Hammons Sets Record in Sacramento

By By Tye Smith

By Tye Smith

Penelope Jane Hammons, better known to students as “Nellie,” is an emerging track star at the U. On Wednesday, Hammons broke her own school record in the 800-meter run at the NCAA Championship Meet in Sacramento, Calif.

Though she failed to qualify for the next round of heats, finishing 20th overall, Hammons did succeed by running her event in a time of 2:06.99. While setting a personal best, she improved upon her school record time of 2:07.08 set earlier this year.

Prior to Wednesday’s met, Hammons was already focused on accomplishing her primary goal for Nationals: running the 800 in under 2:07:00.

While Hammons was successful in her attempt to break the school record, she did not advance beyond the first heat of runners. Despite her elimination, Hammons remained positive about the results, keeping in mind that she is only a sophomore.

“It was really great to represent the school at the NCAA Championships,” she said. “All the athletes were very competitive. I’m very excited that I broke 2:07.00 and set a new school record.”

Part of Hammons’ success stems from her past experience running in northern California. Several of her regular-season meets were held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, which gives Hammons a kind of home-court advantage because of its relative proximity to the city of Sacramento. Additionally, Hammons looks at California as a good-luck charm because the three previous fastest times of her career have all come at Stanford.

Head cross country coach Brian Appell was hopeful that Hammons would make it through the early heats. Before the meet, Appell said that the primary goal at nationals was for Hammons to “advance through the different qualifying heats.” After the race, Appell remained enthusiastic about Hammons’ future.

“Nellie’s performance was a culmination of a great season,” he said. “We’re looking forward to more great performances from Nellie over the next two years.”

Hammons has been attending the University of Utah for three years, but her decision to redshirt her freshman year means that Hammons is only a sophomore according to the NCAA. Considering the relative rarity of a sophomore competing at such a high level, and the fact that she has two more years of competition awaiting her, Hammons and her coaches see a very bright future.

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