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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - It's championship time for the Nittany Lions and the Penn State track and field team is headed to Geneva, Ohio to take on their conference rivals for the 2015 Big Ten Indoor Championships.

This week GoPSUsports.com caught up with a few student-athletes to find out their favorite moments from last year's championship meet.

 

By Rachel Fatherly, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday started off with a motivational quote from Coach [Patrick] Ebel, "Believe in yourself and let's get it done today.
 

This quote set the tone for the day whether it was in the circle, on the runway, or on the track. I think that today was definitely a tune up to say the least. We had many outstanding performances that will set us up nicely for the upcoming Big Ten Championships. The atmosphere today was great, like always. Everyone was engaged in all of the performances.

I think that many Penn Staters took huge steps today. For example, Jon Yohman throwing a season-best of 55-9.75 in the shot put. While warming up for shot put, it was nice to be able to cheer on Matt Fischer as he raced the clock in the 5k.

As Penn Staters, we definitely showed our pride as well as passion for each other. Across the board there were many improvements, personal bests, season bests and better performances overall.

As we enter the Big Team Championships, many were able to tune up or work on things that will help them later on in the week. What time is it? It's Big Ten Time!

We Are... Penn State


 

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman year of college is an anticipated, yet slightly feared, time when you finally leave the nest of your hometown and soar into the world of independent living, unknown roommates, and questionable dining hall meals.

If you're a student-athlete, on top of it all, you're thrown into the world of division I athletics full of 20-40 hour training weeks, hours of traveling, and top level opponents - what can be fairly described as intimidating.

Freshman Xavier Smith joined the Nittany Lions in August as a one of the nation's top competitors and among the top three track athletes in his district and county. He is a football player turned sprinter from the small town of Douglasville, Pennsylvania who is drawing a lot of attention this season.

The population in Douglasville is 448 - about five percent of Penn State's total incoming freshman and just about half of the entire body of Penn State student-athletes.

So, to say his move from Douglasville to Happy Valley was intimidating is an understatement.

However, with the support of his family, which has been strong since his first day on the rubber, Smith has submerged fiercely into the life of a full-time division I sprinter with no signs of slowing down.

"In high school, I did it for fun my junior year and then senior year I started to get more serious," said Smith. "[Collegiate training is] a new experience and I was trying different things. I had never really had workouts this hard. It was kind of different....[but] I started to get the hang of it. I had to take it day by day."

His teammates also play a huge role in his success acting as another direct source of support.

"I didn't know what to expect but they were there for me if I had any questions. There are here to help me and show me the ropes and help [me] work toward our goals," he said. "I use my teammates' energy to help me go out there and do the best that I can. If I do well, I know that might help someone else do well and it's a chain reaction."

On various occasions you'll hear the team describe itself as a family - a very competitive, very ambitious family.

"Alex Shisler actually told me, 'It doesn't matter what kind of work out you had yesterday. It could have been the best work out you've ever had or the worst work out you've ever had but, today is a different day so try and make today the best work out that you can get out of it'," he said.

To his teammates, Smith is respectful, laid back, and focused. To his coaches he is the definition of a true competitor. But, you don't have to take their word for it.

In his four outings in the 60-meter dash this year, Smith has improved his time every single race. In December, Smith posted a time of 6.91 seconds during the Blue and White Intrasquad Meet. In his last time out, he ran at a season-best performance of 6.87 seconds.

In the 200-meter dash, Smith is consistent with his improvement as well and is dancing dangerously on the edge of a personal record. Last weekend, Smith posted a season best time of 21.54 seconds, .04 of a second from his personal best.

He's also an important fourth of the men's 4x400-meter relay quartet that ran a season best time of 3:12.61 last weekend at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

"I'm doing a good job so far but I know there is still room for improvement. There are expectations that still can be reached but...it's alright so far. It can be better," said Smith.

As Smith looks towards the competition to come, he looks forward to the challenges and reflects on all that has changed within the last few months when he stepped onto Happy Valley grounds for the first time.

No one can predict where he or she will end up but Smith is confident that he's headed in the right direction.

"[I'm going to] keep trying new things," he said. "Whenever you try new things there's more that's good that can come out of it than bad. You never know where you're going to end up."

As they say, the best is yet to come.

By Wade Endress, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
This blog concludes my third trip to Seattle.  Each trip has its distinguishing memories, but our team chemistry defined the success of our first meet out west.  Despite a new coaching arrangement and a few new teammates, nothing changes the familiarity of a high-performance indoor meet.  With an emphasis on distance running, the Husky Classic creates a championship-like atmosphere.  Whether we were competing for an NCAA bid, a conference seed, or simply a personal best, the team feels the sense of urgency associated with the latter part of a season. 

I did not improve on my personal best, but I witnessed phenomenal performances from fellow teammates.  Ranging from the young freshmen learning to compete to Robby's school record in the 3000m, Seattle lived up to expectations.  Compared to the outdoor season, indoor facilities provide an intimate-like feeling. The Dempsey (Washington's facility) housed a lot of people.  Thus, large crowds cheered for every heat of every event establishing a feeling that is rather indescribable to the average person. 

Enough about the monotonous cycle of running and competing, the Pacific Northwest was beautiful.  Our hotel fell in the middle of the University District, rather than the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Seattle.  Similar to State College, the area surrounding campus contained a large variety of deli's, coffee shops, and restaurants.  We tend to indulge in the food and culture aspect of the trip more than preparing to race, but let's not share with Coach Gondak. (Joking of course) Who doesn't enjoy a change of pace? 

Between the Lanes

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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
GoPSUsports.com caught up with the track and field squads to learn a little more about the team between the lines. Watch the video to get to know more about our student-athletes.

By Megan Osborne, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This past weekend was a rolling start into what Penn State Track and Field considers championship season! Finally being scored overall as a collective group helped us visualize where we stand and what we need to do to accomplish our goal of being B1G champions on both the men and women sides, and I don't doubt that this is obtainable. 

We had great performances from all side, the track, the field, the men and the women. Our throws program has yet again to shown a quality weekend, holding it down in the ring and our middle distance once again lived up to their name!

The energy was great within the building, starting the second day off with honoring our prestigious seniors that have left their make on and off the track and ending with a season best in the 4x4 women's relay, with the team curved around the bank showing their team spirit!

I believe that we are off to a great rest of the season and ready for weeks to come. Its been fun run in Happy Valley, with the fans behind our back but we're ready to take on the competition from all over the country in Arkansas, Seattle and Ohio. 

WE ARE

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Confidence is key and the Nittany Lions proved it this past weekend when the track and field team won a total of ten events and took home the winning title at the Sykes and Sabock Challenge Cup.

This team has done a great job this year showing improved performances every meet especially from experienced student-athletes that continuously show consistency.

Robby Creese demonstrated the product of hard work when he ran an exciting 3:57.86 mile, a meet record, the fourth best time in the NCAA, and arguable the highlight of the two-day event.

"I know he can do that because he's done it before. It's not easy running that fast when you're that far in front in the last 600-meters. It was an impressive run and, I believe, the fastest actual timed run in the NCAA this year," said head coach John Gondak.

Dependable stand outs like Rachel Fatherly (shot put), Darrell Hill (shot put), Brian Leap (long jump), and the women of the 4x400-meter relay, performed excellently and won their respective events to help the men's and women's team finish strongly on top.

"[The consistency] is a sign of maturely for these athletes," said Gondak. "They have confidence and an understanding for what they need to do to lead this team. It's a great that you have a group of individuals...guys that you can count on week in and week out to get the job done."

Along with the stability of the team's top performers, there are student-athletes that prove themselves day in and day out during practice and constantly improve when they're called up to the line.

Robert Rhodes, a junior transfer, has been quietly winning or showing quality performances all year as a part of the men's 600-meter run and the distance medley relay.

"I'm feeling good after today. I'm taking the right steps in the right direction to where I want to be by the end of the season," said Rhodes. "I just want to contribute to the team as much as possible and I'm appreciating the little things."

Freshman Xavier Smith is having a breakout year placing in almost every event he participates in. Smith's competitive edge has become one of the most motivating aspects of the team.

"Some of the younger kids...they need to not just rely [on the upperclassmen]. What they do is just as important and that was one of the emphasis for this meet and I think they did very well," said Gondak.

In addition to the excitement of excellent performances came the celebration of the team's seniors. Seventeen student-athletes were honored on Saturday morning for their dedication and commitment to the program.

But, the nostalgia will be put on hold for right now as the team prepares to enter its first away meet weekend of the year.

Three groups of athletes will head out to three different cities, Seattle, Washington; Geneva, Ohio; and Fayetteville, Arkansas to represent the blue and white next weekend.

"Three great places to go race next weekend. It's always a little nerve-wracking when you go on the road for the first time because you're out of your element but it's something we need to do to," said Gondak.

"We have a group of upperclassmen that will be great leaders and will help us accomplish what we need to accomplish next week."

By Dannielle Gibson, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 
If you thought for one second that things could not have gotten any better for Penn state track and field, well think again! 

This past weekend, at the Penn State National, was a true testimony of how Penn State pride and spirit and can truly bring out the competitive drive in you. The momentum from our two prior meets' excellent performances propelled us in this weekend and all I can say is "PR's PR's PR's"!

All across the board records were broken, seasons best and personal best were made; starting on Friday with the woman's weight throws, the 200m sprints, and then on Saturday with the men's and women's triple jumps, the women's pole vault, the men's shot put, and the 800m distances. This meet not only proved to others that we are force to be reckoned with, but displayed the strength of our bond and family-hood. 

