By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The last three months brought out some of the very best of the Penn State track and field squad, proving that Nittany Lion fans have a unique opportunity that most people do not: the ability to see student-athletes grow and improve day after day reaching the limits of the potential and then surpassing them motivated by the pride of the dear old white and blue.
Here's a look back on what the Nittany Lions accomplished this season.
"The First Meet!"
Although the indoor season began with a friendly intrasquad match where student-athletes were able to dust off, the Penn State Relay was the first meet of the year to bring in other competing schools to the Ashenfelter Indoor Track.
The meet, which is expected to be full of 'first-meet jitters', was far from disappointing.
In his first meet, senior Darrell Hill broke the school record in the shot put with a 66-2.5 throw - a foreshadowing, maybe.
The quartet of Jordan Makins, Ryan Brennan, Brannon Kidder, and Robby Creese set the meet record in the 4x800-meter relay with a time of 7.22.10.
Megan Osborne, one-fourth of the 4x400-meter relay women, won the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.69.
The second home meet of the year, the Nittany Lion Challenge, was significantly more competitive than the first as it brought to Happy Valley top-level schools like the University of Miami and Georgetown.
Coach Randy Bungard described the Nittany Lions as pitbulls ready to attack the competition with no intentions other than winning and pushing their opponents to their absolute limits.
And that they did as Penn State pulled through winning ten events and setting two meet records.
The consistent Darrell Hill was dominant in the shot put once again with a meet record 64-5.25 throw and in the women's shot put, junior Rachel Fatherly took home the win with a meet record throw of 51-7.
The field athletes were motivated during this meet as Steve Waithe (52-1) and Brian Leap (51-9.75) both posted winning and personal best marks in the triple jump, respectively.
"My Favorite Meet of the Year"
The most anticipated, most thrilling meet of the year, the Penn State National, was up next for Penn State.
Junior Dannielle Gibson described this meet best: "All I can say is PRs, PRs, PRs!" she said.
Gibson won the triple jump event with a mark of 40-7.75 and Brian Leap took home the win for the men with a top-six NCAA and personal best leap of 52-3.75.
All the women shot putters posted personal best throws and were highlighted by the outstanding Rachel Fatherly who threw a personal best, top-three at Penn State and top-15 in the nation, 67-5.25.
To be the best, you must beat the best. So, Darrell Hill showed up once again bested his school record with a toss of 67-3.
To keep the ball rolling, the athletes on the track didn't disappoint.
Brannon Kidder posted a top-three time in the nation of 1:47.86 in the 800-meter run and both the men and women of 4x400-meter relays took home first place with times of 3:15.83 and 3:40.43, respectively.
The nostalgia of graduation set in around the beginning of February at the Sykes and Sabock Challenge Cup where 17 student-athletes were recognized for their commitment to the Penn State program for the last four years.
However, senior Robby Creese didn't let the emotions get in the way of his performance as he ran an exhilarating 3:57.86 mile. The fourth best time in the country and the best ran time in the NCAA earned him the Big Ten's Men's Athlete of the week honors the following week.
The consistency of the 2014-2015 upperclassmen is so note-worthy. Head coach John Gondak describes it as "a sign of maturity".
It's Time for a Business Trip
Up next on the schedule for Penn State was their first away meet of the season where three groups of student-athletes traveled to three cities - Fayetteville, Arkansas; Seattle, Washington; and Geneva, Ohio.
In Seattle, Robby Creese ran a phenomenal 3,000-meters in 7:50.36, which broke the Penn State school record by almost four seconds.
Also, on the track, Brannon Kidder posted a sub-4 minute mile, a personal best time of 3:57.13, the No. 2 time in Penn State history.
In Arkansas, the personal records were flying everywhere.
Ahmenah Richardson moved up to fourth-best at Penn State in the high jump with a height of 5-9.75.
Megan Osborne has a personal best 200-meter time of 24.30 and the women of the 4x400-meter relay ran a season-best 3:34.90.
