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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend marks the end of the Nittany Lions conference indoor track season as they head to Geneva, OH to compete in the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships.

 Some of the team has had their fair share of experience when it comes to this conference meet.

Senior sprinter, Alex Shisler knows his past experiences allow him to be ready to take on his last indoor Big Tens.

"I know what to expect. It's something I've been through, this is going to be my eighth Big Tens, so I know exactly what to expect," said Shisler. "I know what to expect when it comes to competition, I know how to run on that track, and I think all those things are going to benefit me greatly in terms of my competition."

This last shot at indoor Big Tens is leaving Shisler hopeful that the team comes out on top.

"Winning. I'm so excited to at least have that shot," he said.  "This meet is the one that we all look forward to. It's something we haven't done yet, so it's always fun to go in there, compete to the best of our ability and see if we can come out with a trophy." 

Returning to the meet this year is sophomore mid-distance runner, Isaiah Harris, who captured the 800-meter first place last year, running a Big Ten all-time indoor record time of 1:46.24. 

Harris is more secure going into the championships after taking the gold in it last year.

"I feel like going into this weekend I'm more confident based off what I did last year, so it's just a confidence thing. I'm not going to be nervous going into it."

 Although he won the open 800, Harris is more excited to run the DMR with his team.

"I'm excited about the DMR really because we've won it the past five years, but this year we aren't as strong as we have been in the past," said Harris. "Gondak just told me that I'm anchoring it now, so we're going to try I guess to pull an upset and try to keep the streak alive. I'm looking forward to that." 

Head coach John Gondak feels confident in Harris and his team after the Penn State Tune-Up last weekend. 

"Everybody is where you want them to be. A lot of the men that competed last weekend were using it as a workout meet so to speak, doing multiple events to kind of simulate what the conference championships is going to be like," said Gondak. "The women, we wanted to accomplish a few things and they are just very driven and focused right now on going and trying to make a run at winning the Big Ten title. They showed that with what they did in the DMR and with what a handful of other athletes did last weekend so they've got excellent energy right now." 

Gondak feels that all areas of the team are strong enough to contribute to a successful championship meet this weekend.

"The nice part about our program is that I think all areas are going to be the strength of our team. We work to really have a well-balanced program," said Gondak. "In most events, we have an opportunity to score. Obviously, in some events we have a little bit more of an opportunity than others based on our entries, but it's going to take everybody to be on their A game this weekend to have the results we want to have."

"I'm feeling really excited. I've asked the team week in and week out to just keep working to get better, and I think they've done that. I think they're really confident as we head on into the championships this weekend," he added. "They've been competing really well and we've stressed to them that this is just like any competition to them in terms of putting any undue pressure or stress on yourself and go have fun and compete and we'll hopefully have a good result." 

This Big Ten meet will serve as the last opportunity for qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Going into this weekend, the Nittany Lions have had seven NCAA-qualifying performances. The top 16 individuals and top 12 relays at the meet will qualify for the NCAA Championships that will be held in College Station, TX.

The Big Ten Indoor Championships is set to start at 10 a.m. on Friday and continuing into Saturday at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, OH.

 

12447010.jpegBy Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Indoor Big Ten Championships right around the corner, the Penn State Nittany Lion track team is tuning up this weekend as they host their final indoor meet of season.

The Penn State Tune-Up will be held this Saturday, Feb. 18th at the Horace Ashenfelter Indoor track. This will give the Nittany Lions one last shot to qualify for the Big Ten Championships that are held in Geneva, OH on Feb. 24th and 25th. 

"The tune-up meet is going to help our team reach the best of its abilities to enter the Big Ten meet with has much strength and momentum as possible," said junior hurdler Rachael DeCecco. "This meet will give those who still need a qualifying mark one last chance to get it and it will give others the opportunity to improve their marks to make them the most competitive at Big Tens. Good marks this weekend will give our team strong momentum going into the Big Ten meet to get after a team championship."

"The tune-up meet is crucial for several reasons," said senior multi Rob Cardina. "The first is that it's the last meet to sharpen and fine tune our skills before we compete at the big ten championships. Secondly, it's a smaller meet so the energy at the track will be lacking from the crowd. It's a great chance for us as a team to bring the energy ourselves and support one another. It's exemplifies the Spire Institute we compete in next week. We're excited." 

For some of the team, this smaller meet will feel more normal to them, taking the pressure off of competing at a higher energy meet with a lot of other schools. 

