By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 4 men's gymnastics team finished their final home meet of the regular season with a 440.800-435.750 win over No. 7 Iowa on Friday evening on Senior Night.
"It's bittersweet," said senior Tristan Duverglas. "I knew this day would come, but you can't really prepare for it, but it definitely means a lot to me, just being my last regular meet in Rec Hall. I'm just glad we got to see the crowd, something to really end it on a big note."
The Nittany Lions won five out of the six events and earned four individual titles. Junior Alexis Torres placed first in all around and still rings, freshman Thad Lawson finished first in floor exercise with a score of 15.700 and senior Craig Hernandez secured the title for pommel horse with a score of 15.250. Freshman Quest Hayden also tied for first with Iowa on vault.
"We had five misses tonight and our goal was a 100 percent, so we were 85 percent," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We also wanted to hit a lot more sticks than five. We wanted to get a minimum of 10, so we didn't do what we wanted to do. Pommel horse was a little bit of a problem; we had two breaks there. We're just going to have to be better as we go here...Overall, not too bad."
Senior Matthew Felleman started the meet off for Penn State in the first rotation, the floor exercise. He finished with a score of 15.050 and helped energize the team to grab four of the top five spots in the event.
"It's definitely a hit routine in the beginning," said Felleman. "It gets the energy going and it's what Randy's looking for."
Though Felleman loves to bring liveliness to his teammates, he loves the enthusiasm that the crowd at Rec Hall brings to the meets even more.
"[I'm going to remember] the meets at Rec Hall the most because the crowd's awesome, especially when we get a nice and loud "We Are...Penn State" from the crowd. That's what shakes me," said Felleman.
After the meet, the five seniors were recognized with individual video montages of their gymnastics careers, from the early childhood years to their time at Penn State.
"It was crazy [to see myself on the screen]," said Duverglas. "I didn't even know my parents had some of those videos, but it's just odd to see how hard we've come from the middle competition that we did as kids to competing for a university, like Penn State. The transition is just insane."
Four years may seem like a long time, but it goes by quicker than one would believe.
"[The videos] made me realize how fast it went by, especially when I went up to Randy and shook his hand and he goes, 'I told you it would go by fast,'" said Felleman. "I remember when I was a freshman and our seniors were doing this and now it's real."
The men's gymnastics team finished their regular home meet with a win and coach Jepson had only high praise for the five seniors and everything they've accomplished.
"They're just great guys," said coach Jepson. "These guys come in and they get to know what our program is all about and they get to know our staff and we get to know them. It's really a bond that's made between all of us to get them to be the best they can everywhere. You know, it's tough to say goodbye, they've got a couple more seasons, so we're not going to say goodbye fully yet, but it's great to see the videos of when they're youngsters in their first couple of meets when they're kids. They're just hardworking young guys and they/re great people, so that's what keeps me ticking in this job - I love what I do because I love my guys and they're just wonderful young men."
Recently in Men's Gymnastics Category
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a week of rest, a majority of the Nittany Lions are ecstatic to compete again, but for five seniors, they don't want the season to end this Friday evening as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes on their annual Senior Night.
Take a look at the outstanding careers as a Penn State gymnast for five seniors.
"It's the last time I get to suit up in the Blue and White, but it will be exciting to have my family there and have a bunch of recognition," said Hernandez.
During his freshman year, Hernandez displayed that he would be an important aspect to the team. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice during the season, was named First Team All-Big Ten and qualified for the NCAA Championships.
In his sophomore year, Hernandez made history after he broke Penn State's pommel horse record by securing a score of 15.750 at the Navy Open. His accolades continued in his junior year, but his favorite memory in his Penn State career has nothing to do with his achievements.
"My favorite competition was the Big Ten [Championships] last year in Nebraska," said Hernandez. "The team did well, but it was so much fun competing with the guys and I'm just hoping that the rest of our competitions are like that."
Rec Hall is home to men's gymnastics and is known for being one of the most captivating sports venue in the nation. Hernandez couldn't agree more with the latter.
"I just love the atmosphere of Rec Hall," said Hernandez. "You travel everywhere and Rec Hall is always my favorite place."
