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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.

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This year's Penn State track and field throwers are coming off summer training stronger and more experience than before. This week GoPSUSports.com caught up with the student-athletes and Coach Patrick Ebel for part two of the 2015 season previews.

Senior Darrell Hill returns this season as a captain for the Nittany Lions after spending the summer in California with the USA track and field team at the USATF Outdoor Championships where he posted a 10th-place finish in the shot put with his mark of 64 feet, 1.25 inches.  

"Making it to [the USA Championships] was a huge goal of mine and just to be able to be there in that wonderful facility in Sacramento and to be able to compete with...some of the best people in the world.. and finish high and make it to the finals just showed me that my time is coming and that with hard work I can make it back next year and be even better," said Hill.

Junior Michael Shuey threw a school record-breaking, gold medal-winning 249-5 javelin toss at the U-23 Championships in Kamloops, Canada and he spent time in California along with Hill and the USA National Team.

"I got to go to Canada and had an amazing experience at the Olympic Training Center, I got to hang out with Darrell Hill, and I finally hit 249 and it was awesome," said Shuey. "Everyone that was on the team was the top [competitor] in his or her event. [It was] an amazing experience."

Junior Rachel Fatherly spent the summer training and conditioning with her teammates. They're returning this year well built and determined to dominate the competition.

"We are all physically stronger than we were before...in the weight room we are putting up higher numbers. The summer had a lot to do with it. We did strength and conditioning and we're all in a good mindset. We want to reach really high goals this year," said Fatherly.

The team's first meet, a Blue vs. White intrasquad competition, is set for Sat., Dec. 13th.

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

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field preseason training is officially underway. This week GoPSUSports.com caught up with the sprinters, hurdlers, and relay runners to get an inside look on this year's athletes, training plans, and goals. 

Senior Dynasty McGee (Flint, Mich.) is coming off a big year with the team after playing a key role in the women's 4x400-meter relay team that finished in first place at the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships. McGee made a big impact in the outdoor season as well by winning eight events, qualifying for the NCAA Championships, and being named First Team All-American.

"Last year was a big year for me and I just want to top that. I want to get better and better and I know that if I stay focused and dedicated, I'll do that," said McGee.

Junior Kiah Seymour (Washington, D.C.) had an eventful summer as a part of the United States National Team in the 400-meter hurdles in Kamloops, Canada.

"When I went to Kamloops...it was the best track experience of my life. I got to run in the USA [under] 23 team and I made life-long friends," said Seymour. "After training with [coach] Bungard he really told me that I had nothing to lose so I went for it."

On the men's side, the team is looking young, focused and powerful.

"I'm just looking to go out, compete and do my best out there," said freshman Xavier Smith (Douglasville, Pa.).

The team is led by two upperclassmen, senior Sancho Barrett (Amityville, N.Y.) and junior Alex Shisler (State College, Pa.), who both qualified for an NCAA Championship event in 2013.

Coach Randy Bungard is in his third year with the program and he is thrilled to begin this season noting this year's goals are almost identical to those in the past - winning. 

"Our goals this year are kind of the same they've always been. As a team, we want to win the Big Ten Championship and go to the NCAA Championships and be a presence there," said Bungard.

While the team's first official event isn't until December 13th when they host an intrasquad Blue vs. White meet, the athletes are already hard at work and preparing for the competition. 

For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit www. GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.  

 



By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics and the Red Cross will team up once again to demonstrate their 'One Team' bond in a blood drive that will honor Penn State track and field jumps and multi-events coach Fritz Spence.

Spence has been a part of the Penn State family for eight years and carries a long record of success including having coached 15 All-American athletes, various NCAA qualifying athletes, and many, many winners.

However, Spence doesn't just coach victors - he is a part of them.

In February of 2008, Spence was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a cancer that begins in the bone marrow and is known to spread very quickly.