Rachel Fatherly, again, with a personal best indoor shot put throw of 52-2.75 and more from the field, Dannielle Gibson with a triple jump best of 41-1.50.
"What Time Is it?...It's Championship time!"
When you set the bar as high as Penn State does, it can be easy to overlook foundations and accomplishments that are on par with some of the best in the nation.
There were countless personal best performances at the championships proving that they are resilient and committed to improving leaving nothing but their all every time they step out to compete.
Darrell Hill's consistency is arguably one of the most motivating assets this team has. Several Nittany Lions mention his performance as a representation of the standards they set for themselves - believe in yourself and always work for better.
Rachel Fatherly's control and focus were so entertaining this year. She is aware of the things that help her succeed - an advantage not all athletes may have.
Brian Leap posted a personal best triple jump 52-6.75 during the Big Ten Championship. At a time where competition and stakes are as high as the conference championships, a personal best record is remarkable.
Tori Gerlach who has been quietly and diligently working all year, earned her shining moment on the podium with a first-place 5k finish joining the likes of Robby Creese and Brannon Kidder who took first and second respectively in the men's one-mile.
The officially close the season eleven student-athletes earned a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas to compete in the National Championship.
On the men's side, the distance medley relay of Brannon Kidder, Alex Shisler, Za'Von Watkins and Robby Creese ran to a second-place finish with the No. 3 time in school history (9:32.21).
Also, Brannon Kidder (one-mile run; 4:04.48), Robby Creese (3,000-meter run; 8:06.53), Darrell Hill (shot put), and Brian Leap (triple jump) represented Penn State and finished collectively as the top Big Ten team at the championship.
Both Darrell Hill (64-8) and Brian Leap (51-4.50) made the trip to the indoor national championship for the first time in their career and recorded solid performances.
The Penn State women were represented by All-Americans 4x400-meter relay of Megan Osborne, Dynasty McGee, Tichina Rhodes and Kiah Seymour. The 4x4 finished eighth with a season-best time of 3:34.57.
Rachel Fatherly tallied a pair of top-16 finishes in her first trip to an NCAA Championship meet. Fatherly placed 11th in the shot put (52-10) and 16th in the weight throw (63-1.25).
Of the eleven competitors, nine earned first team All-America honors, an incredible accomplishment and well-earned honors.
These are the things that make Penn State track and field so incredibly entertaining to watch. They never give up. And the very best part of it all is that it's not over yet.
Onto the outdoor season!
Recently in Track & Field Category
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Dynasty McGee, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
PARK, Pa. - This past weekend, I witnessed one of the most competitive NCAA
Championships that I've been a part of. We arrived in Arkansas on Wednesday to
give us ample time to get a feel for the track. The first couple of workouts at
Tyson Track Center went great, and everyone seemed ready for the
After Thursday's workout, everyone put on their best for the NCAA Banquet where Coach John Gondak and Darrell Hill were recognized amongst other coaches and student-athletes.
We were more than happy to cheer on Rachel Fatherly who kicked off the competition for us on Friday. Next, Kiah Seymour competed, running an amazing race. Brandon Kidder had a tough race in the prelims of the mile but managed to advance to the finals.
Last to compete on Friday was the men's distance medley relay and it was an exciting race to watch. Brannon Kidder put Alex Shisler in a great position and Za'Von Watkins held that position. Watching Robby Creese slowly but surely close the gap between him and three other athletes was amazing to watch, but if anyone could do it, we knew it would be him.
Saturday night was showtime for the women's 4x4. We were a little nervous but excited at the same time. The goal was to win our heat and make it on to the podium. Megan Osborne was the pop off and competed well with the other first legs. She handed the baton to me and I took off. My goal was to either put us in first or get us close to it. Tichina Rhodes ran her own race, which was extremely smart. Kiah received the baton in third place and the runner in first place had to be 50 meters ahead. Kiah passed the second place runner and coming around the last curve she made her move and blew past the runner in first place! We ran fast enough to earn eighth place, making us All-Americans.
