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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As is tradition, Penn State's Student-Athlete Advisory Board hosted its third annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle to benefit THON at the HUB earlier this week.
A total of nine Nittany Lion teams put on a show in the Freeman Auditorium to benefit Penn State's annual 46-hour dance marathon, which kicks off February 16 in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Following a full slate of performances, a panel of esteemed guest judges featuring Penn State sports medicine's Dr. Roberta Millard, Mike Herr or better known around campus as, "Mike the Mailman" and Penn State cheerleader Francis Alvare made their selections.
Penn State's men's swimming team took home the golden microphone this year with their rendition of Flo Rida's "Low." Men's volleyball and women's volleyball finished second and third, respectively.
"We've been working on this since October," said SAAB THON chair Tess Kearns (track and field/cross country). "Teams started signing up right before winter break so that was a lot of fun seeing who was coming together and the acts they were doing."
By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As members of the Penn State community gear up to take part in THON's 46-hour dance marathon benefitting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey, not many of more than 700 dancers also have to worry about trying to qualify for a Division I NCAA championship.
Jessica O'Neill-Lyublinsky is in the middle of a strong season as a fifth-year senior on the fencing team, also living out one of her dreams to be dancing on the floor at the Bryce Jordan Center and standing up against childhood cancer this weekend.
"I found out [I'd be dancing] January 20th and all of my emotions came out," O'Neill- Lyublinsky said. "I wanted to scream, cry, do everything because I was so excited. Now it's only a day away and it's becoming so real."
O'Neill- Lyublinsky has served as the family relations co-chair for the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) for the past two years. Part of her role includes working directly, along with other Penn State student-athletes, with the Messina and Buckley families, who are the SAAB's THON families. However, it was a year ago she realized she needed to be out on the floor during THON weekend.
"I just kept looking at the floor and I thought, I want to be down there with all the families, all the kids," O'Neill- Lyublinsky said. "They look like they're having such a great time and I just wanted to be a part of it."
Luckily, the fencing team's competition schedule this year allows her to get plenty of rest both before and after the dance marathon. O'Neill- Lyublinsky's coaches have also been very supportive.
"Coach said it's great conditioning," O'Neill- Lyublinsky said with a laugh.
The team usually competes in a tournament at Temple University during THON weekend, but this season the tournament has been pushed to the weekend after the event.
Free from competition, the schedule fits perfectly with THON, but O'Neill- Lyublinsky is now working on balancing her workouts, making sure she isn't too sore to dance, but still in proper shape to win bouts.
As for the mental part of not being able to rest for 46 consecutive hours, O'Neill- Lyublinsky doesn't think that will be an issue.
"Mentally, I just have been getting ready," O'Neill-Lyublinsky said. "I think all of the adrenaline is really going to come into play because I'm just ready to get out there and just do it."
A native of Westchester, New York, O'Neill- Lyublinsky wasn't truly familiar with THON until she came to campus and got involved. For most, THON is an event that really has to be seen in person to be fully understood.
"They talked about THON on my recruiting trip, but other than that, I was never here for THON because we were always traveling," O'Neill-Lyublinsky said. "The moment I decided to dance was when I finally went to THON last year and left the Bryce Jordan Center. You just can't describe the feeling and I wanted to be a part of this as much as I can be."
As Penn State students and student-athletes from all over the country and the world fill Happy Valley, the THON cause comes to life in a tangible sense throughout the year, culminating in the energetic dance marathon.
"The whole point of THON is to show what cancer cannot do," O'Neill-Lyublinsky said.Beginning Friday, O'Neill-Lyublinsky and three other SAAB representatives will take the floor in the Bryce Jordan Center for THON 2017.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.
In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.
Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.
"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."
From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie.
Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program.
"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's."
Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical.
With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.
Penn State opened the day with a back-to-back wins from both the men's and women's teams, defeating Yale and Penn. The Nittany Lions continued their momentum into the third round, taking down Duke with a 20-7 win on the women's side and a 17-10 victory on the men's side.
By mid-afternoon Penn State was primed for its toughest matchup of the day, set to open competition against back-to-back defending NCAA champion Columbia.
Fans poured into the gym to pack the stands for the marquee matchup of the day against the top-ranked Lions, creating an electric atmosphere filled with energy.
"The atmosphere at the home meets is always crazy," sophomore Karol Metryka said. "A lot of fans showed up, the 800 strong movement with athletes who come to each other's events is a great thing for this university."
Metryka noted that Penn State's "800 strong" movement reflects a commitment among all Penn State student-athletes to support one another in competition throughout the year.
"It just means we're one big family, all the athletes, all the sports, everyone shows up for everyone's events to cheer them on so that we can all be better as a school," Metryka said.
Penn State got right to work against Columbia, but found itself trailing early on both the men's and women's sides. Despite a 3-0 epee shutout from 2016 epee NCAA national champion Jessie Radanovich, the Nittany Lion women fell short in their first team setback of the day, falling 16-11.
The Nittany Lion men battled back and forth throughout the day, with the round four matchup coming down to the final sabre bouts.
It was Metryka who tied the score at 13-13, before sophomore Matthew Lewicki clinched the victory with a final 5-2 sabre win to give the Nittany Lion men the 14-13 upset decision.
As Lewicki recounted the thrilling round, he noted that it was captain Andrew Mackiewicz who focused the unit and then brought the Nittany Lions back within before Metryka's win set him up for the winning point.
