Denis Fikes took the collegiate track and field and cross country world by storm in his very first year with the Quakers in 1970. And after four consecutive years of the same intensity and Penn pride, Fikes finished his track career at Penn with several championships, numerous accolades and plenty of records. His love of the sport, and collegiate athletics in general, propelled him into various coaching positions and his current administrative duty in the
Fikes began his collegiate career with a Philadelphia Big 5 Freshman Cross Country Championship in 1970. He also finished fifth in the freshman race at the IC4A Cross Country Championship with a time of 14:42.0. During his first track season, Fikes set school records in the mile (4:03.9 in King Games Dream Mile) and steeple chase (8:51.6 at AAUs).
His second year with the Quakers was equally impressive, as Fikes led the Penn team to the 1971 Heptagonal Cross Country Championship and a sixth-place individual finish (24:53). He was the top Penn finisher, along with Dave Merrick, with a seventh-place finish at the IC4As. The Quakers competed at the NCAA Championships that season as well, and finished third as a team, Penn's best placing ever. Fikes finished 75th overall with a time of 31:12. The indoor track season saw Fikes earn two Heptagonal Championships, one in the 1,000-meter run (2:11.7) and one as the anchor of the two-mile relay squad. At the IC4As, Fikes was a part of the school-record setting distance medley relay team and set an individual Penn-record in the 1,000 with a time of 2:08.9. Outdoors, Fikes won the steeplechase title at Heps in 9:01.0 and ran on the four-mile relay record-setting team.
Fikes' cross country season in 1972 started with a Big 5 co-title at Belmont Plateau with a winning time of 26:05. He then won the Indoor Heps' 1,000-meter championship and anchored the two-mile relay team to the title. Fikes improved upon those accolades with a 4:02.0 mile to win the IC4A championship, which broke the record for the meet, before he finished fifth at the NCAA Championships in the 1000-yard race.
As a senior, Fikes did not disappoint. During the cross country season, he finished third at
But Fikes saved his best for last. In the Spring of 1974, he became the first Penn and Ivy League athlete to break a four-minute mile when he ran a 3:55.0. It was also the best performance by an African-American athlete in the
In all, Denis Fikes recorded over 25 school records in the middle distance events from 1,000 meters to three-miles. He won seven Heptagonal titles and one IC4A title. He was a six-time All-Eastern honoree and a two-time All-American. And he wasn't done yet.
After college, Fikes continued the sport he loved with the Philadelphia Pioneers, Marine Corps and Athletic Attic. He represented the
“Nineteen seventy-one was the first season that freshmen were permitted to compete on varsity teams. One of the new freshmen was