Brainy and Buff on Display at Mr. and Ms. Penn Competition

University of Pennsylvania students can be both brainy and brawny, as the Mr. and Ms. Penn bodybuilding competition demonstrates.

On Nov. 3, Zellerbach Theater was packed with family and friends as 29 contestants vied for the titles.

Between attending classes, studying and writing papers, the undergraduate and graduate contestants spent eight weeks preparing for the competition.

The title of Mr. Penn was awarded to Wharton junior Sam Mattis of East Brunswick, N.J., a statistics and finance major.

Senior Veronica Jones, a political science major from Nashville, was named Ms. Penn.

“It feels surreal,” says Jones. “I can’t stop smiling.”

She came in second in last year’s competition and worked hard to win this year. In addition to her workouts as a member of the crew team, she lifted weights mid-morning, between two classes.

“I have gained a huge amount of respect for my classmates and what we are all capable of outside of academic pursuits,” says Jones.

Mattis, who works out year round, says he didn’t do anything special to prepare for the event. He just continued his usual routine leading up to the competition. A member of the track team, Mattis says he enjoys entertaining his friends, who cheered him on in the audience as he posed on stage.

“I just wanted to have a good time,” says Mattis. “Winning just adds to that fun.”

The event, an annual fundraiser for the women’s track and field program, was created by the team’s coach, Tony Tenisci. He has been running the competition for 22 years.

Under Tenisci’s guidance, participants follow his diet and training program as well as instructions on how to pose during the contest. He also assists students in choreographing routines for the program.

“By the time they’re on stage, they’ve created something extraordinary,” says Tenisci. “It’s a testament to Penn and the type of young person who’s here. You give them an idea and they take that idea and they go with it.”

Many of the Mr. and Ms. Penn contestants have never participated in a bodybuilding contest before, but when they arrive on the day of the competition, they look like professionals.

“To watch that journey is incredibly rewarding,” says Tenisci.


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