PHILADELPHIA - Rising sophomores Thomas Awad (5,000 meters) and Brendan Smith (steeplechase) are set to represent Team USA at the Pan-American Junior Games in Medellin, Colombia, Aug. 23-25.
Awad, who is competing at 8:20 p.m. EST on Friday, is the only American in the 5,000 meters. He won the junior national title in the event at the USA Junior Championships in Des Moines, Iowa on June 20. The East Norwich, N.Y., native earned his trip to Colombia when he held off Northeastern's Wesley Gallagher and Oklahoma State's Craig Nowak with a kick to the finish. Awad, who earned All-America in the event at the NCAA Championships on June 8,broke the tape at 15:00.67 to top the field of 27.
Smith, who competes at 7:50 p.m. EST on Saturday, nearly claimed his own junior national title. The Fayetteville, N.Y., native was the runner-up in Iowa by three seconds to Purdue's Tate Schienbein. Smith held a comfortable lead over the rest of the field and finished in 9:20.10 to clinch his spot at the Pan-Am Junior Games.
Awad and Smith arrived in South America on Tuesday and will have to adjust to a change in altitude. Medellin, which is the second-largest city in Colombia, is nearly a mile above sea level.
The last Penn athlete to reach the Pan-Am Junior Championships was then-freshman high jumper Maalik Reynolds, who finished second at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships in 2011. The Penn school record-holder then won the gold medal at the 2011 Pan-Am Junior Championships with a height of 2.22 meters (7 feet, 3 1/4 inches) in Miramar, Fla.
Back in the States, the rest of the Quakers will simultaneously begin the cross country season. The first meet of the season - the Big 5 Invitational - is set for Sept. 13 at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia.