The 2004-05 Penn track and field squad is full of seasoned veterans and high profile newcomers. These student-athletes will be hoping to add a third Ivy League title in the last five years to their already impressive resumes. In the last few years the University of Pennsylvania has seen tremendous growth due to the special student-athletes that have worn the Red and Blue. Alumni Brian Chaput, Matt Wedge, Sam Burley, Brian Abram, Laethe Coleman, Gene Sun and Tuan Wreh all made the current seniors and juniors what they are today.
Each Penn student-athlete recognizes the privilege that it is to run for such a storied program. They have shown what it is to work hard and the importance of teamwork to become successful in what is generally recognized as an individual sport. Members of the Red and Blue want to excel for themselves but they have learned how important the camaraderie of the group is. Once a student- athlete puts on the Penn uniform he is brought into the family and bound with his brothers.
This season the Quakers are welcoming 21 student-athletes who could combine to make up the most talented recruiting class in the history of the program. Time will tell if they will have the lasting impact that the previous seven stars have had on the program.This year's squad is using the leverage it gained from last year's second-place conference finish to restock the arsenal. The Quakers have acquired multiple state champions and national class athletes from 12 states to add to the Penn Track and Field family. The goal for the 2004-05 season is simple to again be the top team in the conference. These new recruits have recognized the tradition of Penn Track and Field and are committed to continuing its legacy.
The Penn Track and Field family is built upon hard work, intensity and pride. A student-athlete’s time at Penn is an opportunity for them to create world-class performances and life-long memories. Each former, present and future Penn student-athlete will say that their time as a member of this highly successful program was one of the most exciting and fulfilling times in their life.
After a rebuilding year last season, the new squad is looking to dramatically improve during the 2004 fall campaign and shock the Mid-Atlantic region. The strength of the team is now entering their senior season and are poised to win their elusive Heptagonal Cross Country title. It would be a dramatic turnaround but if anyone can lead that charge it will be senior All-American Dusty Lieb, who is now healthy and looking to improve upon his 26th place showing at Nationals from two seasons ago. Lieb ran sparingly last season but dominated when he did race, as evidenced by his 10,000 meter title at the 2004 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships.Lieb and classmates Nolan Tully, Stephen Hayes and Matt VanAntwerp create a formidable group that could place in the top ten of any race they enter. Each is capable of being an All-Ivy selection during the upcoming schedule.
The tremendous top end strength of the team should pull three or four guys along with them to some low finishes. What has kept the Red and Blue from breaking through to the top of the League in recent seasons has been its lack of depth, of which there is no shortage this season. This year there are six to eight runners who should be battling to join the seniors in raising the bar of success for the Quakers. Included in that emerging group are juniors George Weiner and Bretton Bonnette.
The sophomore class has a strong contingent of runners as well who have battled all summer long to become part of the scoring group. Those members of the Red and Blue include Ian Foley, Eric Pauley and Troy Werner. Combine that squad with the talent of freshmen Larry Contrella, Brian Goldberg, Mike Lovejoy and Reid McEwen and you have the potential for something special when the harriers meet in New York for the Heps Cross Country Championships in November.
In 2004-05, Penn will utilize its sprint talent to score a large majority of its points. Penn seems to always have a Heptagonal Champion in one, if not all, of the sprint events. The coaching staff expects nothing less from this year's group.
A key area for the Quakers is their 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. Joining the already impressive group of runners is 2004 World Junior 100m finalist Grafton Ifill. Ifill comes to Penn with some exceptional credentials including personal records of 10.39 in the 100m and 20.80 in the 200m. He should be the man to beat in the League for many years to come, but along with him will be a very fast entourage.
Joining Ifill on the 4x100 squad will be senior All-Ivy selection Tony Archibong who was second at the conference meet in the 200 last year and will be huge in both individual and relay events. Look for him to make dramatic improvements in 2004-05 as he should close in on the 21 second mark. Also in this group are two of the toughest runners in the league with junior Eric Ljungquist and sophomore Cody Schovitz. Both were All-Ivy and All-East selections in 2003-04 and will be counted on to dominate the workouts and lead the 4x400m relay toward nationals.
Also among the fastest men on campus are juniors Joel Miller and Pete Cochran. They have each given great relay legs in the past and should be scorers in their individual events in 2004-05. Another sprinter who has shown steady improvement is senior Lawrence Gibson. He will be counted on to run the 200/400 this year as well as help out on the relay.
The future of the relay teams for the Red and Blue is looking very good, as numerous freshmen could immediately contend for a spot. Included in that group are Andrew Anderson and Michael Provenzano. Anderson was the New Jersey state 400m champ in 2004 and who believes that he can bring the squad to national prominence. So does Provenzano, who has the fastest open 400 personal record of anyone on the team. This quartet could likely take a stab at the eight-year old 4x400m record of 3:08.37. Watch for great things out of this group.
This area of the team has gained national attention due to the world-class performances of three of its runners in the last six years. Currently there is one man who owns the League in the 800 junior Courtney Jaworski. He was a NCAA and Olympic Trials qualifier in only his second collegiate season by running 1:47.81. Jaworski has the talent to go as far as he wants and may challenge 2003 NCAA Champion Sam Burley's school record of 1:45.39. However, he is not alone in the group as there are no less than six former high school state champions in the middle distance events for the Quakers.