"Danae (Rivers) and Rachel Banks are running the 600 with me too, so I just think that it will be a great opportunity to chase her and be able to have a good team atmosphere," said sophomore hurdler Elyse Skerpon. "It will also feel just like practice because there won't be a ton of people there, allowing me to race more relaxed." 

Other members of the team are taking this meet off to help them rest up for the championships.

"I'm really excited for this weekend, particularly because I'm taking the week off. After competing five weekends in a row, I think that this is going to be really good for me in preparation for the Big Ten meet. Mentally and physically, it'll just give me a chance to relax and get myself in the Big Ten mode. It will also just give my body a break and let me rest for one weekend before we head out to Spire, so I can be really fresh there," said junior pole vaulter Hannah Mulhern. 

"There are a few people that are competing this weekend, and I'm really excited to see how it goes for them. It's called the tune-up meet so it's going to be good for a lot of people to fine tune in their event areas and just do whatever they need to do to be best prepared for the Big Ten meet."

 Going into this last home indoor meet, the team is set with high goals for the end of their indoor season.

"For the rest of the indoor season, a goal for our team is to win the Big Ten Championships. We have a lot of talent in all event groups so a team championship is within reach," said DeCecco."I think individually, everyone hopes to perform at the Big Ten meet better than they ever have. If everyone brings they're A-game, I think our women's team could be top contenders for a team championship." 

"As a team, both men and women are in a great spot to score high at Big Tens. We have all the key components from high scorers to point grabbers. Every point counts and we've been stressing that all year. I want nothing more than to bring home 2 trophies from that meet," said Cardina. "Personally, I want to score as many team points as possible for the men's squad. The ultimate goal is to win the very competitive men's heptathlon. It's been great working with Coach Kelly and all the guys and girls in his jump crew. It would be special to go out on top."

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Members of the Penn State track and field team will travel to compete in the Spire Invitational this weekend, which serves as a good trial run before the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

The championships will be held this year at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, and the Nittany Lions are heading that direction to get a feel for the environment and facility.    

"It's obviously a huge benefit to be able to get on a facility where you will have your championships. Our facility here is a 200-meter banked track and the Spire center is a 300-meter oversized track, so it's a little bit of a different than what our facility provides. For the field events, they want to feel the runway, they want to feel the ring, kind of get an idea of what it's like," said head coach John Gondak. "That's why we're going there, and hopefully it'll give us a boost as we go into Big Tens." 

"Competing at Spire will give our team a really good opportunity to get to experience the environment there," said junior pole vaulter Hannah Mulhern. "It's kind of a dead atmosphere, so it'll give us the chance to get in there and experience that and practice making a good atmosphere for ourselves."

Penn State hosts a lot of indoor meets at its own facility, so traveling to a different facility is a complete different process for the team to experience.  

"Getting to compete at Spire two weeks before the Big Ten Championships is definitely a big advantage for us. I know that we're very comfortable competing at home because we have such a nice facility and we're really lucky to compete there and having that atmosphere is very nice, but when we go to Spire we have to adjust to being on the road," said junior high jumper Megan McCloskey. "We have to get used to stuff like that, like Coach Gondak said before, when we're at Spire this weekend we get to take the opportunity to locate workout facilities, warmups, restrooms and stuff like that to plan and prepare rather than having to do that when we actually get there for Big Tens."

For some of the team, competing at Spire hasn't happened for some time, so getting to go there and experience the atmosphere will be a good step going into championship season.

"It's going to be nice going back down there," said junior jumper Bryce Williams. "Last time I competed there, it was freshman year. It'll be nice to get a feel how Spire competes and how the track feels and get used to competing there at a not less competitive meet, but in an easier feel before Big Tens. I hope to PR, I don't know how far that'll be. I'm just going to trust my training and listen to my coach and see what I can do when I go out and compete." 

This meet at Spire marks the down swing of the Nittany Lions indoor season. After this meet, the Nittany Lions will have one more home meet before they go back to Spire for the indoor championships. The team is setting high expectations when going into these last three meets.

"For the rest of our indoor season, first and foremost, I'm hoping to accomplish a Big Ten Indoor Championship as a team. I think that's really important," said McCloskey. "Since I've been here, we haven't accomplished that and we've always been really close and I think this year we have a really good squad of girls who are prepared and have been putting in a lot of work, which has definitely showed at the beginning of this season. Individually, I'm just hoping that I can continue improving with my heights and my ultimate goal would definitely would be to be on the podium when all is said and top three and Big Tens and if things go well hopefully I'll be going to the national championships."

