By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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
So, to say his move from Douglasville to Happy Valley was intimidating is
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
"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."
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
"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
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
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
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.