At the age of three, Sanabria's father decided to have him participate in gymnastics because he was an extremely hyper kid. Eighteen years later and Sanabria has continued to practice the sport.
During recruiting, even being from Puerto Rico, Sanabria didn't need to think twice about attending Penn State.
"We've had a couple of teammates come here before me and it's a great university and they have a great gymnastics program and just seemed right to go here," said Sanabria.
Being so far from home can be tough, but with a tight-knit group, finding a new home isn't hard.
"[I'm going to miss] my teammates and being around everyone," said Sanabria. "They're all great people and they all love the sport and they want to compete."
With such a close bond with his teammates, his favorite memory is a similar one to his teammate, Hernandez.
"[My favorite memory] was the Big Ten [Championship] in Nebraska," said Sanabria. "It was the best competition I had ever been to. It was fun and there was just a great atmosphere there."
Though Sanabria loved the Championships last year, he's eager for the meet this Friday.
"I feel pretty good about it," said Sanabria. "I'm actually pretty excited about it, last home meet, even though I don't want to leave Rec Hall. It's a great place."
Felleman started his collegiate career by competing in seven of the team's nine meets and would always surpass his career-best score as the season continued. He competed in all of the team's meets and at the NCAA Championships his sophomore year where he finished fourth overall on high bar with a score of 14.850.
During his junior year, he led the Blue and White on high bar and eventually represented Penn State on the high bar at the Big Ten Championship team finals where he finished sixth.
The Big Ten Championships last year were a favorite memory for some of his fellow teammates, but for Felleman, anytime on high bar is a good memory.
"Every time I went up on high bar [was my favorite moment]," said Felleman. "I was usually either anchor or somewhat of a lift up for the team, so those moments when I was last on high bar, the team relied on me. Those were some really big moments that I won't forget."
He hopes to make more memories and be the best he can be this Friday.
"I'm very excited. My body is feeling probably the best its felt all season," said Felleman. "I can't wait. There's a lot of nervous energy because it's my last real home meet besides Big Ten, so I'm sure there's going to be emotions on the floor...I'm hoping to go out there and hit all five events the best that I can."
Rodríguez was part of the Puerto Rican National Team Gymnasium club team before he came to Penn State and has continued to compete internationally for Puerto Rico. Those 1,600 miles may be hard at times, but he has a strong support system.
"[I'm going to miss] the team and how everyone just gets along," said Rodríguez. "For someone like me, coming from Puerto Rico, to get along and meet new people, it's pretty much getting a new family."
Even with a unique and memorable career, Rodríguez favorite meet is a commonality between the seniors.
"[My favorite memory was] last year's Big Ten Championships," said Rodríguez. "It was one of the funnest meets I had ever lived through and everyone pretty much hit their set and the energy was so high."
Though Rodríguez is injured and unable to compete this Friday, he is satisfied with his time at Penn State.
"It's the end of an era," said Rodríguez. "It's the end of my four years as a college athlete and student. It's just something that makes me proud."
Duverglas started gymnastics when he was three years old because his parents wanted him to be safe when they noticed how hyper he was and how he would always love to jump off of things. Seeing gymnastics at the summer Olympics was another factor to the start of his career.
Duverglas has accomplished a lot in his collegiate career, but his favorite memory was last year in the meet against the Illini.
"I won the Gene Wettstone Award last year and it was my first time winning and it was a good feeling," said Duverglas.
The "Gene Wettstone Award" is granted to the most extraordinary gymnast after each double dual meet.
With that being such a good memory, Duverglas doesn't want his career at Penn State to end.
[I feel] bittersweet," said Duverglas. "Being in Rec Hall is always fun, always a great time, but thinking about it as the last time I'll be competing there before Big Ten's is somewhat sad because it's going to bring back a lot of memories.'
As Duverglas finishes his time at Penn State, he hopes the underclassmen understands the chance being given to them.