This felt like the hardest national meet for a couple of us. Some of us were coming off of injuries and even qualifying for the meet seemed almost impossible. I will never forget this meet or the women that were by my side every step of the way. I'm excited for the transition into outdoor season and to get more training under my belt. Our first meet is in two weeks and I'm expecting great things.
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend the Nittany Lions will be on the road once again. However, this time, they will be made up of fourteen student-athletes that will look to dominate the national stage in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The group of student-athletes, compared to the dozens that regularly travel on the weekends, have proved to be the cream of crop this year and have earned their positions at the 2015 Indoor NCAA Championships representing the Blue and White.
"Having a close group like that will help with cheering each other on and for having a Penn State presence down there," said Brian Leap
And while for most, the thought of competing on the national level could be nerve-wrecking or intimidating, this group is headed into 'just another meet' that provides another chance to showcase the diligence they've devoted all season long.
"The hay is in the barn now and we're just going to tune up and get ready...take a few days to recover. No need to do anything special this week," said junior Brannon Kidder, who is slated to compete in the one-mile run and the distance medley relay.
Also representing the Nittany Lions on the track will be junior Kiah Seymour who is set to compete in the 400-meter dash. Seymour, who placed sixth in the event at the NCAA meet in 2014, represents the team's focused mindset headed into the meet. This year is a clean slate and it brings opportunity for improvement.
"I think I train the same for every meet. This isn't any different. I'm going to go out there and try my best," said Seymour. "Good competition brings out good performances."
On the field, Penn State is confident.
Leap had a powerful performance at the Big Ten Championships where he posted a personal record triple jump of 52-6.75.
"[I'm just going to] build off of [Big Tens]. I know there are more things out there and hopefully I can look toward that school record mark," said Leap. "[I'll just] continue to do the same things I've been doing and use the atmosphere to give me the extra push."
Another consistent stand out is junior Rachel Fatherly who earned her Big Ten Championship silver medal with a toss of 66-6.50. Fatherly's growth this season has been entertaining, to say the least, and represents the determination and concentration practiced daily by the Nittany Lions.
"I think that ending the weight throw [at the Big Ten Championships] with my last throw being my best throw builds confidence and it shows that I can come through. I can be focused," said Fatherly. "My better throws come when I'm more relaxed and calm. Coach Ebel told me to think about everything that got me to NCAAs and just try and reiterate that."
Aside from focused, confident, and determined, the team is grateful for this opportunity.
"I'm really excited and [I feel] blessed to...be able to go compete and to compete for a national championship," said senior Darrell Hill, who is closing off his senior season with a first-time trip to an indoor championship.
The most important note of all, though, is that the team is really, really excited.
"I'm actually just really excited more than I am nervous," said Seymour.
"Absolutely. I'm definitely excited and not having school will be nice. We can fully focus on track," said Kidder. "I'm really excited for the relay. It's always really exciting running with those guys."
"I'm excited. I was just there a few weeks ago with all the SEC schools and it was similar. I got all the nerves out of the way and now I can just use the excitement and build off of Big Tens," said Leap.
"Definitely excited," said Fatherly.
By Michael James McClelland, GoPSUsports.com
Geneva, Ohio - From my view, with a fourth place finish for the men and the women tying for third place, it is safe to say that both Penn State squads left the SPIRE Institute without accomplishing all they wanted to at the Big Ten Championships. Though the team scores left something to be desired, our individual efforts were outstanding and should not be overshadowed.
On the men's side, we found an abundance of personal records and champions. Captain Darrell Hill was seeded first in the men's shot put in which he followed through with his seemingly effortless victory. Brian Leap came through with a lifetime best jump of 52-6.75 to secure second place in the triple jump, with Steve Waithe close behind in third. On the track, we got to see Robby Creese and Brannon Kidder dominate the men's mile with a first and second place finish, respectively. Robby Creese also came through with a huge victory in the men's 3k and Matt Fischer finished well in the event to score us three points.
