Recently in Track & Field Category

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most students pack their bags and hit the open road for a few hundred miles directly to Happy Valley knowing that their families and friends are far enough away that they won't bug them on the weekends but close enough for when they get homesick.

Other students, however, are hungry for opportunities that they may not find only a few hundred miles from home so, they choose to go beyond the borders of their comfort zones and travel thousands of miles to chase adventures and experiences.

GoPSUsports.com
sat down with three track and field student-athletes to talk about their time in the United States and at Penn State.

Freshman Jordan Makins wandered just over 10,000 miles away from his family and friends in Perth, Australia to join the Nittany Lions.

Freshman Obeng Marfo comes to State College from the neighbors up north in Ontario, Canada and senior Annjulie Vester flew across the sea all the way from Homburg, Germany.

GoPSU: What were the reactions of your friends and family when you told them you were going to the United States to be a student-athlete?

Makins: Well, a lot of people said 'You're really not going to do that, you're just talking about it'. It's a pretty big move to make and to get the whole thing set up from 10,000 miles away. There was definitely a little bit of awe - they told me it was all a big dream.

Vester: My friends were really excited and super supportive actually more than my family. My mom and my dad were saying, 'this is a big dream, you don't know how things [work in America]'. For me, it's 4,000 miles. You can't really grasp that. They've never been here. They've just seen New York on TV. I just pushed through and they all got really excited once it all started happening and once I got here and now they're super supportive.

Marfo: All my friends and family were really supportive. My school made a big deal about signing day and the letter of the intent. They had the news come in and everything.

GoPSU: What was the first thing you thought when you realized you were really coming to Penn State?

Makins: The first thing I though was 'I don't have nearly enough winter gear'. I thought it was going to snow the first month I was here - I was really nervous! I panicked a little and bought a lot of stuff.

Vester: I thought I was going to get fat but, luckily, I didn't. I usually cook at home [back in Germany] and you don't go out to eat a lot. I wasn't used to all this massive food and all the fat.

Marfo: Yeah, I thought I was going to get fat too. My brothers were teasing me about it saying, 'don't get fat. Don't eat this and that.'

GoPSU: At what moment did it finally hit you that you were really in America?

Makins: Two things for me. One is that it is incredibly green. Back home it's dry and [looks like a] dessert so it was an awesome experience to see all the forestry. The other thing was the first month we were eating out everyday and all the places had burgers and chips. The burgers with no vegetables...I struggled. I felt so unhealthy for a while.

Vester: When I was in Virginia and I was touring a campus in a car, I looked around and it looked like Hogwarts! It was just so beautiful.

Marfo: Well, for me, I've been to America many times but I remember one day I went to Wal-Mart with my family. It felt like a regular Wal-Mart, it wasn't any different than in Canada but I asked one of the ladies [that was working] for Christmas lights. She told me they didn't have any so I said, 'okay, thank you'. I said thank you and she responded with 'mhm'! So, that's when I thought, 'Yeah, only in America'. In Canada, everyone always says 'you're welcome' or 'no problem'. Never 'mhm'! I was so hurt that whole day.

GoPSU:
What has been your favorite part of being on the team at Penn State?

Vester: The new people and I love that the team is so close. We have so many team meetings and they really want us to participate as a team. That's what I really liked. I feel comfortable going to practice because it's like a little family.

Makins: I'd say that was the most exciting moment for me [too]. The team and how welcoming they were. Looking into the roster was a big deal for me for which school I'd pick and Penn State's middle distance roster was something I wanted to fit into. It feels like home.

 

GoPSUsports.com also caught up with assistant coach Ryan Foster who came to Penn State from Tasmania, Australia a few years ago to join the program as a student-athlete and has remained in the State College area ever since.

GoPSU: What were some of the most shocking things you remember about first arriving to the United States and to Penn State?

Foster: There was a bit of culture shock coming from another country. The collegiate athletic scene is pretty foreign.  Americans like to call everybody coach. It's always 'coach' and when I got here I always said 'Oh, John,' so it was something I had to get used to and get out of that habit. People made fun of me for a while.