"I just want to keep making strides in the right direction," said Mulhern. "I want to keep improving on myself and on my performances, so I can help the team out at the Big Ten championships. I hope by that time to be jumping well enough to score and hopefully get on the podium at Big Tens."

Along with going to Spire this weekend, some of the team is traveling to Seattle, WA, to compete in the Husky Classic. Coach Gondak is hoping both of these meets show improvement among the team.

"I just want us to keep getting better every week, and I think we've done that very well through the season," said Gondak. "I know we rested a lot of kids last weekend, so hopefully now that we've got everybody back into play this weekend we can continue to get better as a team. I think we have about 70 athletes competing this weekend so it's going to be a good last test as we go into championship time."

VIDEO: Lee & Rhodes Talk Black History Month

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  In the first of a three-part video series, Penn State women's volleyball student-athlete Simone Lee sits down with track and field student-athlete Tichina Rhodes to talk Black History Month and diversity throughout the entire Penn State Athletics community. 

Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its student-athletes and coaches who have helped shape Nittany Lion history. View more here.
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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Isaiah Harris, Tessa Barrett and Danae Rivers currently all have NCAA leading times after the Penn State National Open this past weekend.  

 

Sophomore Isaiah Harris started the day off with a bang. Harris and Penn State alum, Casimir Loxsom ran a world record-breaking race in the 600m. Loxsom won the race with a time of 1:14.91. Not far behind, Harris came in second with a time of 1:14.96. Loxsom and Harris are now No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively.

 

"I felt really good throughout the whole race, even when I was done," said Harris. "I knew Cas was going to go out fast like we talked about what he was going to do before the race. I knew he was going to try to go out at 48, so I knew if I just stuck with him it would be a perfect race for me. So, I want to thank Cas for pulling me along."

 

Harris and Loxsom had already ran against each other at this past summer's Olympic trials, so they had formed a special bond on and off the track.

 

"We talked a lot, like we texted, talked on Twitter and stuff like that. We kept in contact, so he's like a friend now. It's pretty cool," said Harris. "We were at Oregon at the trials and he had dinner with us a few times and hung out with me and (Penn State alum Brannon) Kidder. It's cool having someone who can push you and be competitive with, but you're also friends with at the same time."

 

This world record-breaking race is just a start of what the rest of the season will be for Harris.

 

"I think it's a big confidence boost for what I can do in the future," said Harris. "It's really going to help me in the 800. When we go out fast in the 800, the first 600 I'm going to feel more comfortable knowing that I can run faster than that. It's going to help me overall and hopefully it can lead to a faster 800."

 

Harris' time is now the collegiate 600m record and currently No. 1 in the nation.

 

Also on the track, sophomore Tessa Barrett broke the 3,000-meter school record running a time of 9:07.22, which is also the top time in the nation.

 

"I'm so glad I had Tori (Gerlach) to help push me along," said Barrett. "It was really cool because the (5,000m) school record holder, Bridget Franek, was here today, so that was really cool. I didn't even know."

 

This school record and leading national time is just the beginning for the rest of Barrett's indoor season. This mark and her teammates will only push her to achieve more going forward.

 

"I think it was a good benchmark just to know that I could run that time. I think moving forward, just keep the ball rolling," said Barrett. "It's amazing having teammates like Danae and Isaiah and seeing them run amazing, it's just inspiring me to do more. I think we got a lot of energy right now so definitely just keep moving forward."

 

Along with those huge performances, freshman Danae Rivers is right there with her older teammates. Rivers is now 3-for-3 in school records. Rivers has broken the 600m school record, the 800m school record and now the mile school record consecutively in past three meets. Rivers' mile time of 4:34.87 is now No. 1 in the NCAA.

 

"I had a game plan from the get-go, so I knew to go out with Grace (Trucilla) who was rabbiting today. Stick with her then that last 800 just keeping going," said Rivers. "It feels amazing. I'm on my feet right now so that's pretty good. I'm a little sore, but I'm just glad I got it done and working with the coaches is very great."

 

Head coach John Gondak knew that Rivers would be a top performer after watching her throughout this past preseason.

 

"It's pretty amazing. As I said after the first two, she did some things this fall in training that made me think that this was a special athlete and she just continues to show it," said Gondak. "What's pretty amazing is that you go 3:18 for a 1200 last night, then 4:34 No. 1 time in the country for the mile, then back it up with a second PR in the 4x4 with a split of 53.6 It's just amazing range and she's got some great opportunities ahead of her to do some special things and she's got a great head, looking forward to seeing where things go with her."

 

Gondak is more than pleased with the performances on and off the track that happened at the Penn State National Open.

 

"It got started with a bang with a world record, which was thrilling. Cas Lozsom came back and was shooting for that world record, and pulled Isaiah Harris to a collegiate record and the No. 1 and No. 2 times ever in the world. It was an exciting start," said Gondak. "The meet today produced a lot of Big Ten No. 1 performances and a lot of No. 1 NCAA performances. Across all of the events, it was just a fantastic National Open and I'm thankful for the teams that came here and made it a great experience."

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.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior two-time Big Ten Champion Tori Gerlach thought her career as a Penn State runner was ending last year, but things quickly changed.

Gerlach had competed in four indoor meets during the 2016 indoor season and intended on running and competing during the 2016 outdoor season as well. Then, she got injured and couldn't compete at all for what was supposed to be her last outdoor season.

After carefully considering her options, Gerlach decided to come back for a fifth year at Penn State. Now, she knows this spring will be her very last time competing as a Nittany Lion.

"I'm excited, but I also thought I was done last year until all of a sudden, with two months to go, I had to change my plan entirely because I got injured," said Gerlach. "I'm really excited although it's kind of bittersweet, knowing it's coming to an end, but I feel like it's going to be the best season I've ever had." 

Gerlach only has outdoor eligibility left, so she has spent this year's cross country and indoor seasons training for the upcoming season. 

Although she isn't running for Penn State right now, she still gets to compete unattached in indoor home meets in order to be as prepared as possible for meets coming up this March.

"The training is still intense. I'm doing the same exact things; I just don't have that many races to prepare for," said Gerlach. "In cross country, I just trained for everything. I didn't have to cut back in mileage because I was racing. It was emotionally not as intense, which is really nice." 

"Her training really doesn't differ that much than if she were competing in the indoor season," said head coach John Gondak. "She still is running in multiple races unattached and is training with the team. I wish the outdoor season would start tomorrow in respect to her, she's ready for it." 

"She's a multiple Big Ten champion and will be a great asset to our team this outdoor season as we prepare to win a Big Ten Championship at home."

Having this chance to run at the indoor home meets unattached allows for Gerlach to get back in the racing mindset, so she isn't completely starting over this outdoor season.

"I am racing at home, and it definitely feels like I'm getting back into it," said Gerlach. "It's not as intense and I don't have to spend my energy worrying about (indoor) Big Tens and Nationals, I can just workout with my teammates, race with my teammates and know in the back of my mind that outdoor is the main focus." 

Gerlach has been a huge part of this Penn State track and field program since she came in as a freshman in 2012.

She currently has the number one all-time indoor performances in the mile and the 1,000-meter run with times of 4:37.83 and 2:43.15, respectively. She also has the second all-time indoor performance in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:50.49 and the second all-time outdoor performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:53.98. 

Gerlach is also a two-time Big Ten indoor champion where she won the 3,000-meter run in 2014 and then later won the 5,000-meter run in 2015. 

Although track has been successful and a major part of Gerlach's college years, she says the whole student-athlete experience has impacted her life in more ways than just running. 

"Being an athlete isn't all about the running and racing, it definitely has shaped me into who I am as a human being in general."   

Gerlach and the rest of the Nittany Lions will kick off their 2017 outdoor season with the Pac-12-Big Ten Challenge in Tempe, Arizona on March 24th.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field team opened its indoor season Saturday, Jan. 14th on home turf.  The Nittany Lions hosted their own Nittany Lion Challenge at the Multi-Sport Facility where Bucknell, Cornell, Georgetown, Maryland, Pittsburgh, UConn, Villanova, Central Connecticut came to compete.

 

Last year at this meet, the Nittany Lions won 13 events, set four meets records, and broke three school records. This year, the team captured 12 event wins and a new school record.

 

Freshman Danae Rivers broke Briene Simmons' seven-year-old 600 meter Penn State school record of 1:29.81 as she ran a new record time of 1:29.06.  

 

Rivers was in shock about her opening indoor performance.