"Take advantage of every opportunity you have," said Duverglas. "Opportunities come and go, but the ones you take advantage of, the ones that you're going to grow the most from, so being able to come to Penn State and be on the gymnastics team, and experience all those things, was really an opportunity that I've never really thought about before, before being approached by coach Jepson."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Check
out the Nittany Lions dancing on stage during the THON 2015 Pep Rally on
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having the opportunity to compete against some of the best athletes in the nation during one's lifetime is something few people can say they have done, but for senior Craig Hernandez and junior Trevor Howard that is exactly what they will be doing this weekend.
Hernandez and Howard will be competing in the Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 19 and 21.
"I'm actually really excited," said Hernandez. "It should be fun. Getting back to some of the individual styles of gymnastics that's like before college and of course, it's nice and warm out there and it's frigid here."
These two Nittany Lions will be leaving the comforts of Rec Hall for a two-day competition where they will be taking on the top gymnasts in the country.
"They will be with guys that competed in the World Championships in the United States and Olympic Games," said head coach Randy Jepson. "It's the top gymnasts. It's not just collegiate guys there - it's people that are post-grads, the best the US has to offer, so it's a good chance to compete with some of the best guys."
Facing off against the best gymnasts in the country can be intimidating, but Hernandez and Howard don't plan for that to affect their performances.
"It's a little intimidating [to be competing against the best in the country], but we wouldn't be going there if we weren't good ourselves and that's the way I look at it," said Hernandez. "I want to beat them and we'll try to beat them."
This Penn State duo is familiar with the scene at the Winter Cup as both have been part of the competition in previous years. Hernandez placed first in pommel horse for the past two years and last year, he earned the title with a score of 14.350. Though getting a third win is ideal, that isn't the main emphasis for Hernandez.
"Maybe a little bit of expectation [is there], but I don't really look at it," said Hernandez. "I just focus on doing the best gymnastics that I can."
Out of the 42 gymnastics in the 2014 Winter Cup last year, Howard placed 17th-overall with an all-around score of 81.750 in the finals. Even with that grand accomplishment, Howard is only focusing on being better.
"Basically, I go out there and just think, 'This is for yourself. What you do is on you,' so I kind of make it more myself-oriented than team-oriented," said Howard. "I feel like there are always high expectations. I always set my standards higher than normal, so I want to plan on getting Top-10. A lot of guys are injured, so this is the time to step up and make the [Senior National Team]."
Although the Winter Cup and NCAA meets are vastly different, the toughest challenge will be the fact that their fellow teammates will not be alongside them.
"It definitely is [hard to go to Las Vegas without the team]," said Howard. "Having the team behind you and hearing them cheer your name when you're doing your routine is awesome, so it's definitely a little more quieting."
Besides competing individually, Hernandez and Howard will have the opportunity to watch their other opponents.
"You get the chance to see the rest of the guys in the country from the other teams and outside the NCAA structure - what the best are doing, so that gives you some ideas to what you need to compete against," said head coach Jepson. "You got to know your opponent, so it's really important to have a grasp of that, but really, we can only control the things we do, so we have to do what we can to be the best we can. That means focusing on execution at this point and being clean."
Even though Hernandez and Howard have multiple experiences
with competing in the Winter Cup, it's always an enjoyable time.
"It's always exciting to go out there," said Howard.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Determined. Strong-willed. Unbeatable. Indomitable.
Those are just a couple words to describe the undefeated Penn State men's gymnastics team. Not only have they won all four meets thus far this season, but the Blue and White has also captured the team title in floor exercise in all of those meets.
"It feels great," said sophomore Christian McSwain. "I definitely knew in the preseason that we were capable of it and it's nice to actually be doing it."
What has changed in the past year to allow such success to the men's gymnastics team?
"Last year, we couldn't stick a landing on the floor to save our life, but we've developed now to where we can do that and we've seen that in good scores" said head coach Randy Jepson.
Normally, it is a cliché to say "practice makes perfect," but in this case, that phrase couldn't be any more fitting.
"There's no secret," said coach Jepson. "We've been working forever on just trying to have clean, consistent landings...The successes we've had on the floor has just been a coalition of year-and-a-half of work, especially for the freshmen. Our seniors have been doing basic tumbling that we do every day for four years and those things culminate and build to where things come easier and easier every day you're out there and week by week, you get better, and so we're seeing the fruit of that in all the landings we're getting."
