By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the spring of 1985,
Penn State track and field student-athletes Vince Watson, Steve Shisler, Chris
Mills, and Randy Moore ran the fastest 4x800-meter relay of their career
finishing in seven minutes, 11.17 seconds - a Penn Relays Carnival and Penn State
University record-breaking time.
In the spring of 2015, the relay record celebrated
its 30th anniversary and Steve Shisler, now coach at State College
High School, celebrated by watching his son, Alex, run on the winning
Championship of America Sprint Medley Relay.
"We knew [we ran] a good time [in the
4x800-meter relay] when we were in it and we all had the sense that it would
last for a while. It's a special achievement," said Shisler. "But the best part
about that weekend is that Alex was a part of a Championship of America sprint
relay. It was a great thing to see."
Junior Alex Shisler is a sprinter for Penn
State track and field and it was at his first Penn Relays in the 10th
grade, when he decided that he would uphold the Penn State tradition in his
family and eventually become a Nittany Lion.
"My parents loved going [to Penn State] but [they] wanted me to go
wherever I wanted to go," said Alex. "Since sophomore year of high school I
knew I was going to run collegiately and in my mind I had it made up that I was
going to go to Penn State. Both of my parents ran here and are on the school records
here and I wanted to carry on that legacy."
Alex is a sprinter while his parents were middle-distance runner but, nonetheless,
the pride of being a Penn Stater allows for a
strong family bond and a supportive, understanding, and very dedicated cheering
The Penn State track and field tradition is
also strong among three other current student-athletes and their families -
freshman Elyse Skerpon, junior Robert Cardina, and freshman Megan McCloskey.
Freshman Elyse Skerpon's
(Sprints/Hurdles/Relays) father, Donald Skerpon, was a pole vaulter at Penn
State during his college career.
After spending his first year at the
University of Rhode Island, Skerpon decided to set his sights a bit closer to
home. After a few phone conversations with then-head coach Harry Groves,
Skerpon found his way to Happy Valley.
He spent the rest of his undergraduate career
as a Nittany Lion and started a family tradition that carried down to his three
children - Luke (class of '12) was a member of the Blue Band, Taylor is a
senior on the baseball team, and Elyse is just beginning her career with the
"It's a great experience as parents. You have a lot of the same
anxiety but it's great to see them work hard and make things happen," he said.
"You build such great memories...and it's great to be able to come back [to State
"After my dad came here, we've had season football tickets and we've
been coming to football game since I was born, basically," said Elyse. "Coming
here all those years made me want to be here and continue what my family
Since his track and field days, Donald Skerpon says the program still
remains the flourishing team he was once a part of but thinks the commitment
has changed quite a bit.
"It's a lot harder now," he laughed. "We worked really hard and it was a
lot of time but it wasn't quite as intense [as it is now]."
Jennifer Williams-Cardina is among the top
ten performers all-time at the university in the women's high jump event and is
a former multi-events athlete.
During her time as part of the program, the
indoor track was flat, white, and located at the old ice hockey rink. Though
things have come a long way since, she remembers those days with joy saying she
wouldn't change a thing if she could experience it all over again.
She has since left the streets of Happy
Valley and her life as a student-athlete but has the opportunity to return as a
spectator to see her son, junior Robert Cardina (Multi-Events), continue the
"I can remember when Rob was
little he ran everywhere. He ran through the house. He would ask us to time him
running outside around the house," said Williams-Cardina. "Finally, when Rob
was in middle school, and went out for track, I had the opportunity to teach
him how to high jump. We went to the track at night and on weekends to
practice. I absolutely loved sharing this time with Rob."
Currently, Robert Cardina holds
the school record in the heptathlon and is second all-time in the decathlon.
"Some parents don't know the ins and outs of
the program and they don't know what it takes. [Having this in common with my
mom] is an advantage [for me]. She prepared me well," said Cardina. "It's
important to note that we both came here and left our imprint on the track and
field program on both the men's and women's side."
Megan McCloskey is in her first season with
the Nittany Lions as a high jumper.
She began jumping in the fourth grade and had
a very special coach to help her get through it, Mimi McCloskey, her mother and
former middle-distance runner at Penn State.
"My mom ran the 800[-meter run] and the
1600[-meter run] and I tried those when I was younger but it wasn't really for
me," said Megan. "I started jumping in the fourth grade and [my mom] learned it
at the same time I did. She was learning how to coach high jump while I was
learning how to do high jump."
While her mother coached her athletic career
up until high school and Megan has now graduated into the rigorous life of
Division I track and field, she says she still looks to her parents for
"My dad played football. So he loves talking
about that stuff. They always talk about the things he got to do and [the
things] she got to do because it was a completely different experience," said
"I understand how hard the transition from
high school to college competition can be for someone. When you are a freshman,
not only do you need to adjust to being on your own and away from familiar
surroundings, you must also adjust to new coaches, teammates, competition
schedules, and the fact that everybody at this level is very accomplished at
what they do," said Mimi.
Mimi McCloskey was a middle distance runner
in the early 80s however, similar to Donald Skerpon, she says the program has
changed since her workout days.
"Although the track remains much as it was 30
years ago, the training that Megan goes through is much different. The time commitment
was much less than it is today," she said.
And like the Shislers, the Cardinas, and the
Skerpons, the McCloskeys are just want their children to be happy.
"My hopes for Megan include her continued
growth both as a high jumper and a student. But more importantly, I hope that
she really enjoys her time at Penn State both on and off the track and
graduates with amazing memories and lifelong friends," said Mimi.
The Penn State track and field program is an
interesting and very special bond to have according to all the former and
current athletes but it's even more special when it's a bond between parent and
Every parent and every student-athlete
described this to be 'a very cool connection to have' describing their Penn
State related dinner conversations and laughing at the times their parents talk
about 'their glory days'.
But the current generation of Penn Staters
only hopes to one day live up to their parents' great achievements.
"I want to leave my Alex Shisler stamp on
Penn State track and field. I want to continue what my parents did." said
"I know [my mom is] happy that I'm here," said Cardina. " It's a bond
with my mother, a connection through track and field. She knows she was able to
get through it and she helps me get through it too. It keeps the legacy in the
family. I love my mother."
A legacy that thanks to experiences and
memories made many years ago still stands strong and doesn't look to end any