Three Heptagonal Champions for Men's Track and Field

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PHILADELPHIA – Senior Max Westman, sophomore Darryll Oliver, and the 400-meter relay team each claimed Heptagonal titles for the University of Pennsylvania men's track and field team Sunday at Franklin Field.The Quakersfinished third as a team at the 2009 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships.

With Cornell and Princeton gaining a big lead early in the meet, it was a race for third place and the Quakers won. Cornell finished with 165 points and Princeton with 138. The Quakers tallied 76 points, coming from behind in the final hours to top Brown (64), Dartmouth (57) and Harvard (54). Yale was seventhwith 49 points, and Columbia eighth with 48.

“We had some good leadership that showed through,” said head coach Charlie Powell. “We had some guys that gave us great performances and even some that scored a few points here and there. If you only knew and understood how so many people had personal bests that overcame illnesses and injuries to really give us a good, solid meet today. It was phenomenal. It was a great effort. People from Penn can be proud of them.”

The first of Penn’s three Heptagonal championships came from the 400-meter relay team. The foursome of sophomore Alan Hill and seniors Kevin Benjamin, Joey Brown and Kevin Baidoo blew past the competition, finishing with the eighth-best time in Penn history at 40.83. The regional qualifying mark was also the fastest time run by a Quakers relay team since 2002.

“We’ve practiced for this for a long time,” said Brown, who ran the second leg. “Kevin Baidoo has been a great addition to the anchor, he really made the race for us. It was amazing; this is the best time run at Penn in seven years so it is a great way to go out. I’ll always remember it.”

Though it may have been the last race for Brown and the 400-meter relay team at Franklin Field, the four will team up again at the Regionals in two weeks with a shot to go to the NCAA Championships.

Also reaching the NCAA Regional Championships this weekend were 800-meter runners Brian Fulton and Darryll Oliver. Each did so on day one, but Oliver bested his time on Championship Sunday in what may have been the race of the meet.

Battling Jeff Moriarty from Columbia, Oliver finished in 1:48.61, topping his career mark set less than 24 hours earlier. Oliver and Moriarty ran one-two throughout the race with the Penn sophomore running a 53.40 split. Coming around the final turn, Moriarty made his move to pass and the two ran side-by-side down the home stretch. But it was Oliver who had the most kick, winning by two steps to become the fourth-fastest Quaker ever in one of the most storied events in Penn's history. It was also the seventh-fastest time ever recorded at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships and currently ranks him ninth in the nation this season. The win marked the seventh-consecutive year in which a Quaker won the Heptagonal championship in the event.

Senior Max Westman led the decathlon by 212 points entering Sunday and maintained his advantage to claim the 2009 Heptagonal title. In all, Westman won five of the 10 events, including the first three events on Sunday, to finish with 7,128 points - the third highest total in Heptagonal history. The total provisionally qualified him for the NCAA's and was 282 ahead of his nearest competitor. The Lower Merion product started the final day with 829 points in winning the 110-meter hurdles at 15.17. He then won the discus at 41.83 meters (137 feet, 3 inches) for 702 points, and tied for first in the pole vault with a height of 4.45 meters (14-07 1/4 ft.) that earned him 746 more points. Westman placed second in the afternoon javelin and when he was the second to cross the 1,500-meter finish line in 4:42.52, the decathlete was a Heptagonal champion.

Penn sat in fifth-place, just one point ahead of sixth-place Yale, but starting with junior Willie Harris, the Quakers made a push in the final four hours of competition. Harris added points in the 110-meter hurdles, and junior Jeremy Sinclair and sophomore Taylor Neason did so in the 400-meter hurdles. Harris placed fifth with a time of 15.09 - identical to his season-best effort in the preliminaries. Sinclair was third at 53.39 and Neason was fifth at 53.61 to combine for eight points in their event. Neason's time was a career-best and earned him a trip to the IC4A Championships.

Brown and Benjamin rebounded from the 400-meter relay to place second and fourth in their respective sprints. Brown earned eight points in the 100 meters with a finish of 10.90, and Benjamin earned four more points with his finish of 21.77. Benjamin became the first Quaker this season to crack 22 seconds and qualified for the IC4A Championships in the event.

In the field events Sunday, junior John Carelli was fourth in the triple jump. Carelli leaped 14.97 meters (49-01.50 ft.) on his final jump of the preliminaries which placed him in second heading into the event finals. Despite two more jumps near the 49-foot mark, Carelli's third jump of the day stood as his best.

The Red and Blue fittingly capped the day with a season-best performance in the 1,600-meter relay. Junior Ben McKean, Benjamin, freshman Brian Rosenthal, and senior Sam Shepherd finished in 3:14.46 to place fourth.

Penn will have nearly two dozen qualifiers that are eligible for the IC4A Championships next weekend. The postseason meet will take place May 15-17 in Princeton, N.J. NCAA Regionals will take place two weeks later from May 29-30 in Greensboro, N.C.