The routine and choreography for each athlete has to stand out to the judges, but the most important aspect for the floor exercise is to stick the landings.
"[The judging of landings] is huge because every other event, you only have one landing," said coach Jepson. "On floor, you have multiple landings, so that means there's a lot more places where you can get execution errors. They take off for every step you talk - one to three to five-tenths, and so if you have several steps during your routine, you just get killed in terms of scoring, so it's really important to stick your landings in floor exercise."
In addition to four team titles in floor exercise, three Nittany Lions have taken home individual titles in the event, including senior Matthew Felleman, freshman Thad Lawson, and McSwain.
Penn State opened the 2015 campaign with a matchup against then-No.12 Army. The team won all six events and Felleman received the first individual title of the season by placing first in floor exercise with a score of 15.100.
The men's gymnastics team's success continued the following week at the West Point Open at Christl Arena. Lawson finished first with a score of 15.300 and earned his first career award - Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Lawson hasn't let the accolade slow him down as he has been consistently performing in the top-three at each meet.
Most recently, McSwain placed first in floor exercise at last week's meet against Ohio State.
"It felt amazing," said McSwain. "I've been waiting two years to finally hit a set."
Even with winning an individual title, McSwain hopes to improve for the rest of the season.
"I can definitely stick a few more landings," said McSwain. "[The routine last week] was a really good routine, but I still had a few little hops here and there."
With the team is doing so well in the floor exercise event, the focus at practice has been slightly shifted.
"We need to do better on high bar," said coach Jepson. "We haven't done as well as we like on pommel horse yet either and we're working at it, but it's not going to be overnight, especially on high bar, you know. Hopefully we'll see better performance and consistency on high bar."
The Nittany Lions travel to Champaign, Ill. to compete against Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 14.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 3 Penn State men's gymnastics team's season remains undefeated with a 443.600-431.400 win over No.7 Ohio State Friday evening at Rec Hall.
"We started out really strong and did a really solid job, but fell a little short in the last event," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We had a little bit of a mental lapse, so that was unfortunate, but it was a strong showing overall. I was pleased."
The Nittany Lions won the first five events and earned six individual titles. Sophomore Christian McSwain placed first in the floor exercise event, senior Craig Hernandez finished first on pommel horse, and senior Matthew Felleman came in first on high bar.
Junior Trevor Howard took home three individual titles in still rings, parallel bars, and all-around.
"It's exciting," said Howard. "I've been struggling in the gym doing my sets, but being able to come out and do a set [on still rings] like that even when I'm tried from not doing all-around all the time, it's good to go out there and hit a nice set."
With a final score of 443.600, the Blue and White notched the sixth-best team score in program history. However, even with this positive outcome, Penn State still plans to improve for their meet against Illinois next Friday.
"Well, we're going to have to be better to beat Illinois," said coach Jepson. "They're a very good team and one of the things we can focus on is the certainly the finishing could be better in the last couple of events, so we can do a better job there and pommel horse wasn't particularly good today, so hopefully next week, [the team's] games up."
Howard echoed coach Jepson's statement about refining the routines on pommel horse.
"I definitely need to improve on pommel horse, that's always been a weak point for me," said Howard. "It was good. It built my confidence hitting it tonight, but I still need to get the nerves under control and be able to come out and show that I've been training in the gym."
Ohio State and Penn State will meet again in the Big Ten Championships on March 27-28, but this meet is no indication of what the results for the championships will be.
"There's going to be a lot of change between now and Big Ten," said coach Jepson. "A lot of teams are looking healthier, getting better, that's a lot of season to be competed, so by no means are we set in stone in anything. We got a job to work."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While other college students attended classes, completed plentiful amounts of homework, and participated in various extracurricular activities, junior Alexis Torres and redshirt senior Nestor Rodriguez competed internationally for Puerto Rico this past fall semester.
"They had a great opportunity to represent their country at the world championship level," said head coach Randy Jepson.
Torres is from Catano, Puerto Rico and Rodríguez is from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Rodriguez was part of the Puerto Rican National Team Gymnasium club team before he started to compete for Penn State. When the opportunity came for the two of them to represent their country, by no means could they turn down the chance.