GoPSU: Do you ever consider those feelings when working with students like Jordan, Annjulie, and Obeng?

Foster: I definitely think about having been through it. There's a difference between being 100 miles from home like a lot of the freshman are versus being 10,000 miles from home. A lot of the different things these student athletes deal with, I have a pretty good perspective on. You cannot just call your parents whenever you want to. Being an international student-athlete is different because you don't have the same support network. I competed at Penn State for three years and my parents never saw me compete once in the States. Every time you compete, you're pretty much on your own.

GoPSU: So, what made it easier for you to deal with the circumstances?

Foster: Penn State does a really good job of making everybody feel included. I've been here so long, I don't even think about [being foreign] often [anymore].

By Darrell Hill, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The rust is off and just like that we're off to our second track meet of the season. Coming off of last weeks Penn State Relays I felt like our team had a strong showing and showed a lot more confidence than this point last year. This weeks practice was a lot more upbeat and the team really seemed to be very dialed in spite of starting our first week of spring semester classes. Pre-meet preparation was capped off by a wonderful team dinner prepared by Rotelli's. It was great to sit down and eat with the team and coaches and take our mind off the meet for a while and really enjoy each other's company.

The atmosphere on meet day here at Penn State is always great. We've practiced against each other for so long that anytime we can get a couple teams in here to compete with the intensity is always high and leads to great performances. We had a number of huge performances this past weekend but our triple jumpers Steve Waithe and Brian Leap really led the way. As I was warming up for the shot put I happened to look over and see Steve jump 52ft on his first jump, and at that point I knew exactly what type of day this was going to be. 

This week off will be great for training and to get some people healthy, but I cannot wait for Penn State National for another opportunity to wear the Blue & White! Go State. 

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In their season opener last weekend, the Nittany Lions sent a huge message to fans and rivals; this season they're coming, they're looking, and they're conquering.

Penn State spent the week fine-tuning and dusting off in preparation for the Nittany Lion Challenge, which will look to bring six schools to Happy Valley including powerhouses Georgetown and the University of Miami on Saturday.

"We have another group of six teams coming in this weekend that are excited to be here and we're excited to have," said head coach John Gondak. "Last weekend showed a lot of our student-athletes are ready to accomplish some big things so we're going be to be going after some good marks this weekend."

"It's Our House"

Home facility advantage will be one of the best parts of this weekend's challenge (and of the indoor season).

There's something about being in a routine and a familiar environment that brings out the best in an athlete and the Nittany Lions aren't taking that for granted as their feeding off of the energy one event and one fan at a time.

"It's a cliche that 'it's our house' but that's how they look at this and they don't want people to come in here and beat them. They feed off of it a lot," said assistant coach Randy Bungard. "The stands are packed so there's a lot of energy and the video board going. Plus, when you travel you might take 30 guys and 30 girls but when you're here, even people that aren't traveling are here to cheer. So when you're here you have a huge fan [advantage]."

The sprints group is especially excited to see some tough sprints competition as some of their core runners are healthy and ready to race.

"The sprint group is excited about [it]. Miami always brings good sprinters - they're chomping at the bit especially Kiah [Seymour], Quenee [Dale] because they were held out. They're ready to get racing," said Bungard. "The sprints group was a very big part of our Big Ten and National Championship success last year and they just need to keep it going."

Consistency is Key

Several Nittany Lions had huge showings at the Penn State Relays and consistency will be key as they look into Saturday's challenge.

The throws group has hungry competitors including Darrell Hill and Rachel Fatherly who will be key leaders as they move forward.

"We have some good energy in the throws group right now. We had some ups and downs but Rachel [Fatherly] who sits eighth in the country and Darrell [Hill] who's first in the nation will definitely propel [the team's] confidence levels. As a group hopefully everyone can feed off of that," said assistant coach Patrick Ebel.

