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Lions Make B1G Championship History

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State made history Sunday afternoon, as the Nittany Lion men were crowed Big Ten Outdoor Champions, earning their first Big Ten title in program history.

Carrying the momentum of a standout opening day throughout the three-day event, the Penn State men finished 14 points ahead of second-place Ohio State (103) to lock up the title.

Hosting the event for the first time since 2007 and just the third time in program history, the Nittany Lions wasted no time setting the tone, with three of four day one silver medalists coming on the men's side. 

"This has been, personally, a date that I've had on the calendar for three years," Penn State head coach John Gondak said. "When we first found out we were going to host in 2017, it was a goal to host a great championship and have two teams that can contend."

By the end of the first day, even with some unpredictable weather, the Penn State men had rocketed to the top of the team standings with nearly double the team score of second-place Nebraska and Wisconsin. 

"They just went out and from the first day, scoring 40 points in three events, which is something we weren't expected to do, and just jumped out to a big lead like that," Gondak said. 

Penn State powered through day two, highlighted by a school record performance in the long jump. Fueled by the energy of the crowd, Malik Moffett joined an elite group with a jump of 26'-3" (8 m) to surpass a school record set by David Coney in 1985.

It wasn't until just after the record-setting gold medal performance that Moffett realized he had etched his name into program history.

"I found out and my coach picked me up and I thought, did that really happen, I'm in the eight meter club," Moffett said. "It's a nice club to be in and not too many people can say that so I'm pretty psyched about it."

Having already qualified for the 200-meter finals a day prior, sprints had actually been the focus of the senior Nittany Lion leading up to the weekend.

"Really I stopped doing a lot of long jump stuff and focused more on sprints," Moffett said. "I only really practiced long jump two times out of the week and I don't know why, but I guess it worked. 

A first team All-Big Ten selection, Moffett, wasn't finished, claiming the 200-meter title with a time of 19.87w to ascend to the top of the all-condition standings in program history. 

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Penn State also saw fellow first team All-Big Ten selection Isaiah Harris pour on the points, extending his stretch of dominance in the 800-meter race. With a time of 1:49.68, Harris earned his fourth consecutive Big Ten title, having now won each indoor and outdoor titles consecutively across the last two years.

"Every time I come to the conference meet I know there's going to be good competition out there so it means a lot to go out there and defend a title against that many good guys," Harris said.

Despite windy conditions, Harris wasn't fazed by the snippets of unfavorable weather throughout the weekend. 

"It was really windy out there today so I wanted to tuck in behind someone and let them break the wind for me and then the last 250 I just went for it," Harris said.

Just two of a wealth of key performances and top contributors across the weekend, it's the entire team effort that has Gondak most impressed at the end of the weekend.

"It's obviously a goal of ours to try and win a men's and a women's title on the same day, we came a little bit short on the women's side today, but the men came through and it's a testament to them and their passion and their competitiveness," Gondak said.

On the women's side, Dannielle Gibson was among two to earn gold on the final day of competition. With a 45'-1.75" (13.76m)w mark, Gibson locked up the triple jump title to help propel the Nittany Lion women to a third-place finish in the final team standings. 

Relying on training and preparation, pure joy took over as Gibson peered to the results to find out she'd be taking home the title.

"It was an exhilarating feeling, nothing like it to be honest," Gibson said. "More so not proud for myself, but proud to contribute points to my team, that was the major thing I was focused on so it was a wonderful feeling." 

Perhaps no feeling is greater than the sight of the Nittany Lion men's team hoisting their first Big Ten trophy in program history, circled by the support of the entire men's and women's team.

"Seeing the guys able to make history right here on our own track, it's like a whole different level," Gibson said.

For Moffett and Harris, it's the culmination of years of hard work, especially for those in their final season in the Blue and White. 

"The first time we came to this facility Penn State said, they've never won a Big Ten title and they've always kept on hammering us about it," Moffett said. "To make it reality is just amazing."

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

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