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PHILADELPHIA - Four members of the University of Pennsylvania men's track and field team earned the right to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday-Saturday. Seniors Brian Fulton and Ryan Cunningham, and sophomores Maalik Reynolds and Jake Brenza will have the opportunity to represent the Red and Blue at the NCAA meet inside Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida.
Cunningham (1,500 meters) and Fulton (800 meters) compete in the NCAA First Round on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., and 8:10 p.m., respectively. Brenza (shot put) and Reynolds (high jump) compete Saturday at 5 p.m.
In each event, the top 48 marks qualified for the NCAA Preliminary Rounds. The top 24 finishers in the first round will advance to the quarterfinals where the top 12 then advance to compete in the semifinals and finals of the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 7-9.
Cunningham will open the NCAA East Preliminary Round for the Quakers on Thursday. If he advances, the Brewster, N.Y., native will compete in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., for a spot at the NCAA Championship meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Cunningham earned a spot at the meet with the second-fastest 1,500 meters at Penn in the last 34 years. His mark of 3:45.93 at George Mason's Patriot Invitational ranks as the sixth-fastest in school history.
This will mark the second NCAA Championships appearance for Fulton. The three-time All-Ivy recipient competed in the same event in 2009. If he is among the top 24 on Thursday, Fulton will compete for a spot in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Friday at 7 p.m. The West Chester, Pa., native is seeded 30th following a career-best performance - and the seventh-best all-time at Penn - at the Heptagonal Championships (1:49.49).
Brenza will be making his NCAA Championships debut. His event begins on the final day of competition in the Sunshine State. A Camp Hill High School product, Brenza has had one of the best seasons in the shot put at Penn in decades. He became just the second Quaker to reach the school's all-time top 10 list in the last 28 years and the first since 2000 (Brent Stiles) during the Penn Relays. A week later, he cemented his spot at the NCAA Championships with the third-best toss in program history and the best since 1981 at 17.25 meters (56 feet, 7 1/4 inches) during the Heptagonal Championships.
Reynolds is a veteran of the NCAA Championships. The Atlanta, Ga., native is already a two-time All-American and finished seventh at the outdoor championships as a freshman in 2011. The four-time Heptagonal champion ranks sixth in the nation in the high jump at 2.24 meters (7 feet 4 1/4 inches) and enters the East Preliminary Round as the No. 4 seed. The top 12 in his event will reach the NCAA final in June.
The NCAA Championship meet extends over two weekends in a three-week span at three different sites. The first weekend is now known as the NCAA Preliminary Round and is broken up into two different sites - East (Jacksonville, Fla.) and West (Austin, Texas), which host the NCAA first round and quarterfinal round in each event as well as some of the NCAA semifinals in the field events.
A full recap will be available at PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of each day's events.