Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
Recently in Track & Field Category
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the spring of 1985, Penn State track and field student-athletes Vince Watson, Steve Shisler, Chris Mills, and Randy Moore ran the fastest 4x800-meter relay of their career finishing in seven minutes, 11.17 seconds - a Penn Relays Carnival and Penn State University record-breaking time.
In the spring of 2015, the relay record celebrated its 30th anniversary and Steve Shisler, now coach at State College High School, celebrated by watching his son, Alex, run on the winning Championship of America Sprint Medley Relay.
"We knew [we ran] a good time [in the 4x800-meter relay] when we were in it and we all had the sense that it would last for a while. It's a special achievement," said Shisler. "But the best part about that weekend is that Alex was a part of a Championship of America sprint relay. It was a great thing to see."
Junior Alex Shisler is a sprinter for Penn State track and field and it was at his first Penn Relays in the 10th grade, when he decided that he would uphold the Penn State tradition in his family and eventually become a Nittany Lion.
"My parents loved going [to Penn State] but [they] wanted me to go wherever I wanted to go," said Alex. "Since sophomore year of high school I knew I was going to run collegiately and in my mind I had it made up that I was going to go to Penn State. Both of my parents ran here and are on the school records here and I wanted to carry on that legacy."
Alex is a sprinter while his parents were middle-distance runner but, nonetheless, the pride of being a Penn Stater allows for a strong family bond and a supportive, understanding, and very dedicated cheering section.
The Penn State track and field tradition is also strong among three other current student-athletes and their families - freshman Elyse Skerpon, junior Robert Cardina, and freshman Megan McCloskey.
Freshman Elyse Skerpon's (Sprints/Hurdles/Relays) father, Donald Skerpon, was a pole vaulter at Penn State during his college career.
After spending his first year at the University of Rhode Island, Skerpon decided to set his sights a bit closer to home. After a few phone conversations with then-head coach Harry Groves, Skerpon found his way to Happy Valley.
He spent the rest of his undergraduate career as a Nittany Lion and started a family tradition that carried down to his three children - Luke (class of '12) was a member of the Blue Band, Taylor is a senior on the baseball team, and Elyse is just beginning her career with the track team.
"It's a great experience as parents. You have a lot of the same anxiety but it's great to see them work hard and make things happen," he said. "You build such great memories...and it's great to be able to come back [to State College]."
"After my dad came here, we've had season football tickets and we've been coming to football game since I was born, basically," said Elyse. "Coming here all those years made me want to be here and continue what my family started."
Since his track and field days, Donald Skerpon says the program still remains the flourishing team he was once a part of but thinks the commitment has changed quite a bit.
"It's a lot harder now," he laughed. "We worked really hard and it was a lot of time but it wasn't quite as intense [as it is now]."
Jennifer Williams-Cardina is among the top ten performers all-time at the university in the women's high jump event and is a former multi-events athlete.
During her time as part of the program, the indoor track was flat, white, and located at the old ice hockey rink. Though things have come a long way since, she remembers those days with joy saying she wouldn't change a thing if she could experience it all over again.
She has since left the streets of Happy Valley and her life as a student-athlete but has the opportunity to return as a spectator to see her son, junior Robert Cardina (Multi-Events), continue the Williams-Cardina legacy.
"I can remember when Rob was little he ran everywhere. He ran through the house. He would ask us to time him running outside around the house," said Williams-Cardina. "Finally, when Rob was in middle school, and went out for track, I had the opportunity to teach him how to high jump. We went to the track at night and on weekends to practice. I absolutely loved sharing this time with Rob."
Currently, Robert Cardina holds the school record in the heptathlon and is second all-time in the decathlon.
"Some parents don't know the ins and outs of the program and they don't know what it takes. [Having this in common with my mom] is an advantage [for me]. She prepared me well," said Cardina. "It's important to note that we both came here and left our imprint on the track and field program on both the men's and women's side."
Megan McCloskey is in her first season with the Nittany Lions as a high jumper.