On the women's side, we found an equally impressive amount of notable performances. Without a doubt, one of the performances that stood out in my mind is one that may not have scored us points, but definitely motivated us as a team. Sophomore Kasey Kemp has been battling an injury for years and came into the Big Ten Championship with a season best of only 11-10, and came through with a lifetime best of 12-9.25. Kemp's teammates Hannah Mulhern and Lexi Masterson came through with season bests.
As for the first event on Friday, the women spurred into action with season bests from Kiah Seymour in the 400m dash, Shelley Black in the 60m hurdles, and a truly determined victory from Tori Gerlach in the 5k.
All in all, this weekend was not what we wanted, but it's what we do with this feeling going into the outdoor season that will make all the difference. As a squad, I know we are all close friends and all want to see each other succeed. Outdoors we have the great additions of Mike Shuey in the javelin and a healthy Rob Cardina in the decathlon. With the inclusion of their leadership qualities and our ability, as a unit, to synthesize this frustration into motivation, I truly believe outdoors will yield us spectacular results. Best of luck to those competing at Indoor Nationals. Go State!
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - It's championship time for the Nittany Lions and the Penn State track and field team is headed to Geneva, Ohio to take on their conference rivals for the 2015 Big Ten Indoor Championships.
This week GoPSUsports.com caught up with a few student-athletes to find out their favorite moments from last year's championship meet.
By Rachel Fatherly, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday started off with a motivational quote from Coach [Patrick] Ebel, "Believe in yourself and let's get it done today.
This quote set the tone for the day whether it was in the circle, on the runway, or on the track. I think that today was definitely a tune up to say the least. We had many outstanding performances that will set us up nicely for the upcoming Big Ten Championships. The atmosphere today was great, like always. Everyone was engaged in all of the performances.
I think that many Penn Staters took huge steps today. For example, Jon Yohman throwing a season-best of 55-9.75 in the shot put. While warming up for shot put, it was nice to be able to cheer on Matt Fischer as he raced the clock in the 5k.
As Penn Staters, we definitely showed our pride as well as passion for each other. Across the board there were many improvements, personal bests, season bests and better performances overall.
As we enter the Big Team Championships, many were able to tune up or work on things that will help them later on in the week. What time is it? It's Big Ten Time!
We Are... Penn State
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman year of college is an anticipated, yet slightly feared, time when you finally leave the nest of your hometown and soar into the world of independent living, unknown roommates, and questionable dining hall meals.
If you're a student-athlete, on top of it all, you're thrown into the world of division I athletics full of 20-40 hour training weeks, hours of traveling, and top level opponents - what can be fairly described as intimidating.
Freshman Xavier Smith joined the Nittany Lions in August as a one of the nation's top competitors and among the top three track athletes in his district and county. He is a football player turned sprinter from the small town of Douglasville, Pennsylvania who is drawing a lot of attention this season.
The population in Douglasville is 448 - about five percent of Penn State's total incoming freshman and just about half of the entire body of Penn State student-athletes.
So, to say his move from Douglasville to Happy Valley was intimidating is an understatement.
However, with the support of his family, which has been strong since his first day on the rubber, Smith has submerged fiercely into the life of a full-time division I sprinter with no signs of slowing down.
"In high school, I did it for fun my junior year and then senior year I started to get more serious," said Smith. "[Collegiate training is] a new experience and I was trying different things. I had never really had workouts this hard. It was kind of different....[but] I started to get the hang of it. I had to take it day by day."
His teammates also play a huge role in his success acting as another direct source of support.
"I didn't know what to expect but they were there for me if I had any questions. There are here to help me and show me the ropes and help [me] work toward our goals," he said. "I use my teammates' energy to help me go out there and do the best that I can. If I do well, I know that might help someone else do well and it's a chain reaction."