The team's pole-vaulters and jumpers are doing big things as well and will look to close some gaps within their group in order to be one of the most prominent powerhouse teams.

"What we got out of [last] meet is that we can be better. We have some nagging little injuries. We're looking to do something big this weekend and show what we have here. I think we have a lot of talent," said assistant coach Kevin Kelly. "We're fine tuning stuff this week. We're trying to have high quality practices."

We Are...Pitbulls

The second competition will, hopefully, be an even better one for the Nittany Lions as the team gets electrified to win.

There's no doubt that the universities coming in this weekend will experience a huge competitive atmosphere paired with healthy and determined athletes.

Of their eventful week of preparations, however, Penn State wants the competition to know only one thing.

"
Whoever comes in here, we're going to go after them," said Bungard. "We are pitbulls. We're going to go after you and if we're not wining, we're going to push you to a PR (personal record) and we're going to make you run hard."

The Nittany Lion Challenge kicks off Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track.    

By Joey Logue, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The indoor season has officially begun for the Nittany Lions. This past weekend was the first time I was able to compete in the Penn State uniform. I had been waiting for this moment since I signed my letter of intent a year ago. This first meet was a solid opener for myself, and the rest of the middle distance men. We stacked two 4x800m relays and I know most of us surprised ourselves with how fast we ran individually and as teams. It is unbelievable that we had two teams under 7:30 and it is the first meet of the year. The work we put in all fall is now starting to show.

The atmosphere in the Ashenfelter Indoor Track on a meet day is like none other in the country. Every team member is there in support of one another. As soon as the 4x4 ended, it was awesome to see everyone who lined the track for that race go over to the shot put and watch Darrell do his thing and set the school record.

The Penn State relays were a great first experience for me and I am excited for these upcoming meets. I know Coach Gondak will prepare us to run fast and compete with the best. I am loving the process!

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Darrell Hill broke a school record and several young Nittany Lions performed excellently for Penn State as the track and field team officially kicked off the 2015 season in front of a packed, energetic crowd at the Ashenfelter III Indoor Track on Saturday.

Hill stole the show with his 66-2.50 shot put throw that set him at the top of the Penn State record book and at first place for the meet.

"I was actually a little surprised that it happened today," said Hill. "I just wanted to have a good meet. I was just feeling good going into the competition and as [it] started going it was in the back of my mind and I just went for it."

And this is just the beginning.

"No one can have higher expectations for me than I have for myself. I don't look at today as a higher expectation for myself, I look at it as a good start, a good building block and we just have to keep working and move forward," he said.

Underclassmen stepped up to the plate for the Nittany Lions this weekend, as well.

Freshman Xavier Smith impressed showing confidence as he finished third in the 200-meter dash (21.69) and 60-meter dash (6.88).

Megan Osborne had a phenomenal outing finishing first in the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.55, a personal best for the sophomore.

"It came naturally, I was planning on doing that. I'm happy with it. I executed well," said Osborne. "I think this sets a good tone. I can only get better from here. There's still progress and there's still things I can fix but it's a positive tone for the rest of the season."

Sophomore Dannielle Gibson won the long jump - 19-3.50 starting the season well building a powerful foundation for meets to come.

"For the first meet, it's a good start [and] something to feed off of. Personally I don't think it was good enough but it's definitely giving me somewhere to start," said Gibson. "[Now] I know how much work I need to put in."

Sophomore Lexi Masterson looked focused and comfortable as she broke the meet record in the pole vault with a jump height of 12-10.25, which she says is routine at this point.

"Twelve-ten is something I know I can be at and I know I can beat and I'm glad I got a chance to take on the record," said Masterson. "I'm going to keep taking a shot at the school record."

The much anticipated 4x800-meter relay between the Penn State and Princeton men was a highlight of the meet. Team A made up of freshman Jordan Makins, senior Ryan Brennan, junior Brannon Kidder, and senior Robby Creese, set a meet record of 7.22.10.

The men's team chemistry is evident in their efforts and achievements.

