Recently in Track & Field Category

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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.  


By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With fall training well underway, the Penn State Track & Field team is gearing up for their first indoor meet in mid-December.

Jump and multi-event coaches, Kevin Kelly and Fritz Spence, are feeling confident after the first month of preseason.

Coach Kelly is in his fourth year coaching at Penn State, where he coaches men's triple jump, long jump, multi-events and men/women's pole vault. 

"So far, so good. We've put in a really good fall. I'm really excited about where we are at," said Kelly. 

Men's triple jump is led by junior, Bryce Williams. While an injury kept him out of the Big Ten meet last year, Williams scored at Big Tens two years ago with a mark of 50'2', his personal best. Kelly has high hopes for Williams this season, saying he is really coming along. On the younger side, Kelly said both sophomore Kobren Frederick and freshman Darian Alston will be big factors this season. Frederick, who won the triple jump at the 2015 Pennsylvania Outdoor Track & Field State Championships, had a personal best triple jump at 47'-9.25". Alston was the 2016 indoor state champion in the triple jump, coming in with a best mark of 48'9". 

"Triple jump has been a real strength at Penn state here for a long time, even before I got here. We graduated two All-Americans that have been at national championships and contending for Big Ten titles," said Kelly. "I think we have a group that can do something at the Big Ten level."

The same three men will be competing in long jump for Penn State. Williams had personal best mark of 23'7-25" outdoor at the Jim Thorpe Invite last season. Along with that group, junior Malik Moffett also will compete in long jump this season. Moffett is in the top-10 outdoor performances for Penn State with a mark of 24'-11.50" at the 2016 Big Ten Championships, making him ninth all-time. 

Kelly said men's high jump is very young. Sophomore Chisom Ifedi was third at the Big Ten meet last year, with a mark of 7'05". Devin Bradham is also a sophomore with a personal best mark of 6'9".

Two freshmen come in as high school state champions, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Colorado. Spencer Hay was the 2016 PIAA-2A high jump state champion with a personal best mark of 6'8", while Austin Campbell, who was a state champ of Colorado, is coming in with a 6'11" mark. 

For the men's pole vault, we have freshman Griffin Thompson. Thompson was a Pennsylvania state champion last year with a mark of 16'3". Senior Patrick Anderson, who was hurt last year, is healthy and ready to go according to Kelly. 

For the women's vault, Penn State has a group of top-ten all-time jumpers. Senior outdoor record holder Lexi Masterson (13'-3.5"), second on the all-time list, junior Hannah Mulhern (13'-2.5"), fourth on the all-time list, Kasey Kemp (12-10.25"), and ninth all-time, Megan Fry (12'6"), will all be returning. 

"The women's vault is really an event that I think could really be a strength of our team. We have four ladies who are extremely talented. I think we can do some really good things at the Big Ten level and at the national level. We got Lexi Masterson, Hannah Mulhern, Kasey Kemp and Megan Fry," said Kelly.

For the other jump events, Coach Fritz Spence is in his 10th year coaching for the Nittany Lions, training the women's triple jump, long jump, multi-events.

"I think the fall has been progressing really well," said Spence. "I think we are way ahead of where we were last year at this time, so the student-athletes did a good job this summer in working out and coming back fitter than they normally would."

Last year, senior Danielle Gibson had a tremendous year, where she jumped 44'8.75" in triple jump at the NCAA East Preliminary, her personal best. Gibson is also 10th on the all-time performance list in long jump with her best mark of 20'2.25". Senior Kaitlyn Lopez only has outdoor eligibility, but her fall training is going well. Lopez is tied for eighth all-time in the triple jump for Penn State with a mark of 41'-2.50".

Leading in high jump, junior Megan McCloskey was a consistent 5'10" high jumper last season. Her personal best being 5'10.50" at the Outdoor Big Ten Championships, that mark tying for sixth best in program history.

For multi-events, sophomore Maddie Holmberg is coming off an injury, but is ready for the upcoming season. Holmberg has the seventh all-time heptathlon performance. 

"She's looking good, she's back and learning a lot," said Spence on Holmberg's performance this fall.

Spence talks out his new athletes, saying that the freshmen are also looking good this preseason. For the jumps, freshman include high jumper, Grayson McCloy and long and triple jumpers Julia Howard and Kelsey Vieira.

"I'm really impressed; I'm really excited about the upcoming season. I'm looking forward to some really good, outstanding performances from both the horizontal and vertical jumps," said Spence.

By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With less than a month until their first indoor meet, the Penn State track and field team is well underway in their preseason training.

Assistant coach Lucias MacKay is excited for his first year as throws coach here at Penn State. MacKay is coming from Oklahoma State University, where he was the throws coach during the 2015-2016 indoor and outdoor seasons. During his one year at Oklahoma State, he guided two athletes to an NCAA Championship, where one placed second in the women's shot put.

Now at Penn State, throwers are in their third month of training this fall. Being a first year coach, MacKay spent the first part of training getting familiar with his athletes. 

"First month is kind of getting to know how I coach, how they learn, so that takes a little while, a few weeks. You get to know some of the names of the exercises, those types of things and my coaching style," said MacKay. 

Starting to get further into training, MacKay and his athletes have progressed into more intensive drills and workouts.

"Month two is starting to get used to those things and perfecting them a little more, figuring out where their strengths and weakens are," said MacKay. "Now we're in month three, we're starting to kind of catch a rhythm a little bit, start to train at a little better pace and now we have a little bit longer practices, so it's really going well right now."

The javelin group consists of a lot in-state talent. For the men's side, senior record holder, Michael Shuey (249'-5"), senior Ryan Kerr, and sophomore Michael Biddle are a part of this group. Last outdoor season, Kerr had the best throw with a 228'-8" with Biddle following (214'-2"). 

For the javelin throwers on the women's side there is senior Kayla Zoschq, junior Anna Bailey and sophomore Steph Sievers. All three women threw over 140' last season, Bailey (1849'-2'), Sievers (146'-8") and Zoschg (140'-3"). 

"Having seven javelin throwers is great because it's just one big group of one eventers that we're able to do a lot of training with and get a lot of density in their work," said MacKay.

In the shot put group for the men and women, there is senior Alyssa Robinson, junior John Yoman, sophomore David Lucas and freshmen Ben Peterson and Luke Grodeska. Last outdoor season Robinson threw 54'-2" at the Big Ten Championships, earning a bronze medal for Penn State. This mark also moved her to No. 4 on the all-time list. 

Yohman had the outdoor season best shot put throw with 60'-10.50" at Penn Relays, where he became the third straight Nittany Lion to win the event following Darrell Hill in 2014 and 2015, while Lucas had his best season throw at the Big Ten Championships (55'-1.5").

"Shot put group is coming along really well. John Yoman is in his fourth year, and Alyssa Robinson is coming along in her glide technique. David Lucas may surprise a few people, an All-American in discus last year, he is coming along in the shot put pretty well, trying to be patient. Our two freshmen are also coming along really well.

Some of the discus training has been put on halt due to track renovations, but MacKay is eager to get back out there to see what the athletes can do.

"Discus training is going well and we're looking forward to getting out on our track soon. Hopefully before Thanksgiving break so that we get a month or so on the track to let things fly a little bit and get some feedback from those," said MacKay. 

"Overall, I'm really pleased with the group," said MacKay. "I'm really happy, I think we're going to be really competitive in the Big Ten and hopefully on the national scene as well."

By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With preseason starting last week, the Penn State track and field team is training and getting ready for the upcoming season.

GoPSUsports.com caught up with associate head coach, Erin Tucker, to get a preview of this year's track and field sprinters, hurdlers and relay runners.  

This season will mark Tucker's second at Penn State, coming from a successful coaching career at his alma mater, the University of Florida.

Tucker is excited to see what comes from this season. On the women's side, he paid particular attention to sophomore, Keianna Albury. Coming from the Bahamas, Albury is a second-year sprinter, running the 60m, 100m and 200m dash along with both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. Last season, she dealt with injuries, but Tucker notes how she is having a great fall and has her expectations set for the upcoming season. 

Senior sprinter, Tichina Rhodes has put in some different training than she's used to, but Tucker thinks that's starting to pay off. Junior, Quenee Dale, is at a good place right now and is expected to do some really good things. 

Tucker notes that senior Megan Osborne and junior Rachael DeCecco have made the biggest jump since last year.

"Both of those young ladies really worked hard over the summer and you can actually tell their fitness level is up, stuff their doing at practice is a hundred times better than they were last year, so I'm really looking forward to seeing those two young ladies do some good things," he said. 

Junior Deja Davis has been leading the way in training for freshman, Kiara Lester. The pair has worked well together throughout the fall and Tucker is excited to see what they will bring to the table this year. 

On the men's side, Tucker moved sophomore Sam Reiser to the 400-600 group.

"Sam is killing it. He's had one of the best falls that I've had anyone in that group in my coaching career, so I'm excited about what he's going to be able do this season," Tucker said. 

School record-holder in the 60m, junior Xavier Smith, is already showing a promising future for potential points at the national level this year. Freshman Darien Williams has been training well and alongside Smith during this preseason. 

Junior Malik Moffett surprised Tucker with his times early this season. He was also impressed with sophomores Lamont Higgins and Dan Chisena in their time trials.

Moving some people around, Tucker has put sophomore Anton Porter and freshman Tristan Daman into the 200-400m training group to do more tempo workouts rather than straight speed workouts.

"They've all been running well in practice and making that adjustment," said Tucker. "I know they hate what we do on Tuesdays and Fridays, but it's going to pay off for them in the long run."

Quarter miler newcomer, Tyreek Mathis is already showing that he'll be an asset to the team this year.

Both the women and the men sprinters, hurdlers and relay runners are continuing their preseason in preparation for their first meet in a little over a month. The indoor season will start off with the annual intrasquad Blue-White on Dec. 10th

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By: Jeff Smith, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- Five coaches from various parts of the world made the trip to Happy Valley this past week to work with the Penn State track and field coaching staff and student-athletes as a part of the ninth edition of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP).

The Nittany Lion track and field program hosted a group of coaches from the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) this past week. Throughout the week, the coaches were given the opportunity to be a part of the daily goings on in a major Division I track and field program, including campus and facility tours, round table discussions, and observation of practice sessions with the Penn State track and field coaching staff and Nittany Lion athletes. The ICECP program is run domestically through the University of Delaware, in conjunction with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Penn State track and field head coach John Gondak and his coaching staff hosted Boikie Gama a mid-distance/distance coach from South Africa, Justice Dipeba a sprints coach from Botswana, Makelesi Batimala a sprints coach from Fiji, Francis Manioru a sprints coach from Solomon Islands and Francisco Antonio Castellanos Garcia a sprints/hurdle coach from Guatemala for a week of experiences while sharing with them the track and field facilities, workout routines, coaching strategies, and sport science techniques. 

For Boikie Gama, this trip is an experience of a lifetime. "I dream track and field; I want to spend the final years of my life coaching track. It's all I want to do when I retire." Back in South Africa, Gama is the Ehlanzeni coordinator for cross-country as well as a computer application and technology teacher at EJ Singwane Secondary School in Pienaar. He lives in Msogwaba with his wife, Phumzile, two children Wendy and Siyabonga and his adopted daughter, Emmarancia. "I cannot wait to take the invaluable knowledge I learned here at (Penn State University) back home.  I have seen many athletes, whom I have coached, travel overseas but this is the first time I have made a trip myself. I hope we will be able to produce more international athletes in the years to come," Gama said.

The mission of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program is to provide national level coaches and those responsible for the development of the sport's national coaching structures in developing countries with a practical program orientated towards developing proficiency in the technical, theoretical, conceptual, managerial and ethical aspects of coaching basketball at all levels of competition. 

"I'm very thankful to the ICECP for continuing to give Penn State the opportunity to host these coaches; it's a week we look forward to every year.  I enjoy sharing our program and facilities with our visitors from overseas," said Gondak.

The six week program consists of two weeks of classroom sessions at the University of Delaware on subjects related to coaching methods, theory and management and sport sciences. One part is a week long apprenticeship with an NCAA Division I men's and/or women's track & field program that allows for a participant to shadow, observe and interact with the coaching staff of that program. Then the coaches travel to the USOC Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the penultimate part of the program. The fourth and final module will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland in April 2017. All told, the project spans a full academic year. The coaches will maintain a journal log on the experience and develop and implement a project when he returns to his home country. 

The apprenticeship is designed so that the participant gets an in-depth sport specific experience that enables the coach to develop their coaching skills, while also acquiring information that can be shared upon returning to their native country to grow the sport in the country. 

Penn State University has hosted international coaches as part of the ICECP program dating back to the fall of 2007. For more on the ICECP program, log on to www.udel.edu/ICECP/.

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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Dannielle Gibson has broken through this year with remarkable performances, but it's her competitive moxie that drives her for nothing short of greatness.

 

The junior jumper from the Bahamas has picked up right where she left off during the indoor season. Gibson earned triple jump victories in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Invitational and the Pepsi Invitational so far this outdoor season. She has used the indoor season as motivation to improve.

 

To wrap up the indoor season, Gibson finished a not too shabby tenth in the triple jump in this March's NCAA Indoor Championship with a leap of 42' 3.25" (12.88m). She displayed vast improvement from her sophomore to junior year. Gibson, a fiery competitor, still wasn't satisfied with her indoor finish and she has made it known that she wants to be one of the best collegiate triple jumpers in the country. Ultimately, Gibson wants to stand at the top of the podium when it's all said and done.

 

"Coming into the outdoor season, I had the goal of wanting to go undefeated," said Gibson.

 

Gibson doesn't settle for anything short of excellence on the jumping runway as she practices her craft with jumping coach Fritz Spence. Coach Spence and Gibson continuously work on technique and jumping phases to get winning results.

 

"It's all about competing, I have the physical skills but right now we're just working on my mental approach," said Gibson.

 

Gibson stands at eighth in the country and second among East athletes in the outdoor women's triple jump with a high mark of 42' 11" (13.08m). In the Nittany Lion record books, Gibson finds herself fourth all-time in the triple jump.  A list she looks forward to sometime sitting at the top of some day soon.

 

Among other factors that positively influence her performance on the jumping runway is her pride for Penn State. The balance of elite academics and athletics impacted her coming to Penn State. Her father Dwight thought Penn State was a perfect fit.

 

"I love it here, especially the family atmosphere and community and I've never been a part of anything like this before coming here," said Gibson.

 

Gibson and the Penn State track and field squad will compete this weekend when the team splits up for the Stanford Twilight in Stanford, California on Friday and the Bucknell Team Classic in Lewisburg, Pa. on Saturday.

 

The men's team comes into this weekend No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic region. They look to be hitting their stride after sharing co-champion honors with No. 2 Oregon in the Pepsi Invitational at the University of Oregon on April 9th.

 

Currently, Isaiah Harris (800m), Brannon Kidder (800m), and Brian Leap (triple jump) all have top-four marks in the country in their events. Leap earned Big Ten Men's Field Athlete of the Week last week with a personal best triple jump of 53' 4.5" (16.27m) in last weekend's Texas Invitational victory.


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Frequently the person in charge of the behind the scenes work for an athletic team goes unnoticed.

 

It's a position that doesn't get much attention, but it's essential to any successful team. The director of operations position often flies under the radar until there's a hiccup of some sort.

 

In charge of making sure the i's are dotted and t's are crossed for the Nittany Lion track and field program is director of operations, Laura Loht.

 

"I gather all of the information we need to be successful on the road as far as being organized," said Loht.

 

You can find Loht doing a wide range of tasks depending on the day and season. She can be preparing travel arrangements for an upcoming away meet in her office, or pacing throughout the Multi-Sport Facility during a home indoor meet in order to ensure that all aspects of the meet are running smoothly.

 

During the outdoor season, she checks athletes in at the airport for road meets, while also making itineraries and shuttle schedules when planning for outdoor trips.

 

"Getting 60 to 70 people on the road is definitely a challenge," said Loht.

 

Loht, a former three-time All-American and current Penn State javelin school record holder, can't get enough of being around the track and field environment. She also doesn't want to walk away from her craft.

 

"I love javelin, I love throwing and just being around the sport," said Loht.