On various occasions you'll hear the team describe itself as a family - a very competitive, very ambitious family.
"Alex Shisler actually told me, 'It doesn't matter what kind of work out you had yesterday. It could have been the best work out you've ever had or the worst work out you've ever had but, today is a different day so try and make today the best work out that you can get out of it'," he said.
To his teammates, Smith is respectful, laid back, and focused. To his
coaches he is the definition of a true competitor. But, you don't have to take
their word for it.
In his four outings in the 60-meter dash this year, Smith has improved his time every single race. In December, Smith posted a time of 6.91 seconds during the Blue and White Intrasquad Meet. In his last time out, he ran at a season-best performance of 6.87 seconds.
In the 200-meter dash, Smith is consistent with his improvement as well and is dancing dangerously on the edge of a personal record. Last weekend, Smith posted a season best time of 21.54 seconds, .04 of a second from his personal best.
He's also an important fourth of the men's 4x400-meter relay quartet that ran a season best time of 3:12.61 last weekend at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
"I'm doing a good job so far but I know there is still room for improvement. There are expectations that still can be reached but...it's alright so far. It can be better," said Smith.
As Smith looks towards the competition to come, he looks forward to the challenges and reflects on all that has changed within the last few months when he stepped onto Happy Valley grounds for the first time.
No one can predict where he or she will end up but Smith is confident that he's headed in the right direction.
"[I'm going to] keep trying new things," he said. "Whenever you try new things there's more that's good that can come out of it than bad. You never know where you're going to end up."
As they say, the best is yet to come.
By Wade Endress, GoPSUsports.com
This blog concludes my third trip to Seattle. Each trip has its distinguishing memories, but our team chemistry defined the success of our first meet out west. Despite a new coaching arrangement and a few new teammates, nothing changes the familiarity of a high-performance indoor meet. With an emphasis on distance running, the Husky Classic creates a championship-like atmosphere. Whether we were competing for an NCAA bid, a conference seed, or simply a personal best, the team feels the sense of urgency associated with the latter part of a season.
I did not improve on my personal best, but I witnessed phenomenal performances from fellow teammates. Ranging from the young freshmen learning to compete to Robby's school record in the 3000m, Seattle lived up to expectations. Compared to the outdoor season, indoor facilities provide an intimate-like feeling. The Dempsey (Washington's facility) housed a lot of people. Thus, large crowds cheered for every heat of every event establishing a feeling that is rather indescribable to the average person.
Enough about the monotonous cycle of running and competing, the Pacific Northwest was beautiful. Our hotel fell in the middle of the University District, rather than the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Seattle. Similar to State College, the area surrounding campus contained a large variety of deli's, coffee shops, and restaurants. We tend to indulge in the food and culture aspect of the trip more than preparing to race, but let's not share with Coach Gondak. (Joking of course) Who doesn't enjoy a change of pace?
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
GoPSUsports.com caught up with the track and field squads to learn a little more about the team between the lines. Watch the video to get to know more about our student-athletes.
By Megan Osborne, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This past weekend was a rolling start into what Penn State Track and Field considers championship season! Finally being scored overall as a collective group helped us visualize where we stand and what we need to do to accomplish our goal of being B1G champions on both the men and women sides, and I don't doubt that this is obtainable.
We had great performances from all side, the track, the field, the men and the women. Our throws program has yet again to shown a quality weekend, holding it down in the ring and our middle distance once again lived up to their name!
The energy was great within the building, starting the second day off with honoring our prestigious seniors that have left their make on and off the track and ending with a season best in the 4x4 women's relay, with the team curved around the bank showing their team spirit!
I believe that we are off to a great rest of the season and ready for weeks to come. Its been fun run in Happy Valley, with the fans behind our back but we're ready to take on the competition from all over the country in Arkansas, Seattle and Ohio.