Leading up to meet day, practice itself had a very focused and determined aura around it. Although we spent our last night with our specific event groups dining and enjoying a meal, as always, we came together and initiated our competition day with a team cheer. During, the meet we set aside time to honor and congratulate our women's team for their 2014 indoor and outdoor Big Ten Championship awards. Then, of course, we continued with our record-breaking times and distances. This season has the potential to be a very prosperous one and is in contention to be the best one to come!  

We Are...Penn State!   

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a weekend for the books at the Penn State National meet - literally.

On both the track and the field, the Nittany Lions tallied dozens of personal records, a school record, and displayed their best performances of the season.

"The energy our team had to today and the excitement was unlike anything I've experienced in my nine years here. It was a phenomenal weekend. There was so much energy in this building and excitement with our program," said head coach John Gondak.

Day one of the two-day meet got the ball rolling.

All four women shot putters tallied personal records. Rachel Fatherly set a personal record in the weight throw at 67-5.25 ft. She is now top-15 in the nation and top three at Penn State.

The distance medley relay made up of Za'Von Watkins, Brannon Kidder, Robby Creese, and Robert Rhodes was as thrilling as expected. The crowd roared louder every lap and the men finished the relay in
9:28.36, the second best time in the country.

The team's drive did not let down going into day two.

Darrell Hill was outstanding. He took home first place in the shot put with a school record-breaking 67-3 throw.

"Today was...good, today was good. I wanted to go after it. Had some pretty good throws," said Hill. "It's always exciting to get a personal and school record."

The field was thrilling this weekend as Brian Leap and Dannielle Gibson won the men's (
52-3.75) and women's (40-7.75) triple jump, respectively.

On the track, Brannon Kidder and the women of the 4x400-meter relay stole the show.

In the 800-meter run, Kidder the final lap in third place and then kicked up the intensity to win it all with a time of
1:47.86, the third best time in the country.

"For this race I just wanted to go into it and have fun," said Kidder. "Instead of trying to go for it all at the beginning I just kind of hung back and it all worked out."

Kiah Seymour, Dynasty McGee, Tichina Rhodes, and Megan Osborne dominated the 4x400-meter relay with a spectacular
3:40.43 time, almost five seconds faster than the second place team.

"[Winning] was a great feelings especially hearing our teammates cheering for us on the backstretch," said Seymour. "I felt good, it felt good and I wanted to kick it in so our team could have a good time."

It was a fantastic weekend at the Penn State National meet, as expected, yet, there is so much more to come.

"I implore the team to carry this energy on and as we move into February," said Gondak. "I almost get sad when this meet is over with because it's my favorite meet of the year and we had some great things happen today. It was a lot of fun."

Next weekend the Nittany Lions will host the Sykes and Sabock Challenge, the first scored meet of the year, beginning on Friday and continuing through Saturday.

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A dynamic tradition will continue this weekend when Penn State track and field hosts the much anticipated Penn State National meet, which is set to bring in 27 teams from all over the country to one of the loudest, most energetic atmospheres to date.

The meet has a tendency of bringing out the very best in all athletes and it upholds a tradition of record-breaking, crowd-pumping racing.

"This has traditionally been a meet that has teams from all around the east coast, if not from around the country, because they know we have a fast track here and they want to put up some good marks for their National qualifying spots," said head coach John Gondak.

In last year's meet, the Penn State men broke the facility, meet, and university record in the distance medley relay with a time of 9:26.59.

Additionally, fans saw student-athletes shatter their personal records like Robert Cardina in the heptathlon, Rachel Fatherly in the weight throw, Steve Waithe and Brain Leap in the long jump, and Brannon Kidder was the only athlete from any school to run a mile in under four minutes.

By now, the 2015 Nittany Lions are on full speed, fully healthy and with eyes on the prize. This weekend hopes to be the most competitive to date.

"You're getting to the point in the season now where we've been practicing for four weeks since the break and we're getting close to championship time and everyone is going to start to be in that peak shape...that top shape where they can really put on top performances," said Gondak.

With all the excitement going on, however, the Nittany Lions look to stick with their usual plan - come and conquer.

"The indoor track atmosphere is unlike any other," said Gondak. "People come here and look to be the best they can be," said Gondak. "There's really not one specific event [that I'm most excited about]. The good thing about our team is that we're competitive in all of the event areas. There are so many great races this weekend and so many great field events. I'm excited for it all."

The meet takes place over the span of two days because of the size of the competition so fans, which will be gifted over 500 cowbells for their attendance, are in for an entire weekend of excitement.

"This meet is on the larger side so, logistically, we need to put it over two days. On Friday, we have a handful of field events. We do the sprints, the distance medley, and the 5000m [race]. Then Saturday, [we have] all the open races, said Gondak. It allows for simulating what the Conference meet is going to be like where it's a two-day competition."

The excitement kicks off Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and on Saturday morning at 11 a.m.