"It's always good to be out here with the team and we were able to put together to quality 4x800 [meter relays]," said Kidder. "We're off to a good start...it's a rust-buster."

"The most important highlight of the night was Hill. He broke the school record and that's what we're going to base out energy of off," said Brennan.

Penn State had a fierce start to its year but the Nittany Lions are nowhere near satisfied. They're officially in competition mode and show no signs of backing down as they attack competitors to come. 

"It was a phenomenal setting today with the packed stands and Flotrack here live streaming and great competition. It was 10 degrees outside but it was red hot in here as we got the season underway," said Head coach John Gondak. "We had some great things happen today but it's a long season and we have many more meets to go and this was just the start of things."

The Blue and White will compete again on Saturday, January 17 when they host the Nittany Lion Challenge at the Ashenfelter III Indoor Track.

Video Highlights

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field is more than prepared to bring in this season's challenges, as they impressed a large cheerful crowd at the annual Blue and White meet at the Ashenfelter III Indoor Track on Saturday afternoon.

The Blue squad defeated the White 138-130 but all of the Nittany Lions displayed the fruits of all their tough offseason labor.

"[Today] got the juices flowing again. It was fun...a lot of the stuff we've been doing all year they got a chance to apply it," said assistant coach Randy Bungard.

Senior Darrell Hill isn't slowing down coming off of an adventurous summer as he swept away the victory for the Blue team against the throwers in the weight throw (58 feet, 11 ¼ inches) and the shot put (64-3.25).

"Today was cool. I felt a little rusty but it was good to get out and have a good meet," said Hill. "It's my first time throwing a weight and I was trying to make it a competitive atmosphere...I was hoping it would bring more out of the younger guys."

The team's runners had a dominant outing on both the men's and women's sides with some young Nittany Lions like freshman Joey Logue, freshman Elizabeth Chikotas, sophomore Malik Moffet, and freshman Greta Lindsley impressing with victories in their respective races.

Junior Ahmenah Richardson had a spectacular day as she high jumped a personal best 5-10.50 and finished strong in the second leg of women's 4x400-meter relay race.

"All year I've been working hard and trying to maintain my weight. I was determined. I'm ready. Jumping this 5-10.5 was a great accomplishment for me. I'm so grateful," said Richardson. "[Jumping 6 feet] is definitely still one of my goals - still, for sure, positive - and then after that, I'm going to keep pushing."

Robert Cardina, Lexi Masterson, and Michael McClellan were intense in the pole vault and jumps portion of the meet showing no signs of slowing down.

While the Blue and White meet didn't bring in any outside competition for Penn State, it provides a time for the team to show off their competitive inner beast, which have been building up all summer and fall, as well as, attracting some of the team's biggest fans and supporters.

"There were some good surprises [but] it's just the beginning right now," said Bungard. "The team is really cohesive and really bonding. We saw that today with people cheering each other in other events. It was really cool - this place is great with fans and spectators."

"To put it in perspective, we had a long fall of training so to be able to come out today and do well, obviously that [means well] for the rest of the season," said Hill. "But, you still have to come out and put in the work for this next month before our next meet."

The team officially begins their 2015 indoor campaign next month on Sat., January 10th at home for the Penn State Indoor Relays.

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2014-15 women's multi-event and jumps group is looking more confident and ambitious than ever. In the final piece of Penn State track and field season previews, GoPSUSports.com hears from Coach Fritz Spence and his group of women on their difficult preseason and their record-breaking goals for the year.

Senior Sarah Palmer is the stand-alone senior of the group and is taking this year to embrace the role of a leader as she hopes to earn some medals and break personal records.

"I definitely feel a big responsibility being the only senior in the jumps group, but I kind of enjoy it, being older." said Palmer. "[My goals are] to make it to Regionals again, outdoor. I'd really like to get on the medal stand at [the Big Ten Championship] again."

Junior Ahmenah Richardson hopes to break some personal records and surprise fans as she plans to "no doubt about it" break the six-foot mark in the high jump.