"We were born and raised in Puerto Rico, so we're part of the team there," said Rodriguez. "Puerto Rico is a small country and they don't have many gymnasts compared to the United States or other countries, so we got to do our job to represent Puerto Rico. We got the opportunity, we're good enough, we made the team, and any athletes at this level is going to say, 'Yes.' This is a dream for everyone, as an athlete especially."
Competing for Puerto Rico against other countries in the world was vastly different than competing at the collegiate level.
"It was a great experience," said Torres. "We were mostly practicing whenever. We only competed once and that's it. It's just like a completion, but it's really different than competing here in the college competitions. It was a definitely a change practicing and trying to train for those competitions and then coming here and trying to practice and train for all the competitions because, here, we compete more consecutively and for those competitions, it's like one day, that's it, and then, we don't compete for months or weeks."
Even though the competitions were different, Torres and Rodriguez still bring a special element to the men's gymnastics team.
"We have the experience on top of every one [on the team]," said Rodriguez. "We've already seen people that went to the World Championship - these are world-class athletes in comparison to college athletes, so obviously, we have that experience on top of them, which is helpful for the team."
Coach Jepson adds that Torres and Rodriguez are great components to the team.
"They're really good," said coach Jepson. "They're just solid guys. They're very clean gymnasts in good difficulty and they're just really big pluses for us. It's great to see Néstor. He's had a career that's been kind of marked by injuries, and we just want to make sure that he's healthy this year and goes out with a strong finish. He's a former All-American and is a wonderful guy to have around as is Alexis. He's a light-hearted and a very talented kid. They bring a lot to the table for us."
With only three meets into the season, it is evident that Torres is making an impact on the team. He was named the Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week last week after the West Point Open. Torres has earned four individual titles, two in still rings, one in vault, and one in pummel horse, as well as a Big Ten Honor.
"I just competed," said Torres. "I didn't really win anything or a title. It was just something I saw in the paper, but it definitely motivated me. It made me see for myself that I was doing a good job and in that way, it motivated me to keep going and keep doing a good job."
Unfortunately, though Rodriguez was in Puerto Rico, he was unable to compete due to injury.
"I didn't compete personally," said Rodriguez. "I was recovering from a torn Achilles', but either way, it was a great experience for me just to go watch the team and especially other teams compete and see how they get prepared."
Rodriguez is currently a senior and could have graduated last year, but by competing internationally, he was given the ability to compete in one final season for Penn State.
"[It] worked out great for Nestor, too, because he was coming back from injury," said coach Jepson. "He could have graduated [last year], but this way, he gets the collegiate season now and he gets to help our team and it was a great situation, a great fit for us. We're really please that they had the chance to get those experiences."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the only double dual meet of the season, the Nittany Lions built on their season's accolades by capturing all six team events to earn a 444.700-436.350 win over No. 5 Michigan.
"The double duals are always fun," said senior Craig Hernandez. "We get the larger crowds because we have the women's [gymnastics team] and the men's [gymnastics team] together and it just makes for a much better atmosphere and I think our team showed that we liked that."
Penn State's score of 444.700 was the fourth highest score in program history.
"We're just pleased that we made progress in terms of our competition," said head coach Randy Jepson. "Last week, we hit about 86%. We had 88% tonight, but we had way more stuck landings last week, so we only had three tonight and twelve last meet. That's something we will continue to focus on, but I'm seeing solid performances and that's huge."
In addition to the Blue and White achieving its third consecutive team title of the season, four individual titles were awarded.
Hernandez placed first in pommel horse to receive his second title of the season as well as a school-record score of 15.950. Junior Trevor Howard was first in still rings with a score of 15.350, junior Alexis Torres finished first in parallel bars with a score of 15.700, and senior Matthew Felleman finished high bars with a score of 15.100.
"I don't really know if I was expecting to break the school record, but I know that with the judging that I saw previously and how well I did, I knew that I would at least be close," said Hernandez.
This meet against Michigan was the first Big Ten matchup of the season for Penn State and it brought up a stronger will to win.