After what seemed like endless treatments, long nights in the hospital, and a tough bone marrow transplant, Spence prevailed and now stands as a strong and proud cancer survivor.

The blood drive, which is sponsored by Penn State Track and Field, is run by volunteers and student-athletes who dedicate their time to make sure the event runs smoothly and successfully.

Senior Michael McClelland (Washington, Pa.) runs the event on the student-athlete side making sure there are volunteers available to work the event. He is also in charge of letting all Penn State Athletics teams know about the blood drive and he is a primary spokesperson for the drive informing all volunteers and donors of the importance of the event.

"Michael has done a really good job of organizing the event and getting the student-athletes to volunteer and come out, he is one of my key committee members. He's really very supportive," said Spence.

"I'd say people all across campus are motivated to make this event a success. I'm invested [in the event] and I think [everyone] can tell," said McClelland. "Coach Spence is not a super emotional guy but I can tell he's appreciative. I can tell this means a lot to him and he's really thankful for the work I'm doing and the entire team is doing to make sure this is successful."

McClelland says the goal for the blood drive is to get 50 volunteers to donate 35-36 units, which has proven to not be a problem. Last year, they had such a big turn out that they had to reject donors.

Spence is overwhelmed by the success of the event, which he hopes becomes a long-lasting tradition for the University.

The blood drive is also a very important part of Spence's life. He points out that this is his way of giving back to the community that was so supportive of him when he was in need and he hopes that every donor and volunteer understands the significance of events like these.

"It's important to give and to give back because you never know when it will be your turn or your family's turn to get blood," he said. "The statistics are one in seven [people] that will need blood in their lifetime. [You] will know someone, sometime in your lifetime that will need blood."

The blood drive will take place in Rooms E and F of the Bryce Jordan Center on Mon., Oct. 27th from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
There will be a double red donation opportunity.

To schedule an appointment visit psuredcross.org and click on the blood drive tab or go to redcrossblood.org and use the sponsor code: psu.

 



By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four coaches from four distinct parts of the world made their way to Happy Valley this week to work with the Penn State track and field coaching staff and student-athletes as part of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP).

ICECP, which begins at the University of Delaware and works through the Unites States Olympic Committee, is a five-week intensive coaches' education program that gives candidates from around the world an opportunity to attend lectures and presentations in the United States for the benefit of their education and career.

Head coach John Gondak and company hosted Letitia Vriesde (Suriname), Andris Eikens (Latvia), Faris Abdulla (Maldives), and Nigatli Worku (Ethiopia) for the entire week sharing with them the track and field facilities, workout routines, coaching strategies, and introducing them to Penn State student-athletes.

Unlike any of their past trainings, the coaches were able to do hands-on work, which they eagerly described as their favorite experience thus far.

 "What I see at Penn State I don't think I will be able to see ever again," said Abdulla, a kids' coordinator for an athletics association. "It is so complex and everything I see here is so wonderful and I hope one day that we will get to this level. Our experience here is different because we finally got hands on experience. This is more practical and technical."

At their future stops, the coaches will be attending lectures and presentations so they were opportunistic in their time here.

"Here we have shared with coaches their practical knowledge and that's very different from attending lectures and doing projects," said Worku, a track and field coach at the national and junior levels. "I have attended a lot of training courses and this is by far the best one."

In their respective home countries, all of the coaches explained the lack of organization between academics and athletics commending the way Penn State intertwines the two. They explained that the structured system the University implements is by far the best method to success they have seen.

"The first thing I noticed at Penn State is that they have a very good system for athletes," said Abdulla.  Their scholarships and the coaching system...they have a systematic way of developing athletes. It is so hard to convince people and parents [back home] that sport is a way of life."

The coaches are pleased to see that Penn State develops athletes to represent themselves and also, their respective schools making athletics and academics a source of pride, which is very different from their normality.

"You are not competing for your university and it's not part of a system," said Vriesde, a coach at the Atlantic Club of the Future. "You go to school and, then, if you like to run, you go and join a club."

