This week’s athlete spotlight features one of a kind distance running superstar, Penn junior Tommy Awad. Two weeks ago at the Stanford Invitational he dropped an incredible 13:33.29 performance in the 5000m to place 5th in the elite section (and 3rd amongst collegians). That time is currently leading the league and is the second best time in Ivy League History. Awad hopes to use the momentum from that race to propel him to as many first place finishes as possible this season and, in the process, some more fast times. But as impressive as his running exploits may be, there is much more to this young man than his ability to run fast and kick hard. He majors in health and societies, has a deep passion for the anime and manga, and, as his quick wit and anecdotes point out, has a great sense of humor.
When did you start running?
I started running my freshman year of high school. My dad was a recreational runner when I was growing up so I got my interest in the sport from there.
How did you end up competing for Penn?
My reason for picking Penn is kind of interesting I like to think. When I was getting recruited, Penn was not as strong in running as many of the other schools I was looking at. However, the coaches seemed super passionate about turning that around and I just wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to come to Penn to start a running revolution and I think we’re doing just that.
Where is your favorite place to compete? Why?
Favorite place to compete…..difficult question. The obvious answer would be Franklin Field, but I like it better when its empty and just the team. I probably don’t have a favorite place. As long as its an oval and 400 meters, I’ll race there.
Before you start your event, what do you mentally focus on? How do you maintain that focus during your event?
I focus on whatever needs to be focused on. Different races call for different things to focus on. A championship race is going to call for me to focus more on positioning than a time trial type of race. It’s just whatever is important I guess.
Do you have any meet rituals or superstitions (i.e. pre-race meal, articles of clothing or jewelry, song you listen to, etc.)?
I don’t have any rituals before races. Similar to the last answer, days are different. I need to do what’s right on that specific day. If I feel like doing 6 strides before the race instead of 8, then that’s what I’ll do. A routine isn’t bad, but I just do what I feel is right that day.
If you weren’t a distance runner, what event would you most like to do?
If I wasn’t a distance runner, I probably would want to do hammer or disc. I think the rotational throwing events are really awesome. The hammer is especially interesting because I feel like the competitors are all different sizes and shapes. Definitely hammer.
Do you have any interests outside of track and field?
I am a person and have interests outside of track. I spend the vast majority of my free time watching anime, reading manga, and playing Hearthstone. If I’m not doing that, I’m on my favorite subreddits r/anime and r/hearthstone. Not the coolest interests in the world, but that’s what I like.
What athletic performance or accomplishment are you most proud of? Non-athletic?
The athletic performance I am most proud of… not sure. The sub 4 minute mile was cool, but winning the 10k at Heps last outdoor season was also awesome. Maybe when I ran 14:04 my freshman year? That was exciting. I have a lot of performances I’m happy with but I can’t really pick a favorite. Non-athletic goals… more uncertainty. I talked to a trucker for four straight hours after my car broke down while driving cross country this summer. I was quite proud of myself. I have nothing against truckers but this guy was an interesting fellow.
What are you goals for this upcoming season?
Goal for this season, win every race I’m in. If I win, the fast times will come. I’m 0/2 this season so far, but I plan on changing that.
Describe your favorite Heps memory.
First off, Heps is awesome! The Heps championships are the best meets I have ever been to. My fondest memory from a Heps is probably winning the cross championships this past year. I was super nervous going in because I was never really the favorite going into a race of this caliber before. If I didn’t win, it would have been a bad day. After winning, I was getting emotional, but I didn’t cry. Crying feels bad so I try to not do that. Also, we finished third as a team! Third is so much better than my first two years so that was awesome!
What does the Heps mean to you?
Heps means a ton to me. The energy is so unreal. I had to make a rule for myself at the Heps championships to only get hyped for certain events, so I do not tire myself out for my races. I have never been to a meet with so much energy. Racing surrounded by so much noise is one hell of an experience.
If you could dine with anyone who has ever existed, who would you want to dine with, and why?
This is a great question. I was asked this once before in an interview and I said a girl I had a crush on and we started dating after so this question holds a special place in my heart. However, I will leave the girlfriend out of this one and opt for my alternative answer. Eiichiro Oda. Who is that you ask? Only the best mangaka ever. He writes my favorite manga, One Piece, and I would love to get the opportunity to talk to him about it. There’s so much content in this manga and I would want to analyze it with him.
Any recommended Books? Music? Movies?
I just taught myself how to read recently and I used my new talent to read the sappy, tear jerker ‘The Fault in our Stars’. The characters in this book were super interesting. I’ve read another book by John Green and I am working on my third book by him now. He’s a great author and he has a really good Youtube page as well. Music? Of course! Coheed and Cambria is the best band ever. They are a hard rock group that my older sister got me into. Check out their album “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”. (The colon is not a typo). I saw them play it live last September and it was unreal. Movie time. Watch anything by Mamoru Hosoda. These are anime movies, be aware, but they rival the famous Hayao Miyazaki in my opinion. Hosoda’s new movie comes out this summer and I need to find a theater that will be playing it since anime movies only go into select theaters.
side photo provided by Tommy Awad
– Rachel Sorna