 

"It really hasn't hit me yet, but it's a blessing I'd say," said Rivers. "All the hard work is just starting to pay off and it's only the beginning of the season."

 

The great start to her first indoor season at Penn State has only set the tone for where the rest of her indoor season will take her.

 

"It lets me know where I am running wise. I am looking forward to the future competition and just getting better from here," said Rivers.

 

Along with Rivers' record-breaking performance, the Nittany Lions also had many personal bests set at their indoor home opener.

 

Bryce Williams opened his junior year with a first place and an over two-foot indoor personal best in the triple jump.  

 

"Opening the indoor season with a PR (personal record) feels awesome especially because I didn't get a chance to jump last year," said Williams. "I trusted my coach and kept going strong in workouts. I'm really excited to PR and get the win."

 

"For the season, I feel really good. I want to go up from here and continue to work hard in practice. I don't want to change anything because it's been working. I'm looking forward to the season and to see what happens," he added.

 

Williams surpassed his triple jump indoor PR of 49'5" to 51'8.25". 

 

Along with Williams, senior Dannielle Gibson also won triple jump with a new indoor personal best mark of 43'09".

 

"It feels exhilarating. Not only for myself, like an accomplishment for myself, but for my team as well. I feel like I have to give it up to my team because first my teammates starting it off and added fuel to the fire, so it was really good to get that start and look forward to what's going to come next," said Gibson. "Mentally, I feel like I'm ten steps or ten moves from where I was last year, so it's a continuation of starting from square one and I feel really good about that."

 

Gibson also took first in the long jump with a leap of 19'01.25".

 

Along with Williams and Gibson, many other Nittany Lion runners took first in their events Saturday.

 

For the men, Junior Malik Moffett won the long jump (23'7.5"), junior Xavier Smith in the 60-meter dash (6.75), sophomore Morgan Shigo in the men's weight throw (64'8"), and freshman Tyreek Mathis in the 200-meter dash (21.98). The men's 4x400 meter relay also took first place.

 

On the women's side, freshman Rachel Banks won the 800-meter dash (2:11.72), junior Quenee Dale in the 60 meter hurdles (8.36), redshirt junior Lexi Masterson in pole vault (13.25') and senior Alyssa Robinson in the shot put (50'6.75").

 

Robinson knows the shot put win was just the start her last indoor season needed.

 

"I'm pretty excited. I thought of today as kind of a rust buster. It was a meet to shake out the nerves, you know, just compete and get ready for the rest of the season," said Robinson. "I think it's a good confidence booster for the rest of the season. I go more by mark than what I place, so I'm pretty happy with how I did today, and I think it was a good start. I can only go up from here."

 

The Nittany Lions will next be in action Friday, Jan. 20th and Saturday, Jan. 21st as they compete in Lexington, KY in the Rob McCravy Memorial. 

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion Challenge this Saturday will be the first home meet of the indoor season for the track team, but it'll also be assistant coach Lucais MacKay's first meet coaching here at Penn State.

 Coach MacKay is coming from coaching throwers at Oklahoma State University, where he coached during the 2015-2016 indoor and outdoor seasons. There, he led two athletes to the NCAA Championship meet, where one placed second in the women's shot put. Now, MacKay is onto his first indoor season here at Penn State.

"It's been awesome. Coming into town and buying my first home, feeling really embraced by the whole community, taking my dog to the park and going to the football games, it really feels like a community. I like that a lot," said MacKay.

"It feels like a traditional college town and everyone is behind the athletic department. If you go out to Wegman's or anywhere in your gear, you usually get stopped and that's nice. I really like that feeling."

The atmosphere of the Penn State track team is one of MacKay's favorite parts of coaching here.

"Having this indoor facility and having the team all under one roof, getting to see the jumpers and the distance kids and the rest of the event groups work on a regular basis I think is really good for the cohesion of the team," said MacKay. "The fall was fast, quick and a lot of things happened. Coming in new, getting to know my athletes can sometimes be difficult, but everything has been really positive." 

"I'm really excited for these kids," he added.  "They went through the transition of losing a coach and there's a fair bit of upperclassmen and some good underclassmen that are developing. I'm excited for them to put on the jersey, compete at home and get a mark that counts. They practice for three to four months before you actually get to say 'yes this one counts.' I'm excited for that and excited to see how they compete. Going through mock scenarios is always nice, but getting an opportunity to line up and get your name called and have it count and the comradery that comes out of that."