"[Michigan] is a conference rival and they're a very solid program," said coach Jepson. "They just won two national championships. They're a good team. They aren't quite in shape as we are yet, but they will be, we know that, but I'm just glad that we're in a spot where we don't have to push. We can be methodical in how we prepare and there will be no surprises. We'll just go day-after-day and try to get better."
Hernandez builds on coach Jepson's statement about the conference clash.
"Since it is Michigan and our Big Ten rival, you know, we do like to try to do better at least," said Hernandez.
Penn State men's gymnastics hope to continue their success for the rest of the season by improving throughout practices.
"We still have some upgrades we can make," said coach Jepson. "We have some routines aren't on the floor yet and that's a factor of health. Our vaults can improve as well. We aren't doing nearly what we can do on the vault. We can upgrade on vaults pretty dramatically. We're training other vaults that are higher difficulty, but we want to be confident and secure every season and be safe and as the guys go through the season, we'll continue to add and hopefully by mid-season, we'll have what we need to make a run."
Even with daily practices, not all routines are perfect during meets.
"[Doing what you do in the gym and doing it in the meet] is the best feeling in the world," said Hernandez.
Hernandez and the rest of the men's gymnastics team will face-off against Ohio State at Rec Hall on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNVIERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 4 Penn State men's gymnastics team is off to a prominent start this season as they have clutched two consecutive team titles as well as 11 individual titles in only two meets.
Despite having a young roster for this season due to the addition of six freshmen to the team, the upperclassmen's guidance is leading the team to success.
"The first weekend was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but I felt like just concentrating on the things that I do best, just staying confident, and I tried my best," said freshman Joshua Smith. "My team tried to support me the best way they could and after that, the results just came naturally."
The Nittany Lions started the season with a 426.700-403.000 win over Army nearly two weeks ago at Rec Hall. They won all six events that Sunday to earn the victory.
The team has continued to build on their momentum by capturing their 16th West Point Open team title with a score of 439.400 last Saturday. The Nittany Lions captured the seventh-best team score in school history with their performance.
Thirteen Nittany Lions recorded qualifying performances for the individual finals on Saturday night. Freshman Thad Lawson, senior Matthew Felleman, senior Craig Hernandez, junior Alexis Torres, and senior Tristan Duverglas all went home with an individual title.
Freshman Thad Lawson earned his first collegiate title by securing first place in the floor exercise event.
"[The meet] was fun," said Lawson. "I've never really been in that big of an exciting team environment. A lot of team support and it was really fun and exciting and a big adrenaline rush."
Lawson built on his accomplishment this week by receiving
the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.
"It's really exciting," said Lawson. "It was pretty unexpected, you know, being my first competition. I've had some adversity with concussions and some minor injuries, but it was a really pleasant surprise."
Even with the success, Lawson couldn't have done it without his teammates.
"[The upperclassmen] have been really supportive," said Lawson. "Giving me some helpful hints with competing and dealing with the pressure, just staying calm, and focusing in on every small detail."
Teammate and fellow freshman Benjamin Cooperman echoes his teammate about the support from the juniors and seniors.
"All the upperclassmen really help me out," said Cooperman. "Any of the seniors and juniors are role-models and I definitely look up to them."
With such a young roster, the young athletes are bringing something new to the team.
"I think [the freshmen] bring depth to the table," said Cooperman. "We got a lot of really good upperclassmen who help out the team a lot, but I think we can really help them out by stepping up when they need rest and really just adding a lot of depth into the team, so we can go deeper into the season."
Though there has been much accomplished this season already, the team still hopes to improve.
"I think there are definitely some little areas that we need to improve in...Hitting as many routines as possible, keep cleaning up, tightness, just really cleaning up the little things, definitely focus on sticking out dismounts, just little things, but I think we're off to a great start," said Cooperman. "I'm really confident and excited to go forward with the team and see what we do. I think we have a really great shot at doing really well this year."
Penn State will meet Michigan at 4 p.m. this Saturday at Rec Hall.
"This weekend, I definitely want to beat Michigan and just want to show improvement from our last meet," said Cooperman.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.
Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.
"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."
A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.
Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.
"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.
Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.
"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."
Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.
"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."
Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.
"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."
"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."
"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."
Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.
"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
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