"I came in at 5 feet, 7 inches now I'm at 5-9 and for sure this year I'll be jumping six feet, no doubt about it," said Richardson.

Sophomores Tal Ben-Artzi and Dannielle Gibson hope to make their names memorable as they aspire for collegiate record-breaking performances.

Ben-Artzi took home a sixth-place finish in the indoor pentathlon in 2014 with 3,861 points, the fourth-best all-time score at Penn State. In 2015, she is more than prepared mentally and physically, she said, to surpass those performances.

"I'm very excited about being fourth-place in the record book right now. I'm definitely looking forward to breaking the school record [in both the] pentathlon and heptathlon outdoor," said Ben-Artzi. "I've been working towards it...and I really want to improve in each of the events."

For Gibson, the sky is the limit as she is 'most definitely' looking to see her name up high in the record book. She will be going after the Penn State records in the triple jump and the long jump as she currently hold sixth (42-2) and 10th-place (20-1), respectively.

"Those records are meant to be broken and someone's name will be there and hopefully, it's mine," said Gibson.

Freshman Megan McCloskey is looking to have a break out, smooth freshman year.

"First off, I want to make my transition smooth. Everyone always talks about your freshman year in college just kind of adjusting to the weightlifting, the different running...I definitely don't want to go backwards in my jumping, I want to go forward," said McCloskey. "I really want to be jumping at [the Big Ten Championship] and on the medal stand."

Coach Spence is excited about the progress and talent the group has this year.

"We have a group of great student-athletes that are very talented," said Spence. "I keep saying everyone is going to do good and if we can all do good we will have a good year."

For more information on Penn State track and field visit www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field jumpers are looking to make a big impact this year as one of the staple point-scoring groups of the program. In part four of season previews, GoPSUSports.com caught up with Coach Kevin Kelly and his group of student-athletes on their improvements during the preseason, their goals, and this year's outlook.

Senior captain Steve Waithe had a phenomenal 2014 season on both the Big Ten and National stages. Waithe took home the Big Ten title in his 52-feet triple jump and placed fourth in the long jump (24-0.25). At Nationals, he triple jumped for 52-11.5 feet, the fourth best jump in Penn State history.

This year he returns leading the Nittany Lions and ready to break more records.

"Winning Big Tens definitely gave me some confidence...just to execute on the big levels is what I wanted to do," said Waithe. "This year my goals are obviously to break some records.

Sophomore Lexi Masterson joined the program last year and immediately got to work. At the 2014 outdoor Big Ten Championships, she pole-vaulted 13-3.5 meters, the Penn State all-time record. In 2015, she's looking to improve her performance and be a big contributor to the team.

"My goals for the team definitely include keeping up the winning streak at both Big Tens, indoor and outdoor," said Masterson. "Personally, I really want to make it to the NCAA Championships and I'm going to work really hard to achieve those goals."

Senior Dylan Bilka and sophomore Robert Cardina return this year for the Nittany Lions, as well. Both student-athletes hold Penn State records and are looking to raise the bar.

"Well, this year I'm looking to improve. Obviously, I'm going for the indoor record, which is only a couple inches higher than my [personal record]," said Bilka. "And just to see the rest of the group do really well."

Bilka finished fifth at the outdoor Big Ten Championships in 2014 with a 16-8 ¾ meter pole vault and moved to fifth in the Penn State all-time record book.

Cardina has had tremendous success in the decathlon and heptathlon in all levels.

At the indoor Big Ten Championships, he broke the Penn State record in the heptathlon with 5,511 points. His second-place finish and score of 7,666 ranks second in the All-Time Penn State books.

"That sets the bar," said Cardina. "I have the school record now and I just want to keep setting it and setting it [higher]."

Coach Kelly is excited about the group's progress and depth noting their great preseason performances and their ambitions to bring home as many Big Ten titles as possible.

For more information of Penn State track and field visit
www.GoPSUSports.com and follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Fit For Fritz event is back and ready for another record-breaking year in the fight against cancer.