"It's just a lot of mixed emotions, I was nervous obviously, I had the team relying on me and everyone was watching me but it's just great that everyone ran over to support me," Lewicki said. "I knew going in that I had to do this not only for me, but for the team and I just couldn't lose in front of a great audience like this."
As he stepped on to the strip, Lewicki noted that throughout the excitement, both head coach Wes Glon and his teammates told him to remain calm and simply go out and fight.
"It shows that we have great courage," Metryka said. "Columbia is a very strong team, back-to-back NCAA national champions, so to come in here and get this win for us is a big deal and I'm very grateful."
Penn State surged through the afternoon with both the men's and women's teams capturing wins against North Carolina. The Nittany Lion women also competed in one additional round against Temple, claiming a close 14-13 win.
The Nittany Lions closed out the event with a pair of dominant wins against Haverford to wrap up the day.
Penn State returns to action next weekend, heading to Queens, New York to square off five different teams, including another round with Columbia.
More highlights from the Columbia matchup below.
Story by Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- The Penn State fencing team wrapped up its season over the weekend at the NCAA Championships. In total, 10 Nittany Lions qualified for the Championships and the team placed sixth overall. Two fencers, Jessie Radanovich and Andrew Mackiewicz returned to Happy Valley as NCAA champions following a stellar weekend of competition.
Radanovich, a junior, captured the 2016 NCAA title in epee with a victory over Princeton's Charlene Liu in the final round of the tournament.
"I have so much pride. I am so thankful. I don't know how to explain it," Radanovich said. "It's one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life. I am so thankful that I could represent my school as I did."
Although the collegiate season has come to end, fencing does not stop for Radanovich. In a few weeks, she will travel to Richmond to compete in the Division I Championship. The Division I Championship is an individual competition, not a collegiate-run event. The event counts toward each fencers ranking in the country. Currently, Radanovich is sixth in the nation.
"I'm excited to go because right now I am high up in the rankings for the U.S., so I just want to keep my standing high as we roll into the next year," Radanovich said.
Mackiewicz earned his second consecutive NCAA championship in sabre last weekend. The sophomore is now two-for-two in capturing national titles for Penn State.
"I will be striving for the championship every year. It's always great to win a national title, but winning it back-to-back is something special," Mackiewicz said.
He has qualified for the Senior National Team. This is a semi-professional league that competes against other countries. At 20, Mackiewicz is one of the youngest fencers on the Senior National Team. He said that mid-to-late 20s is a prime age for fencers and that there is a lot to look forward to in the future.
"I still have many things to come for me in terms of making it to the Olympics, the Senior World Championships and staying on top the fencing universe," Mackiewicz said.
Mackiewicz is currently ranked fourth in the nation. He is hopeful that he will be selected as a spotter for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. As a spotter, he will join the top two United States fencers in Rio to help them practice and prepare for their bouts. His goal is to compete in the 2020 Olympics. If chosen as a spotter, he hopes that the experience will help prepare him for the 2020 Olympics.
"It will definitely be a learning experience for me when I'm trying to go to the 2020 Olympics," Mackiewicz said.
Both Radanovich and Mackiewicz are thankful for the experiences that they've had through Penn State Fencing. They said the team is like one big family and Mackiewicz said he is proud to represent Penn State.
"Penn State Fencing has been known for always being a respected team. We've always had amazing talent," Mackiewicz said. "For me, it's a great honor to be a part of team that has so much talent within it. Being able to give back to the team is also a great experience for me."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 44th IFC/Panhellenic
Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center over the weekend.
THON's 708 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON. THON revealed a fundraising total of more than $9.7 million for 2016 with 96 percent of THON's all-time funds being donated directly to Four Diamonds.
Each year, more than 15,000 Penn State student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Members of Penn State's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were active participants in THON, and led run several fund-raising activities once again this year including sending solicitation letters to friends and family and a lip sync competition. In addition to generating financial support for THON, SAAB also provides emotional support to its THON children, Isabella Messina and Colton Buckley, and their families throughout the year.
Four Penn State student-athletes are represented SAAB as dancers in THON 2016: Liisi Vink-Lainas (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Angela Widlacki (Naperville, Ill.) of women's soccer, Emily Rivers (Washington, D.C.) from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) from football.
"This means the world to us. As athletes you are given a platform that a normal student might not have," said Zanellato. "It's one of those things that when you come in as a freshman, you know that you will have that platform for a few years. I wanted to make the most of it. I realized that THON was something special to me when I came to Penn State. I wanted to use my platform as best I could."
Additionally, Angela Connors and Jessica Spellman from the Lionettes squad and from Penn State cheerleading Kenny Fuhrman, Paige Gentry, Jordan Hinkle, Kylie Tobasco and Mike White danced in THON.
Within Penn State Athletics, strategic communications student assistants Emily Hesidence and Kate Brandell were also among the dancers at THON, as well.
Check out the GoPSUsports.com extensive coverage from THON 2016 weekend.
Friday - 6 p.m. - THON 2016 Begins
The 46-hour dance marathon kicked off at 6 p.m. on Friday evening when the 708 dancers stood. They will remain on their feet until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
Saturday - 2 p.m. - Football Hosts THON Explorers Event
Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.
The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.
The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.
Football THON Explorers Event
Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athlete Hour Photo Gallery
THON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion)
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
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