By Kyle Lucas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff WriterUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's track and field teams will make the transition into the outdoor season with both ranked in the top 25 in the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association preseason rankings.
The women's team will open up the season ranked No. 20. Among the key returnees is a strong contingent in the field events. Returning to action for Penn State in the javelin are junior Laura Loht and sophomore Lauren Kenny. The pair look to build of their third and fourth place finishes at nationals last season. Loht and Kenny enter the season ranked fifth and seventh, respectively. The two did not compete during indoors because there isn't a javelin equivalent event during that season.
"When indoor hits its really exciting because everyone else starts doing their events," said Loht. "There are definitely days when I come in here and I'm just like I can't wait till outdoors get here. We're less than three weeks out now. I'm just so excited and so ready to go."
Evonne Britton returns to action for the first time since the 2011 outdoor campaign. Britton, who redshirted last season, will compete in the 100- and 40-meter hurdles. The redshirt junior's personal records of 13.11 in the 100-meter hurdles and 57.41 in the 400-meter hurdles in the 2011 have her ranked in the top 15 nationally entering the season.
Junior Melissa Kurzdorfer is also expected to be a major contributor in the field. Her personal best hammer toss of 207-10 last year has her ranked ninth.
On the track Penn State will see the return of distance runners Caitlin Lane and Rebekka Simko. Lane, a senior, is the reigning Big Ten champ in the mile and a multiple time national qualifier. Simko set the school record in the 800 meters last season in 2:03.09. Her time was good enough to qualify for not only nationals, but the Olympic trials. The junior also qualified in the 1,500 meters.
"We have a lot of strength across the board on the women's side," said head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "I think we have a very, very good women's team. We'll be very solid in throws. We have a great steeplechase crew that should help us out. We'll have Evonne Britton come back in the hurdles. Then we add back Caitlin lane, who didn't have eligibility indoor but does for outdoor. The women should be very, very strong."
On the men's side Penn State will build off a strong indoor season that saw the team finish ninth at the NCAA Indoor championships. The men enter the season ranked No. 21. The team figures to continue to be lead by strong performances in the middle distance events.
Leading the charge will be senior Casimir Loxsom who enters the season No.2 in the 800 meters. Fellow senior Ricky West also cracks the top five in the 800 meters coming in ranked fourth.
The 4x400 meter relay team, who clocked a school record in 3:01.52 last season, are ranked fourth heading into the season. Loxsom, junior Brandon Bennett-Green and senior Aaron Nadolsky return to the relay team.
"We'll be very strong through the middle distance," said Alford-Sullivan. "Most of the traditional NCAA events are what we'll focus on, the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays. We'll be going to certain invitational's that will have the other events. The Penn Relays we'll run the sprint medley relay... the 4x800-meter relay, which we're defending champs at the Penn Relays. So well have a lot of great opportunities to run some fun stuff throughout the season as well."