They were also blown away by the facilities available to the program. It became apparent to them why the student-athletes are so ambitious and motivated.

"The facilities available for the athletes make me think that there is no reason not to make it to the world class [level]. It's very impressive because back home we basically don't have any facilities, said Vriesde. "We run on grass. It's good to see everything that is done for sport achievement."

"I'm very pleased to see how highly motivated all the athletes are to compete here," said Eikens, a decathlon coach for his country's national team. "There are very, very good facilities and options."

The Nittany Lions impressed them and even though they say it will be decades before they see any change in their countries, they hope to one day work with athletes, parents, and schools as one to shed light on the importance of unity between academics and athletics.

The coaches have three more weeks left in the program and will travel to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado upon their departure from State College.


 

Gondak, Nittany Lions Look Forward to New Era

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10372381.jpegBy Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is many things. It is a research institution and an athletic empire. It is history, tradition and culture.

For most people that come across this campus, though, of any age, any background, or any position, Penn State is one simple thing - a dream come true.

Dreams, like many things in life, come true through hard work, dedication, and a vast amount of time.

After eight years with the University and two long months as an interim, John Gondak has been officially named the Penn State cross country and track and field programs' head coach and he could not be more thrilled.

"Words can't describe what this means to me," said Gondak. "I'm thrilled and honored to continue to work with the student-athletes here. To be the head coach here is the pinnacle of my career to this point and I'm looking to continue that and achieve greater heights here with the program."

Gondak comes with a long history of experience and a great deal of time on the track.

He was a walk-on runner onto the Syracuse University cross country team where he earned a scholarship and the accolade of team captain. After graduating as valedictorian of the civil engineering program, he made his way through over a decade of coaching and recruiting experience at Georgia Tech, Toledo, and Kentucky before ending up in Happy Valley.

During his time with the NIttany Lions, Gondak has been remarkable.

During his eight years, he has been named United States Track and Field/Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year five times, along with assisting to lead multiple Big Ten, NCAA, and All-Regional championship appearances.

It's impossible to deny Gondak's passion, which flows right through him when he speaks about the University and its athletic program.

"Every coach has that one university in mind that they would really love to work for and for me Penn State has always been that," said Gondak. "Penn State is the university I grew up with. I've been coming to athletic events here ever since I can remember. Both my parents went to school here. They've been saying great things about Penn State their whole lives."

His demeanor is confident and approachable, and he stands proudly and poised.

"I truly believe we have the best student-athletes in the world here at Penn State. They're not only highly focused to achieve success athletically but their academics [are] a huge piece to them," he said. "Going forward to watch the athletes come through the program and move on to the real world is exciting to see."

Fortunately for Gondak, the student-athletes seem to feel the same way.

"I can't think of anyone better for the position considering how much he cares about the guys and the program," said senior Glen Burkhardt. "He does a very good job on everyone's individual needs. He cares a lot and I think everyone really likes him. That alone is big incentive to work hard."

Most days, Gondak can be found on the track or out on the running course. The days when he is in his office sitting at his dark burgundy desk, he is planning practice workouts and reflecting on previous races.

The future brings big changes for Gondak and his professional career but, as for the program, he simply hopes to continue the excellence that is already established.

"We have a great platform for success that was built not only by Coach [Beth Alford] Sullivan but also, by Coach [Harry] Groves and the coaches before them. We want to continue to build on that but we've got this thing going in the right direction right now with two of what, I think, could be the best teams Penn State has ever had," Gondak said.

Next weekend, Gondak will travel with the cross country team, for the first time as their head coach, to South Bend, Indiana, for their first NCAA qualifying meet at Notre Dame. The team has already been thinking about it, preparing, and working towards their goals every day.

As they continue to prepare for the competition, perhaps the program can rest peacefully, indeed, they have chosen the most dedicated man for the job.