A little less than three years ago, Thomas Awad C’16 crossed the finish line at Franklin Field into the waiting arms of D. Elton Cochran-Fikes C’74 WG’79. And, at that precise, delirious moment, the two celebrated being the only Penn athletes to run a mile in under four minutes as Awad joined Cochran-Fikes in the very exclusive club.
They’ll need to make room for one more.
“I looked up and saw the time and it was incredible,” Hatler said in an interview with the Gazette shortly after the meet. “I just remember a huge grin on my face and being really pumped — as much as you can be when you’re really tired.”
Once thought impossible, the four-minute mile barrier was first broken by Roger Bannister in 1954. More and more athletes, even some high schoolers, join the club every year, but it was still especially meaningful for Hatler, who’s been chasing it since he was little.
“It’s still one of those milestones that’s very important to a lot of runners, and the [track] community in general,” Hatler said. “It’s something every runner dreams of since you start. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do it.”
The Penn senior had been close to running a four-minute mile over the past couple of years, with his former teammate Awad — who’s now training in Arizona — encouraging him to keep improving while reminding him, “Don’t worry, it will come.”
After running the mile in 4:00.50 at the Armory Invitational a week before the Millrose Games, Hatler realized “it was just a matter of getting in the right race” to clock in under four minutes.
And he credits Awad a lot for his progression.
“Luckily I had Thomas Awad on the team for a couple of years,” he said. “He showed us anything is possible if you work hard.”
Now, to be at the same level as both Awad and Cochran-Fikes — who works at Penn and remains “an inspiration” to many of the team’s runners — is a “really special thing to be a part of,” he said.
But there’s still more to accomplish in his senior year, both individually and as part of Penn’s quickly improving track team, which had a memorable day at the nationally televised Millrose games. On top of Hatler’s stirring mile run, the men’s distance medley relay took first (Hatler’s usually a part of that but only watched this time, while exhaustedly lying down after his own race) and several records were set. Among them:
- Freshman Maura Kimmel, school record in shot put (15.19 meters), broke her own school record three times, No. 8 all-time in Ivy League
- Freshman Breanne Bygrave, school record time of 8.40 in the 60-meter hurdles, good for No. 2 all-time in the Ivy League
- Junior Molly Minnig, new school record in pole vault at 3.90 meters
- Junior Taylor McCorkle, new school record in 60-meter dash at 7.42, No. 3 all-time in Ivy League
- Sophomore Rachel Wilson, new school record in weight throw 18.73 meters, No. 8 all-time in Ivy League
Combine all of those records with Hatler and Awad helping the Quakers to a “magic” relay win at last year’s Penn Relays and now those two joining a club that had only one member in it for 40 years, and it’s clear that something big is brewing at Franklin Field.
Said Hatler: “You can see the difference Coach [Steve] Dolan has made the last few years he’s been here.”
— Dave Zeitlin C’03