Track & Field

Coming off Big East Championship success, Penney cementing Syracuse legacy

Last week, Chris Fox said Syracuse’s Laruen Penney may be the best distance runner in the country right now.

After her two most recent performances at the Husky Classic in Seattle and the Big East Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio, Penney has a legitimate case to prove her coach right.

In Seattle, the post-graduate runner competed in the 3,000-meter race. After building her base in the fall, Penney’s training and determination came together in the race. She ended up placing fifth with a time of 9:06.

Her time, however, was good enough to conquer the school record of 9:12, which she set in 2012.

“Going into the race, I was really excited,” Penney said. “I think I had a chance to get my best time, but I didn’t know I’d drop it by six seconds. I was just hoping for under 9:10.”

While Penney is hoping her personal record holds up and gets her to Nationals, she had to quickly put the race behind her with the Big East Indoor Championships coming up the following weekend.

In her final time competing in the event, Penney carried her momentum from the week before and finished third in the 3,000-meter run. While her time of 9:24.46 was much slower than at the Husky Classic, she was still able to earn SU six points – one-fifth of the 30 points they would earn total as a team on the weekend.

“This meet is not about getting individual fast times,” Penney said. “It’s more about going out there for the team and making Syracuse look good.”

The women’s team finished ninth for the second straight year at the meet, and scored six fewer points than a year ago.

Even though Syracuse focuses more on the outdoor season, many of the runners feel veteran athletes like Penney are always successful indoors because they have learned to progress as athletes and become more professional.

When Penney was a freshman, she suffered a quad strain and didn’t really know what the injury was at the time. All she knew was that something was not right.

“At this time freshman year, I wasn’t even running because of the injury,” Penney said. “I would say, ‘I hope I run again at some point.’ And now I have come a really long way since that.”

Griff Graves was a teammate who watched her overcome the injury and ultimately run her way into the Syracuse record books.

Graves has been Penney’s teammate since 2008. While he has embraced a veteran-like role on the team, Graves knows how important other older runners like Penney are to a program trying to resurrect its indoor reputation.

And in the past four and a half seasons, he has been a testament to that.

“You look at a girl like Lauren and she is a stud,” Graves said. “She is going to be going to Nationals this year and will tear it up because she’s learned over the years how to take it professionally, step by step. She is probably the best distance runner Syracuse has ever seen.”

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