla., product catapulted into seventh-place in the school record books and earned the Quakers two points with her leap of 5.87 meters (19 feet, 3 1/4 inches). Okoukoni landed that distance on her final jump of the first round and it held for a fifth-place finish.
Sophomore Morgan Wheeler currently sits in fifth place in the heptathlon with 2,727 points. Her best event of the first day was the high jump where she tied for second with a height of 1.64 meters (5-04.50 ft.). There are three events remaining on Sunday - the long jump, javelin and 800 meters.
In a preview of the heptathlon javelin, Wheeler led the finals of the javelin on Saturday through the first round. She eventually finished second and earned eight points for the Quakers. Her best toss of the day was the best of her collegiate career and the fourth-best in program history. It landed at 44.26 meters (145-02 ft.) and had her in first place heading into the final round of throws. That stood as her best and she was passed by just one competitor to finish as the runner-up.
At Heps, the top eight advance past the preliminaries and the top-six finishers will score in the finals of each event on Sunday.
Junior Victoria Strickland made the biggest splash in the preliminaries for the Red and Blue. Only four Quakers in program history have ever recorded a faster time in the 800 meters than her finish of 2:08.79 on Saturday. It was the fourth-best time of the afternoon and qualifies her for the final on Sunday at 2:20 p.m.
Three of the eight qualifiers in the 100 meters are members of the Red and Blue. Juniors Emily Townsend and Leah Brown will be joined by freshman teammate Gabrielle Piper in Sunday's final at 2:05 p.m. With the wind at their backs, all three posted career-best times. Townsend won her heat at 12.12, Piper finished in 12.14 and Brown, though wind-aided, became just the third Quaker in program history to break 12 seconds in the event at 11.91 - second-best among qualifiers. Piper also reached the finals of the 100-meter hurdles with her time of 14.10.
In the 200 meters, Brown and freshman Nony Onyeador each reached the Heptagonal final. Brown had the second-fastest time of the meet with a finish of 24.75, while Onyeador was the eighth-place finisher at 25.15.
Senior Kali Strother got the day off to a great start for the Quakers. The St. Louis, Mo., native notched her best time of the year in the 400 meters, an event in which she is the defending Heps champion. Her finish of 55.44 was the second-best qualifying time of the meet. Sunday's final is set for 1:50 p.m.
Junior Paige Madison made the finals in the 400-meter hurdles. She was second in her heat and fifth overall among qualifiers with a time of 1:02.14.
A full recap of the 2011 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships will be available at PennAthletics.com shortly after the completion of Sunday's events.