By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With both the Penn State men's and women's track and field teams ranked in the top-25, the Nittany Lions look to keep using their depth as an advantage in this weekend's Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup.
According to this week's United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's (USTFCCCA) National Computer Rankings, the men's side held the No. 21 ranking and the women made their debut in the top-25 by checking in at No. 25.
"Both teams being ranked really shows the depth that we have for both the men's and women's teams. If I sat here and listed everybody, I'd be talking about 50 people which shows the depth that we have this year," said head coach John Gondak.
Gondak noted the overall solid performances across the board in the sprints, mid-distance, women's pole vault, women's long and triple jump, women's shot put and weight throw.
"Our national level kids are really doing a great job and some of our developmental kids are really coming into their own and producing at a high level," said Gondak.
Record-breaking performances from seniors Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) and Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) have led to several recent accolades. This week, Kidder earned USTFCCCA Division I Athlete of the Week and Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors with his phenomenal performances in the 800-meter event and in Penn State's distance medley relay as the anchor leg during last week's Penn State National.
In the 800-meters, Kidder competed against one of the strongest fields of the weekend and won with a time of 1:47.01. The time is third in the NCAA and first in the Big Ten. During the distance medley relay (DMR), Kidder used a strong kick to come from behind to beat Stanford's Sean McGorty. Kidder split 3:55, which helped Penn State not only win the race, but move up to fourth on the all-time collegiate list.
Kidder was also named to The Bowerman Men's Watch List. He's the first Nittany Lion athlete to ever be named to the list. The Bowerman names the most outstanding male and female collegiate track & field athletes in the nation.
Also this week, Gerlach was nominated as a Big Ten Athlete of the Week for breaking the school record in the mile with a time of 4:37.83 during the Penn State National. She won the race easily by more than seven seconds. The Penn State women's mile record was previously held by 2012 Olympian Bridget Franek. Gerlach's time currently ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 7 in the NCAA.
As for this weekend's meet, the Nittany Lions are competing in the annual Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup on Friday and Saturday. The pentathlon starts Friday at 1:30 p.m. and the track and field events start at 5 p.m. Saturday's portion of the competition starts with field events at 11 a.m. and track events at noon.
It's the first scored team competition of the year for the Nittany Lions. Among competition with eight schools, Penn State will get a chance to see where they stand in team scored events which can help the Nittany Lions get a preview for team postseason competitions further down the road.
The Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup marks the fourth of five home meets of Penn State's 2016 indoor season schedule. The Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup is named after the late "Dutch" Sykes and the late Dr. Ralph Sabock who were two long-time Penn State track and field officials. The event is in honor of their dedicated love for Penn State track and field and to the students of Penn State University.
Sykes and Sabock each served for over 30 years as Penn State track and field and cross country officials working as clerks of the course, starters and finish judges. They officiated NCAA Championships, all regular season meets, Special Olympics, and physically challenged events. Sykes was Intramural Director and Sabock was a professor in the Department of Kinesiology during their Penn State tenures. Sykes was impactful on the planning and construction of the original Intramural Building. Sabock was the author of the internationally known book "Coaching: A Realistic Perspective," currently in its tenth edition which is used at Penn State and in college coaching courses globally.
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