Nittany Lions Finish Home Indoor Season in Dominant Fashion

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By Kyle Lucas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERISTY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field teams turned in a dominant performance over the weekend at the Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup.

Senior Mahagony Jones had an outstanding performance on the track winning her three events of the day. Jones took individual titles in the 60- and 200-meter dashes. In the 200-meter dash Jones ran a 23.64, her best time of the season and second best time in the Big Ten. She then followed it up with a big win in the 4x400-meter relay. Jones and her teammates; sophomore Dynasty McGee, junior Kirsten Nieuwendam and Kiah Seymour clocked in at 3:38.48, the second best time in the Big Ten.

8538134.jpeg"I'm pretty satisfied with where I'm at right now in terms of competition and my personal records," said Jones. "I ran my fastest time in the 200-meter. I'm pretty happy."

Robby Creese had a big day for the men's team. The redshirt freshman won the 800-meter in a time of 1:48.13. Creese was also leadoff for the winning distance medley relay team. The team of freshman Alex Shisler, redshirt freshman Ryan Brennan and junior Nick Scarpello ran a time of 9:48.39.

For their performances both Jones and Creese were honored with the inaugural John Lucas Athlete of the Meet award. The award is named after Dr. John Lucas, a former professor and track coach at Penn State, who passed away last November.

The men's 4x400-meter relay team turned in another superb performance. Senior Emunael Mpanduki, senior Casimir Loxsom, sophomore Matt Gilmore, junior Brandon Bennett-Green clocked the fastest time in the Big Ten 3:08.13. Their time is also good for seventh-fastest in the NCAA.

"I wasn't thinking about it until I got into the block. It was like 'man, this is it,'" said Mpanduki on running his last 4x400-meter relay indoors at home. "I just wanted to give my team a good final send off. It's been an unbelievable journey for me."

Saturday also featured the first running of a collegiate indoor 2,000-meter steeplechase. Senior Natalie Bower won the inaugural event. Her time of 6:29.38 is currently the school, facility and NCAA record. The 2,000-meter steeplechase, however, is not recognized as an official NCAA event.

"It was a great experience to be able to do steeple indoors for the first time and have it at my very last race at home. It was exciting," said Bower. "I definitely think it was different without the water jump. I kind of like it a little bit more. I felt like I could be more aggressive on the barriers and didn't have to focus on having a water barrier every lap."

Penn State also had outstanding performances in the field events. Redshirt senior Jane Swenson won the shot put with personal record of 51-7.25. Her throw, which was three feet longer than her nearest competitor, was good for fourth-best in Penn State's record books. Teammate sophomore Melissa Kurzdorfer followed up with a win in the 20-lb weight toss throwing a personal best 64-11.50.

For the third straight meet, Marlene Ricketts out jumped her competition in the triple jump. The junior won a tight competition besting her nearest competitor by less than two inches with her jump of 41-9.25.

For the men, redshirt junior Will Barr added a win in the 35-lb weight toss with a throw of 66-5.

Penn State honored veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project for Military Appreciation Day. The feature event was the  "invitational" shot put. Ryan Whiting, the 2012 IAAF World Champion and 2012 Olympian, competed. Whiting threw a facility record of 70-10. His toss is also the current best in the world.

"Having the wounded warriors here and military appreciation really just added another flavor too it," said head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "Those guys getting the opportunity to be out center stage where the crowd can see them throw the shot put was really special."

Along with the shot put, the Wounded Warriors had the opportunity to compete in a mixed one-mile run and the 60 and 200-meter dashes.

Retired Army National Guard member Michael Kacer competed in several of the events. The Scranton, Pa. native served just shy of 11 years and saw three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. 

"I love it," said Kacer of military appreciation day. "When you have special events like this that actually do military appreciation day, whether its baseball games, a football game, a hockey event at a local college it's just phenomenal what the crowd gives you. It's just amazing."

The 30-year-old Kacer was wounded during a mission on his final tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2008 that resulted in him losing his left arm.

"I like to have fun with it and tell everyone, when they ask how I lost my arm, I got caught cheating in spades," said Kacer. "Literally what happened was we were out on a mission that was supposed to be a three day mission that got caught into seven days. We're about an hour from being picked up so we started a spades game and literally as they caught me cheating a rocket landed on the windowsill about 10 feet to the left of where I was sitting."

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