The event, which originated in 2013 in support of track and field assistant coach Fritz Spence, is a Walk-A-Thon hosted at the Indoor Multi-Sport Complex and made possible by the collaboration of the coaching staff, the Penn State Athletics Department, and the track and field student-athletes.

In its inaugural year, the event raised just over $11,000. This year, the event returns with a few minor improvements.

"This year, we are incorporating a bone marrow drive where individuals can get swabbed and [added onto] the registry," said Spence. "[This year] we are having the community be a part of the Walk-A-Thon and be a part of the exercise stations and [they can] come in and compete with our student-athletes. I think that will be really exciting."

Last year, the Athletic Department and the Be The Match Program saw the incredible impact they could make when they joined together as one team for an important cause. However, Spence gained some knowledge and with the support of the Penn State community still remains a point of admiration for him and his family.

"I've learned how important it is to the community and how [supportive] the community is as a whole," Spence said. "I take strength and encouragement from everybody involved. The Penn State family comes in here and continues to support me [since] day one...it means a lot to me and my family."

Participants will have the opportunity to showcase their athletic abilities in exercise stations and around the track. However, the highlight of the weekend will probably be karaoke where volunteers will showcase their musical talents.

"My favorite [part] of the event is seeing everybody come in and walk around the track...and the karaoke. I can't sing to save my life but I might attempt. I'm not sure," he laughed.

In midst of the fun and games though, Spence wants the community to understand the importance of Fit For Fritz and that the affect it has lands far beyond the walls of Penn State.

"Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with blood cancer and the more we can do to support and help, the better," Spence said. "[The bone marrow registry] is really important to me because last year I was in need of someone and it was really hard for me to find a match. I want the community to come out and support."

Fit For Fritz has joined forces with Be The Match Foundation in hopes to raise $12,000 this year. The event is set for next Sunday, Nov. 16th beginning at 10 a.m.

For more information on the event and how to donate visit
www.GoPSUSports.com and www.BeTheMatchFoundation.org.

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In week three of Penn State track and field preseason and the third chapter of season previews, GoPSUsports.com caught up with head coach John Gondak and the mid-distance and distance student-athletes on their preparations and goals for the upcoming year.

The Nittany Lions return three student-athletes, junior Za'Von Watkins, junior Brannon Kidder, and senior Robby Creese, as part of their distance medley relay group, which is the three-time defending champion at the Big Ten Championships. Last year's time of 9:26.59 broke Penn State's record and was just over a half of a second shy of the world record.

"The [distance medley relay] is a lot of fun and it combines the true aspect of middle distance," said Gondak. "The fun thing [about this year] is that we have three of [the] four legs coming back."

All-American student-athletes Watkins and Kidder are looking forward to the competition this year noting their team chemistry, depth, and experience.

"[The distance medley relay] is obviously one of our go-to [events]. We're really strong at that event and we have three of the same guys coming back," said Watkins. "We're looking forward to getting a record this time but as long as we run fast I'm happy with that, too."

Junior Tori Gerlach enters the 2015 season as the defending 3,000-meter run Big Ten Champion with her lifetime-best, 9:10.76. Gerlach is also a tough competitor in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a personal record time of 10:03:55. Both rank second in the all-time Penn State record books.

"It was really exciting last year because I wasn't expecting to win [the 3,000-meter run] so it was awesome and being just short of the school record is awesome so that's definitely something I'm aiming towards this year," said Gerlach.

This year's freshman class is ready to cause uproar. 

After being named the 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Elizabeth Chikotas joins the distance team after a phenomenal cross country season. Freshman Joey Logue recorded 13 state medals and two All-American titles during his high school career.

The student-athletes have been diligently training all preseason in the Ashenfelter III Indoor Facility, which features a six-lane, 65-foot-radius hydraulically banked Mondo track, one of five in the country.

The team is set to kick-off their season on Saturday, December 13th when they host a Blue vs. White Intrasquad meet.

For more information on Penn State track and field visit www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.