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VIDEO: Women's Fencing's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out women's fencing's full pep rally dance!

VIDEO: Men's Fencing's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out men's fencing's full pep rally dance! 

THON Features: O'Neill-Lyublinsky Representing Fencing

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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.

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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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. 

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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. 


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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.

Nittany Lion Men Highlight Fencing Dual Meet Invitational

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 UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State fencing hosted its final home dual meet of the 2016-17 season in an all-day event Sunday at the White Building. The Nittany Lions welcomed seven different squads to Happy Valley, occupying nearly every open gym in the entire facility.

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. 

Two Nittany Lion Fencers Win NCAA Individual Titles

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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.

Jessie Radanovich
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.

Andrew Mackiewicz
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."

Penn State Athletics THON 2016 Coverage

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IMG_9032.JPGUNIVERSITY 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.

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Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
With Bryce Jordan Center buzzing with energy during the 16th hour of THON 2016, GoPSUsports.com spent some time with student-athletes and THON dancers Liisi Vink-Lainas  and Angela Widlacki of women's soccer, Emily Rivers, from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato from football. Representing Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), the group is thrilled to carry the Penn State Athletics banner as dancers in the 2016 THON. Take a look at some of their remarks from the floor at the BJC.



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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



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Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the IM during athlete hour on Saturday.  Here are a few snapshots and video highlights from the event.

Athlete Hour Photo Gallery



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Saturday - 11 p.m. - Football Wins Pep Rally Dance Competition
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2016 version of the dance-off.

The pep rally included a speech from former Nittany Lion football great Devon Still and his daughter Leah.

As for the dance competition, the football team claimed top honors in the men's side of the action, while the reigning national champion women's soccer team took top honors on the women's side. The two teams then battled in a dance off, with the football team earning the bragging rights as the 2016 THON Pep Rally dancing champion.

We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

THON 2016 Pep Rally Photo Gallery



9185732.jpegTHON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion) 
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Men's Fencing
Men's Golf
Men's Gymnastics
Men's Hockey
Men's Rugby
Men's Soccer
Men's Tennis
Men's Volleyball
Field Hockey
Women's Golf
Women's Gymnastics
Women's Hockey
Women's Rugby
Women's Volleyball

Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
Head coach James Franklin took the stage of THON 2016 on Sunday morning to urge the dancers on in the final hours of the 46-hour dance marathon.  Franklin's message epitomized what THON's mission has been since it started in 1977.

"This is special. What you guys do is what Penn State is ultimately all about," said Coach Franklin.

Take a look at his full remarks.

James Franklin at THON 2016 Photo Gallery



4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
For the second-straight year, THON's fundraising efforts raised more than $9.7 million. The grand total for THON in 2016 was  $9,770,332.32 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2016.  Here is a look at the reveal from Rec Hall prior to Penn State wrestling's bout against Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lion faithful in Rec Hall let out a big cheer as the total was unveiled.

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @
GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


New Staff Helping Fencers Train

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By Jennifer Hudson, GoPSUsports.com Student Athlete Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two new staff members have joined the Penn State fencing team this season to help the program move forward in its quest for another national championship. Alexei Sintchinov and Heather Nelson are eager to help lead the team as assistant and volunteer coaches, respectively, beginning this season.

Sintchinov joins the Nittany Lions as an assistant coach after being a coach at Ohio State for the past three years.

He has been a professional coach since 1976 and is a Master of Sport in Fencing. Sintchinov started his coaching career internationally and was the head coach of the Belarus, Egypt and Tunisia national teams. He was named Honored Coach of Belarus in 1991 and head coach of the 2000 Egypt Olympic Team.

He is excited to continue his coaching career with such a decorated program here at Penn State and to help the team compete for championships.

"I would like to help the team make a good result at the NCAA championship," said Sintchinov. " I want to improve all students in epee and everyone on the team. I am happy to help anyone who wants to learn. My heart is open to all weapons."

With the past 40 years overseeing different fencers, the newest Nittany Lion knows how to fix problems and improve athletes to their best ability.

He was even a part of the coaching staff who helped guide the Buckeyes to the 2012 NCAA Championship title.

"All fencers have a strong part and weak part," said Sintchinov, "I will help shrink the weaknesses and increase the strengths. Everyone has a different problem that they need to work with. It is very important to work on strengths and weaknesses."

One thing Coach Alexei has added to the championship teams work out is a stepladder to improve their footwork. He believes in fast and strong legs for every great fencer needs.

Team members who have been working with Sintchinov in lessons are excited to have him and love what he is bringing to the program.

"He is a strong addition to our family," said Jessica O'Neill Lyublinsky, a junior epee fencer. "He really puts his heart into his work and I can already see he really wants to repeat our NCAA title as much as we do, if not more."

Nelson, a former fencer who is a grad student at Penn State, comes back to the team as a volunteer assistant coach for the semester. She is helping improve everyone's strength with many conditioning drills she learned from the Air Force Academy.

Nelson, a Second Lieutenant, attended the USAF for her undergraduate work,, majoring in aerospace engineering. She was on the fencing team at the Academy for three years allowing her to fence her last year of eligibility with the Nittany Lions when she came for graduate school last fall.

"Heather's work outs are challenging," said Brianne Cavaliere, a junior saber fencer. "They force you to not only push yourself, but your teammates so we can be the best we can."

Nelson helps the team's workouts, which consist of many strength and conditioning skills that are challenging for the Nittany Lions. The drills are done in organized lines as if you were in the military. The team does reps of different strength exercises while counting out loud as one team. Everyone must stay in time or the team will start over.

"Military style training is working as a team," said Nelson. "If one can't compete the repetition, the team starts over."

Nelson helps the team do different strength stations in groups with time limits pushing each fencer to do multiple strength activities as fast as they can in groups. If a group fails to complete a station, the team will do a great deal of push ups to make up the difference.

"The drills as a team is the same as fencing as a team," said Nelson. "You send 12 to NCAAs who are your best fencers but if one falls, it can lose you the championship. The exercises show that the team is only as strong as the weakest person you send."

From all the drills, Nelson hopes to help the team gain more endurance to help them get through the long tiring days at regionals and NCAAs to bring home another championship.

Doing her workouts twice a week, the team is very happy with how their strength and conditioning is improving this year.

"I love it here at Penn State," said Nelson. "I'm glad I'm back but I wish I could stay the whole season."

Nelson unfortunately is only here for one semester because she is graduating in December. She is off to Colorado Springs to work in an Air Force satellite lab after graduation. The Nittany Lions will be sad to see her go, but her assistance with conditioning will hopefully contribute to another successful season. 

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