MacKay's first fall preseason here was a transition that the throwers adjusted to well.

"I think getting to know the athletes, getting to know their training and laying down a foundation of technique was the most important thing that we accomplished (in the fall preseason). So now, kind of putting those things under fire and seeing how they hold up in competition and seeing if we need to alleviate any performance anxieties or any of those little mental things that creep up," said MacKay. "We train a lot, so getting good feedback from the fall and clocking in good hours and doing the good technical practices is setting us up for some success here in January. I'm looking forward to lacing up and seeing if that works."

Senior thrower Michael Shuey said MacKay always came prepared and ready to challenge them at practice.

"Everything had a common goal that we were doing. Everything made sense. He's really smart in how he prepares practices for us and writes everything down," said Shuey. "He's a mad scientist when it comes to track, so there's no doubt that we're all ready for this year." 

Junior thrower Obeng Marfo said the fall consisted of different training than previous falls have, but she's ready to see how that all plays out this Saturday.

"I'm excited to do well because we've been training really hard in the fall season," said Marfo. "With a new coach, we've learned a lot of different things, so I'm pretty excited to showcase the things I've learned in the fall season. I hope the things we've done will help show results in the meet. I'm really excited for this season."

 Coach MacKay and the Nittany Lions will first be in action at their home opener meet this Saturday, Jan. 14th at the Multi-Sport Facility. 


By Alyssa Palfey,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With country cross season just coming to an end, and the first indoor track meet of the season soon, the Penn State distance team is now in full track mode.

"It's been an outstanding fall. Obviously, the vast majority of athletes in middle distance group were doing some really high quality cross country training this past fall and really helped our team have a successful fall season," said head coach John Gondak. "The women as runner-ups in the Big Ten and winning the region and advancing to nationals. The men for getting a top five finish at the regional championships. Everybody has built up a fantastic base." 

Cross country season has allowed the athletes to already have solid training under their belt, but now the Nittany Lions are gearing up for their first indoor meet and are doing more track-based workouts.

"Now that cross country is over we're going to transition that into some quality track work. I think we have some outstanding athletes between the middle distance and distance side, both the men's and women's program," said Gondak. "I'm really looking forward to this indoor season."

The women had great success this cross country season, with 2015 Cross Country All-American Tessa Barrett and 2016 Cross Country All-Americans Elizabeth Chikotas and Jillian Hunsberger.

Last indoor season, Tessa Barrett ran the fastest 5,000-meter time in program history (15:46.08). Barrett also placed third in both the 3,000-meters (9:16.49) and 5,000-meters (15:51.56) at the Big Ten Championships. She also qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 5,000-meters and recorded an 11th place finish with a time of 16:25.94. 

Elizabeth Chikotas ran the 5th fastest time in program history in the 5,000-meters at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington, running a time of 16:04.66. Chikotas placed third in the 3,000-meters at the Penn State National (9:17.58) and recorded a personal best in the mile at the Nittany Lion Challenge (4:45.59). Chikotas was also a part of the winning distance medley team and 4x800-meter relay team that won at the Penn State Relays.

Current junior Jillian Hunsberger did not compete during the 2016 indoor season, but did compete in a few meets outdoor. Hunsberger had a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Big Ten Championships in the 5,000-meters, running a personal best of 16:18.95.

For the men's middle distance and distance, last indoor season standouts were Isaiah Harris and Colin Abert.

Coming off a sixth-place in the 800-meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials is sophomore Isaiah Harris. Harris won the 800-meter at the Indoor Big Ten Championships running his all-time Big Ten record time of 1:46.24. That is also Penn State's all-time fastest indoor 800-meters time. He also has the fourth fastest 600-meter run in program history with a time of 1:17.50. Harris was also a part of Penn State's second all-time fastest distance medley relay.

Also, a sophomore this year, Colin Abert finished eighth in the mile at the 2016 Indoor Big Ten Championships (4:10.95). Abert recorded an 8:08.94 in the 3,000-meters at the FastrackNational Invite. He also took third in the 1,500-meters at the Penn State National (3:48.15). 

"They're responding really well from a great fall cross country season, which I'm really excited about," said assistant distance coach Angela Reckart. "They're really strong aerobically, so I'm just looking forward to continue to build on that for track."

The Penn State Track team will first be in action at their Blue and White intrasquad meet next Sat. Dec. 10th at the Multi-Sport Complex on campus.  

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