She began jumping in the fourth grade and had a very special coach to help her get through it, Mimi McCloskey, her mother and former middle-distance runner at Penn State.
"My mom ran the 800[-meter run] and the 1600[-meter run] and I tried those when I was younger but it wasn't really for me," said Megan. "I started jumping in the fourth grade and [my mom] learned it at the same time I did. She was learning how to coach high jump while I was learning how to do high jump."
While her mother coached her athletic career up until high school and Megan has now graduated into the rigorous life of Division I track and field, she says she still looks to her parents for support.
"My dad played football. So he loves talking about that stuff. They always talk about the things he got to do and [the things] she got to do because it was a completely different experience," said Megan.
"I understand how hard the transition from high school to college competition can be for someone. When you are a freshman, not only do you need to adjust to being on your own and away from familiar surroundings, you must also adjust to new coaches, teammates, competition schedules, and the fact that everybody at this level is very accomplished at what they do," said Mimi.
Mimi McCloskey was a middle distance runner in the early 80s however, similar to Donald Skerpon, she says the program has changed since her workout days.
"Although the track remains much as it was 30 years ago, the training that Megan goes through is much different. The time commitment was much less than it is today," she said.
And like the Shislers, the Cardinas, and the Skerpons, the McCloskeys are just want their children to be happy.
"My hopes for Megan include her continued growth both as a high jumper and a student. But more importantly, I hope that she really enjoys her time at Penn State both on and off the track and graduates with amazing memories and lifelong friends," said Mimi.
The Penn State track and field program is an interesting and very special bond to have according to all the former and current athletes but it's even more special when it's a bond between parent and child.
Every parent and every student-athlete described this to be 'a very cool connection to have' describing their Penn State related dinner conversations and laughing at the times their parents talk about 'their glory days'.
But the current generation of Penn Staters only hopes to one day live up to their parents' great achievements.
"I want to leave my Alex Shisler stamp on Penn State track and field. I want to continue what my parents did." said Shisler.
"I know [my mom is] happy that I'm here," said Cardina. " It's a bond with my mother, a connection through track and field. She knows she was able to get through it and she helps me get through it too. It keeps the legacy in the family. I love my mother."
A legacy that thanks to experiences and memories made many years ago still stands strong and doesn't look to end any time soon.
Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.
It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.
The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.
The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.
Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.
"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."
The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.
When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.
"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."
The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.
"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."
The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.
"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."
It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.
"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"
The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.
"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."
At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.
"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was. When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."
The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.
"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."
The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.
"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."
Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.
Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.
"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."
The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.
Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.
The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).
The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).
Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.
It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.
"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."
A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes, increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.
"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."
The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.
"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.
"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."
"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.
"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."
Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.
A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.
"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."
Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.
By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Months of physical preparation boil down to one weekend.
Eleven men and 15 women from the Penn State track and field squads will push themselves to the limit as they compete in the NCAA East Preliminary Round this Thursday through Saturday.
This is the competition track and field athletes prepare for all season with the goal of a top-12 finish in their respective event to move on to the NCAA Championships.
Familiarity of the competition is part of an advantage first round veterans have.
"If you're at a facility that you've been at before where you've had success before, you know your way around, it really goes a long way with helping you relax, be confident and comfortable," said head coach John Gondak.
Penn State will be just that as 14 of the 26 student-athletes have competed in the NCAA first round in Jacksonville.
Mental preparation builds off of confidence; a characteristic Gondak and his staff work to build with each student-athlete throughout the season.
"At the end of the day, they're the ones that have to do it. They have to believe they're ready," said Gondak.
Without a doubt, the Nittany Lions are ready.
The men's team ranks 15th, contains three top-ranked athletes and seven returners. Ranked No. 1 in the shot put, Darrell Hill looks for a standout performance to move on for the second time in his career. Hill won the Big Ten title in the shot put just two weeks ago.
Ranked fifth in the region and Big Ten Champion in the javelin throw, Michael Shuey will throw for a shot at competing in Oregon. Joining Shuey is redshirt freshman Ryan Kerr.
Also top-ranked and looking to punch his second ticket to Oregon, Brannon Kidder will run in the 800-meter. Joining Kidder is fellow Nittany Lion Robert Rhodes.
Junior Robby Creese is ready for a comeback performance after redshirting last spring. Entering the competition, the senior ranks No. 1 in the 1,500-meter run.
On the women's side, 15 Nittany Lions are set to compete, including seven veterans representing Penn State in 12 events.
Most recently breaking the Penn State school record with a silver medal throw (56-0) in the shot put at the Big Ten Championships; Rachel Fatherly enters the competition ranked No. 4. Joining Fatherly in the shot put competition are Alyssa Robinson and Obeng Marfo.
Also competing in the field, Lexi Masterson will compete in the women's pole vault; Danielle Gibson will take on the long jump and triple jump.
After notching a silver medal at the Big Ten Championships, Tori Gerlach will represent the Blue and White in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000-meter run. Elizabeth Chikotas will make her first round debut in the 5,000-meter as a freshman.
Fellow runners Dynasty McGee and Tichina Rhodes will compete in the 400-meter dash and the 4x400-m.
The 2015 NCAA Preliminary will begin on Thursday, May 28 and conclude on Saturday, May 30. Follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC for live updates.
By Michael Shuey, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete
Neither the men's or women's side came out of the championships with a team win, but at the end of the day we had strong performances all over the board and showed great Penn State pride throughout the three days of competition.
By Tori Gerlach, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
All across the board we had a number of PRs, season bests, and even a top NCAA leading mark. We competed against some of the best competition in the country and gained more confidence and experience rolling into championship time. With the Big Ten Championships coming up in a couple of weeks, this is just the type of meet we needed to prepare with.
Penn State gave us the opportunity to show the west coast all the hard work we
put in so far this season. I am excited to see what the rest of the season
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are 98 total student-athletes on the Penn State track and field team - 48 women, 50 men. Of all of those, there are a total of four women pole vaulters: Kasey Kemp, Erin Knabe, Lexi Masterson, and Hannah Mulhern.
As if that wasn't exceptional enough in a sport that takes everything from upper body strength to gymnastics ability, all four women rank within the top ten pole-vaulters in Penn State history.
"That's something that I value. I earned that," said Masterson, who holds the school record at 13-3.5. "But to have three other teammates in the top ten is something that's more for Penn State than it is for me. To have us, kind of, rewrite pole vault for Penn State is so great."
"It feels really cool and it feels like we're making our mark. We're letting people know: you might not know Penn State pole vault but you're going to know [it], I promise you," said Knabe.
To add to the prowess, the women are fairly young. Masterson, Kemp, and Knabe have sophomore athletic experience and Mulhern is finishing up her freshman year.
"We're so young and we have so much more to learn and grow and keep building," said Mulhern.
From a training standpoint, the women have all the support form the university and their coaches, which, for them, makes being part of such a small group better.
"We have to thank Coach Kelly. Practice, meets, he always has our back. Pole vault is so frustrating, he can be so patient with us," said Masterson. "It's nice to have our unique little thing. We have respect for the people that do endless 200 [meter sprints] on the track and think 'Man, I couldn't do that' but then, we're like, 'They probably can't pole vault'."
Pole vaulting by definition is a track and field event where athletes must run with a long pole and use it to help them jump over a bar. It requires more athleticism than most people would predict and can be more dangerous than most other events.
"As a girl pole vaulter you have to have upper body strength and all of us have gymnastics background that helps us be successful," said Masterson. "We have two lifts per week, each about an hour. We'll have drill days and strength days and plyometric days. There's a lot of time to put in."
"[During] preseason, we lift three days a week at 6:30 a.m. and then come back later for practice 2:45-5 p.m. Then, on Wednesdays we have lifts, practice, and then gymnastics from 5 to 6 p.m.," said Knabe.
