Runner Penelopea Gordon and the words NCAA 800M Qualifier, Penelopea Gordon, NCAA logo + SMC logo

Runner Penelopea Gordon Makes Saint Mary’s History

She has qualified for the NCAA West First Round—the first freshman in Gael program history to do so.

by SMC Athletics | May 22, 2023

In what has been a record-breaking first season at the collegiate level, Penelopea Gordon ’26 is not done making history. The Rochester, Minnesota, native became the first freshman Gael ever to qualify for the NCAA West First Round. She will compete in the 800m at the tournament in Sacramento on May 25.

Gordon's stock has been on the rise since early in the season, when she finished seventh overall in the 600m at the UW Preview indoor meet on January 14. Since then, her times keep dropping, and her finishes keep improving. She first ran the 800m as a Gael at the Mike Fanelli Classic and posted a time of 2:17.32. Over her last three attempts, however, she has shaved over 10 seconds off that time, culminating in a 2:07.27 at the Portland Distance Carnival in May. That time is the second-fastest 800m time in Saint Mary's history, and she finished third in the event behind an Olympic bronze medalist and an All-American.

“In the recruiting process we knew that Penelopea had tremendous upside,” says head coach Marty Kinsey. “Upon her arrival at Saint Mary's, she has been nothing but a hard worker with a positive attitude. She started to really rise to her potential the last few weeks and it ended up resulting in the situation that we are in now, an opportunity for her to compete at the NCAA championships.”

One of the Fastest Freshmen in the Country

In just one season with Saint Mary's, Gordon has trimmed six seconds from her high school personal-best in the 800m. This improvement has helped land her inside the top-20 for fastest freshman in the entire country.

Saint Mary's continues to be well-represented at the NCAA Championship. This is the sixth year since 2016 that the Gaels have had either a cross country or track runner qualify for an NCAA event. The last two years on the track side, Rayna Stanziano ’23 has represented Saint Mary’s, including 2022 where she qualified in the 1500m and 5000m.

The first round of the 800m at the NCAA West First Round is broken into six heats, each with eight runners. The top three from each heat will advance to Saturday's quarterfinals, as will the top-six times from those who are not inside a top-three within a heat. From there, the top-three from each quarterfinal will advance to the NCAA Championship in Austin, Texas, as well as the top-three times from those not within a top-three in a heat.


Penelopea Gordon's story as it was originally published at 

See accolades for the Class of 2023 in “Saint Mary’s Student-Athletes Shine with Commencement Awards.”