 

After graduation Loht knew she wanted to continue competing and thought remaining in Happy Valley would be best for her future. The people of Penn State and the passion they have mean a lot to Loht as she bleeds blue and white herself.

 

Shortly after graduation, Loht started working as the operations assistant within the program. She helped out the program in that position for six months until being hired full-time as the director of operations. Head coach John Gondak told Loht that the director of operations position is a "foot in the door" for a future coaching position.

 

"I want to get into coaching eventually," said the 2014 Penn State kinesiology graduate.

 

Alongside her operations duties, Loht is training for competition herself. Before getting into her office at the Multi-Sport Facility in the morning, she gets up early to complete her daily training sessions. Last weekend, Loht threw in the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Florida. Loht also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials and looks to give it another shot in a few months. She looks forward to another opportunity.

 

"Every year something special has happened in my career," said Loht.

 

Loht chose to go to Penn State for its top-ranked kinesiology program and didn't want to exactly be the top javelin athlete on the team coming in.

 

"I was going to come in as the number two girl and that's what I wanted. I wanted to be competing with someone, not just come in and be the 'big dog'," said Loht.

 

During her athletic career at Penn State, Loht and current senior Lauren Kenney were elite javelin throwers for the Nittany Lions.

 

"In my opinion, we were the best duo in the nation for a while," said Loht.

 

The duo of Loht and Kenney matched up against each other in high school before competing together for Penn State. Loht attended Indian Valley High School which is a little over 45 minutes away from Happy Valley and Kenney went to nearby State College Area High School.

 

From her time in high school, through Penn State and post-graduation, Loht has continued to do great things on the track, and she is hoping to continue that excellence in this role.

 

For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the indoor season in the books, Penn State track and field kicks off its outdoor season this weekend.

 

The opening outdoor meets give Gondak and his staff an opportunity to see where the team stands and what to build on as they move along towards championship time. It will be an opportunity to see how the men's and women's teams stack up against solid track and field programs. Gondak has a strong contingent of returning athletes from last year's outdoor season. Penn State returns six 2015 NCAA outdoor qualifiers, three 2015 outdoor All-Americans, and a core group of strong veteran contributors.

 

"It's neat to watch the team compete for the first time," said head coach John Gondak.

 

The Nittany Lions will travel across country to Tempe, Arizona to compete Friday and Saturday in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Challenge hosted by Arizona State. Penn State is one of the four schools representing the Big Ten Conference in a competition against four schools representing the Pac-12 Conference. Conference versus conference scoring should make the meet unique as Penn State looks to display pride for the Big Ten.

 

The schedule of events varies a bit for the outdoor segment of the track and field season from the indoor segment. Instead of 17 events during a typical indoor meet it changes to 21 for outdoor meets. On the track, the dimensions of an outdoor track doubles to 400m after months of training on a 200m indoor track.

 

Additional outdoor specific events play into the hands of the Nittany Lions. Javelin throw, the steeplechase, the 100m, the 4x100m relays, and 10,000m are intriguing events to watch this weekend as athletes compete in them for the first time this year in actual competition

 

"I'm excited to see different events," said Gondak.

 

Gondak noted the Nittany Lions have six quality women javelin throwers who can compete well at the conference championship level. Each of those athletes have been training during the indoor season because there's no javelin event in indoor competition. Leader of the women's javelin group is senior multiple-time All-American Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.). Kenney missed last outdoor season due to injury but is ready to go for the Nittany Lions after months of training.

 

Senior Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) returns to compete in her signature steeplechase event. Gerlach earned a silver medal finish in last year's Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

 

Veteran distance runner Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and jumper Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.) give the Nittany Lions more depth in the outdoor season after competing unattached during the indoor season due to no indoor eligibility remaining.

 

Younger athletes will be important for the Nittany Lions as well. Sophomore All-Big Ten cross country athlete Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) is returning after missing the indoor season due to injury.

 

In the sprinting events, freshman Dan Chisena (Exton, Pa.), last year's PIAA Class AAA Outdoor 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay state champion lace up the spikes alongside fellow newcomer Anton Porter (Bronx, N.Y.).

 

For more on Nittany Lion track & field, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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