Heptathlete trying to become second Red and Blue woman ever to win same event twice
Shani Boston is back, hoping to do what only one other Quakers woman
has ever accomplished -- win a Penn Relays event two times.
But while her teammates focus on specializing in one or two events, Boston finds herself running different lengths, throwing different objects and jumping different directions all to win a single event: the heptathlon.
The heptathlon, as its name indicates, requires women to compete in seven disciplines: the 200-meter dash, 800m run, 100m hurdles, shot put, javelin, high jump and long jump. The athlete tries to collect the most overall points, which are allotted based on results from each round.
By no means, however, did Boston begin her track career with such a daunting event.
"When I was younger, I started doing the multi-events when I was eight years old," she explains. "When I was 10 years old, I won nationals in the triathlon. I was always a good sprinter and just happened to be good at shot put and the high jump."
After the huge win, Boston's coach encouraged the Atlanta native to continue competing in multi-events.
Training with the Northside Red Runners, a summer program with a knack for cultivating successful multi-athletes, Boston began to follow in the footsteps of the older girls. Continuing to add events, Boston quickly moved to the pentathlon and, by high school, the heptathalon.
But unfortunately for the budding all-around athlete, her high school didn't have the capability to allow Boston to compete in what is now her marquee event.
"I would just focus on certain events whatever my team needed," Boston said. "I was pretty versatile in high school as well, competing in the same type of manner as the heptathlon."
Despite only being able to compete in multi-events during the summer with USA Track and Field, Boston finished in the top eight nationally in the heptathlon twice, earning her two All American honors.
When it came time for Boston to decide on college, though, basketball -- another sport at which she excelled -- forced her to make an extremely difficult decision.
An All-State player, Boston was being heavily recruited to play for Notre Dame. Accepting the Fighting Irish's offer, however, would have spelled the end of her track career. Continuing to explore other options, her decision became clear when she visited Penn.
"A big draw for me was the staff here is absolutely amazing," she said. "They cared about me as an individual. I felt I could mature as a complete person, not just an athlete.
"College was an opportunity to hone my skills in track and field. Basketball wasn't something I could get excited about for the next four years."
The Penn Relays also was an admitted draw for her.
"It's an amazing event," Boston said.
Her freshman year was one to remember. After placing second in the pentathlon at the Ivy League Championships in her first season of indoor track, Boston carried her success outdoors and into the heptathlon.
The eventual MVP freshman and fourth-place finisher in the Ivy League heptathalon, Boston's finest hour was at the relays.
Earning the most points after the first day, Boston found her toughest competition in then-senior teammate Kai Ivory the next day. Although Ivory pulled within only 68 points entering the heptathlon's final event, the 800m run, Boston hung on for the historic victory.
Ivory and I "just pushed each other, and I ended up winning," Boston says. "I walked around in a daze. I didn't really fully understand what I had done. I was just out there having a good time with my teammates. I didn't realize it until a couple weeks later when I realized what kind of world stage [the Penn Relays are] on."
Come sophomore year, however, the only other Penn woman to win a Penn Relays event besides Frances Childs (the heptathlon in 1988) began questioning her commitment to the track.
"It was kind of like a sophomore slump," she said. "It was a year I was trying to decide whether I was continuing sports. Training for events year-round was daunting. I had to take a step back ... and find out where my heart was."
Comforted by the unwavering support of her coaches, Boston spent the outdoor season on the field focusing on her shot put and long jump. Not long after her break, Boston realized how much she missed competing.
"I love track and field -- I love competition. It was my teammates, it was my coaches, it was the whole feeling the team produces. For me it was just re-immersing myself in that competitiveness. I have done it so long it's part of who I am," she added.
So now, Boston is back in business, anxious to regain her title as Penn Relays heptathalon champion. Her teammates, her coaches and spectators of the Penn Relays worldwide now wait to see whether Boston can dominate again.