A few student-athletes who will push Jaworski each time out are junior Matt Evans and sophomore Carson Schmiett. Both have tremendous potential and seem to have the physical gifts to become great. Schmiett got valuable experience last year as a freshman and narrowly missed cracking into the Penn record book in the process. Their mental ability to push through workouts and battle with world class training partners will determine how good each becomes over the winter and spring seasons.
Senior Stephen Hayes has been to the NCAA regional meet the past two years and knows what it takes to be ready for big competition. Expect huge performances from Hayes and fellow classmate Scott Sebens in their final years of competition. Sebens has always been a great competitor and along with classmate Mike Lang and Jaworski, the Quakers are looking to defend their Indoor 4x800 IC4A title from 2004. Each member of the Red and Blue has great competitive fire and will teach the young nucleus of talent how to leave their best performance on the track.
Another member of this talented group is junior Mark Materna, who placed third indoors in the mile at the Heps meet. Materna, along with every other Quaker mentioned, has the talent to be an individual Heptagonal Champion this season. However, with the influx of talent arriving on campus in the fall we could very likely see some new faces atop the podium in 2004. Those who may impact the team immediately are John Guzman, Matt Hill, Dan Howard, Tim Kaijala, Brian Lang, Alejandro Shepard and Graham Snow.
The hurdle group was dealt a tough blow with the graduation of five-time Heps hurdle champ Matt Wedge. It is never easy losing someone who virtually guaranteed 10 points at the conference meet, but the addition of the incoming freshman class has made the loss easier to handle. If there is one area that Penn loves to dominate, it is the hurdles. The incoming freshmen could be the nucleus of a group of hurdlers who potentially could erase the Penn shuttle hurdle record that has stood for over 30 years as Penn will bring three state champion hurdlers to the squad for the 2004-05 season.
Those three, along with Archibong and sophomore Heps finalist Mike Bale should be the gas that keeps Penn's tradition of hurdling on fire this season. Freshman David Whitehurst was third in the nation while in high school and ran 13.82, while fellow classmates Kyle Calvo and Mike Hall ran 14.15 and 14.67, respectively. In the 400 hurdles the Quakers return junior Bob Budesa who was a surprise fourth-place finisher at last year’s Heps. He should be joined by Mike Hall and a few transfers from the 400 to build a strong corps of long hurdlers for the outdoor season.
As is the case in the hurdles, so is the case in the throws. Penn lost quite possibly the best student-athlete in the last 50 years of the track and field squad. No one has left more of an impact on a program than 2004 graduate and U.S. Olympic Team member Brian Chaput. However, junior javelin thrower Jim Malizia is ready and waiting to pick up where Chaput left off. Malizia has already been a two-time NCAA Regional Qualifier, and this season aims to finally reach the national stage which has alluded him for two years. It won't be for lack of effort, as he and fellow senior Mike Sangobowale are two of the hardest workers this team has ever seen. They are the two key returnees from a throwing squad that has wreaked havoc on the Ivy League for the past four years.
Sangobowale could likely post huge efforts in the shot put and discus and take the place of 2004 graduate and Heps discus champion Justin King. Those two, along with senior Tom Zylkin should provide guidance for the team that is relatively young in other areas. Helping out with the throws will be freshman Dustin Johnson.
An area of the program that will be dramatically improved in 2004-05 is the Jumps/Multi-Events. Two key returnees are back for the Quakers and they could possibly be the best two student-athletes on the team. Senior Neal Wojdowski and junior Chris Carter have been the heart and soul of this event area for three years.
Each is very serious about their athletic preparation, and this season may see each of them achieve All-America status. Both were national qualifiers in 2004; Wojdowski outdoors in the pole vault and Carter indoors in the heptathlon. Wojdowski won Heptagonal and IC4A titles and came close to eclipsing 17 feet in the vault. He will be looked upon to the lead the Quakers in all phases of training. Carter has battled injuries throughout his time at Penn, but this season he will have two national champions join him in training for the heptathlon and decathlon.
Calvo won the national high school indoor championships in both the pentathlon and the high jump. He has unlimited potential and could be a national class decathlete in his first season with the Quakers. Calvo’s exploits in the jumps and hurdles will make it tough for the coaching staff to figure out where to focus his efforts as he has jumped 7'0" and 23'6.5" and run 14.12 in the 100m and 22.11 in the 200. He will likely have company in the jumps with fellow freshmen Pete Habegger and Whitehurst.
Habegger owned the fourth-best high school jump in the country with his mark of 24'8". He is also very versatile and looks to compete in the sprints for Penn as well. Whitehurst, who is mainly a hurdler, has jumped 6'8" in the high jump and will likely be near 7' come May.
The supporting cast in these events is extremely strong, starting with senior high jumper and Heps scorer Nameir Majette. He is ready to improve upon last year's performance and push Calvo and Whitehurst in training. Depth in the pole vault is strong with senior Jesse Shoemaker and junior Sean McArthur intent on scoring for the Quakers in the upcoming season. Horizontal jumpers junior Mike Daley and senior Brent James hope to finally crack into the Heps scoring after narrowly missing finals the past two seasons.
For well over 100 years, the University of Pennsylvania has been synonymous with excellence in the sport of track and field. The program has produced several Olympians, numerous NCAA champions and has fostered the exponential growth of the world famous Penn Relays. Dominance within the Ivy League is demonstrated by the fact that during the last 32 years, the team has finished first 15 times and second nine times. One of the goals of the 2004-05 team is to do its best to follow this championship heritage.
Written by Jamie Cook