Aside from being physically fit, pole vaulting takes a lot of mental discipline and poise.
"Pole vaulting is all about confidence," said Knabe. "It's a lot of technique. You can be really fast and really strong but if your technique is wrong you're not going to go anywhere. That's why it's so mental because if your technique is not perfect then something is going to go wrong and it can be dangerous."
Fear is far from their vocabulary, though, and they are excited to have each other to rely on. Being best friends only adds the excitement of being talented.
"With this group, it's not about you, it's about all of us," said Masterson.
"We know our goals and we're always helping each other get there. The practice environment is really positive all the time. I think it's helpful that we're friends outside of track," said Kemp.
"We have an awesome vibe during practice. There's such a respect for this sport between athletes because you understand how hard this sport is so we just try and lift each other up," said Knabe.
Penn State is about to earn a whole new reputation in pole vaulting and the women thrilled to be part of the process confident that this is just beginning.
"Penn State is the best school ever. I wish I could put that into better words but it's true. It's such a good school academically and it's respected athletically," said Kemp.
"It's important for [people] to see how much we have improved," said Masterson. "I was a 12-foot jumper two times in high school. I wasn't consistent and within the first month on competition [at Penn State], I was 13-1. So, to see the improvement and how far it's going to go."
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Embarking on yet another stepping stone toward a championship, Penn State track and field is headed to Philadelphia to compete in the Penn Relays Carnival.
Unlike any other meet, the Penn Relays is the oldest, largest track meet in the country celebrating its 121st year this weekend and with over 15,000 athletes, of all levels, from around the country competing in over 120 events, the Nittany Lions have a big three days ahead.
"I don't think it's that you prepare any differently. I think it's that you have to respect and understand what the history and the tradition of the Penn Relays are. It's one of the oldest track meets in the country. Right now, if you get a sunny day, from the attendance stand point it will be one of the largest attended track meets in the country," said head coach John Gondak.
With its long-established tradition, the Penn Relays has bred more than just another exciting meet weekend. The carnival-style display has sparked careers, dreams, and motives.
"There have been so many Olympians and champions whether it's at the high school, college, or professional level that have competed at the Franklin Field. It's a very hallowed ground of our sport," said Gondak. "It's the track meet I attended that got me into the sport back when I attended in the 10th grade and it has been, in my opinion, what launched my career."
"Although the Penn Relays are hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, at Penn State we still take pride in having one of the largest track and field meets in the country being held in our home state. [There is] pride that is involved with [being a part of] the blue and white...Talking about the history we are involved in gives you a little bit of added motivation and a different type of respect for the meet," said Hill, Philadelphia native.
"It's always really exciting to get into the Philly area and compete. It's exciting to have my parents come out and support me. I know the facilities and some of the officials...and it's the Penn Relays. It's always exciting to go back.
To add to the motivation, Penn State is entering this weekend as the sole owner of the men's 4x800-meter relay record time of 7:11.17 for the 30th straight year.
"It's an incredible sense of pride for our alumni, those that ran in that relay and the program in general. It's talked about at every alumni gathering and event," said Gondak. "Records are out there in an attempt to be broken but it has been 30 years and no one has broken this one. It's something that I know is in the back of our minds for our team to go out there and try to accomplish that."
Returning shot put champion, Hill knows very well the excitement that comes with big accomplishments but notes that the most important part is to focus on the now.
"You have to stay focused on the task. It goes on for a few days but the excitement about it helps you soak in the atmosphere and use [it] to your advantage. You have to be focused on the goal," said Hill. "I understand that it's a new year. I won last year, which was cool but it's a new feel and a lot of good competition so it's going to take a good day to repeat a championship. I'm prepared and that's the goal but I understand that it's going to take [a lot]. I can't underestimate anybody."
The most exciting weekend of the year begins Thursday, April 23 and lasts through Saturday, April 25th.
By Alex Shisler, GoPSUsports.com
MOST RECENT POSTS