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By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most success of teams is measured by their performances and placing at meets and competitions, but rarely anyone ever thinks of all the behind the scenes work that contributes to this success.


Penn State track and field's Director of Operations Coordinator, Laura Loht, is the person who makes sure all the details most don't think about are all taken care of before, during, and after traveling to meets.


"My job when we go on the road is literally get the team from point A, which is the indoor track, to point B, wherever we go," said Loht. "Bus trips are way easier than when we fly. It's somewhat a challenge when you're checking in 60-80 people with small pole vaulters carrying their poles and javelins in oversize at an airport that is packed on a Wednesday or Sunday morning."


"Getting home with traveling like a big team like that, we're rarely traveling out of State College. We're most likely bussing to Pittsburgh or Baltimore, which can be tough especially when you're coming home and you're getting to Baltimore at 9:30 at night and have to get everyone on the bus and positive," Loht said.  "Even though we're getting home at 1 a.m., making sure they get to class the next day."


Loht is a former Nittany Lion, where she earned All-American honors three times and still holds the javelin school record. Having all this track and field experience makes Loht's perfect for the role in operations.


"We just get there early and try to make sure everyone is staying relatively positive and whatnot.  If we're going somewhere that's warm, I usually take tents along. When we get there, I have to make sure that we coolers and fluids, so waters and Gatorades," said Loht, who also makes sure she has extra supplies incase any athletes forget something back home.  


Loht is the one of charge of creating the itineraries for the team and coaches, where she goes into greater detail about the travel information, meet schedule and dress code. She even includes some hydration tips from athletic trainer, Michael Gay, to make sure the athletes are staying hydrated as they travel to compete in warmer weather.


"Trust me during outdoors because we live in central PA, and it was snowing two weeks ago, we chase warm weather. They go from training in 30-degree weather to Arizona State where there's 70-degree weather," said Loht.


"It's a change, so our training staff does an awesome job of preparing the kids and telling them what they need to be doing as far as fueling their bodies in order for them to have the best day they can have when they step on the line or into the field."


Athletic trainer Michael Gay is heavily involved with the behind the scenes work as athletes prepare to do their best on meet day.


"Meet day is event preparation and then pre and post-event recovery. Depending on the day, a kid might have a time trial at the beginning of the day then there's some recovery time and then they have to compete again. That can involve maybe getting time for a meal in between or a hydration status or a soft tissue massage, so it's a lot about managing the between," said Gay.


With the different events that make up a track team, they all have different areas they must focus on to recover. Distance runners usually are more energy-based and require a lot of refueling and rehydration. Throwers use their max-effort upper body while sprinters create more damage from fast running.


"When a kid races, they create a lot of damage when they run. The whole idea is to try to manage that inflammation, manage the soft tissue, so they can give you maximize effort later. It's different for each kid," said Gay.


Most importantly, communication within the team, coaches, and staff is what makes the team run smoothly and successfully during competition weekends.


"A lot of it is communication. If something comes up, it changes the complexion of the meet. All of sudden a kid struggles in a 100 or something comes up, someone will have replaced them if they have other events. We have to stay on top of it and communicate with everybody and coordinate with all the athletes and coaches," said Gay. 


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "You don't really think about it," said head track and field coach John Gondak about the transition from indoor to outdoor season. "You just come in and you get your work done."


The Nittany Lion track and field team finished up their indoor season two weeks ago with the NCAA Indoor Championships and have been transitioning into outdoor season since. The team will be traveling to Arizona this upcoming weekend for their first outdoor meet of the season.


Although Penn State's outdoor track has been undergoing renovations since the fall, the transition to outdoor hasn't affected the team.


"We haven't really been on the outdoor track much through the fall because of the construction and so far this winter because of the weather. The weather looking on the calendar it looks like we have 60 degree days ahead of us so hopefully we'll be able to transition out there pretty soon, but we just do the best you can practicing inside," said Gondak. "When we get out to Arizona this weekend, we'll go out and compete and try to teach the student athletes to be the best competitor they can be under any situation and just let them compete and do the best they can do."


The outdoor season is an exciting changeover for the team. The season adds more events and gives injured athletes and athletes out of eligibility a chance to come back into action.


"We have a couple new events that come into play as we move outdoors, so it'll be exciting to see our athletes compete in those events and kind of get a baseline of where they are. The other thing as we move into outdoors is we have a handful of athletes that were either redshirted during the indoor season or that were out of eligibility," said Gondak. "We have two fifth year seniors that will come back into play outdoors that are both very talented, so I'm eager to see them get back on the track and compete after having not done so during indoor season for us in uniform."


The 400-meter hurdles are one of the events that will be added to the mix during outdoor. Junior hurdler Rachael DeCecco is ready to compete in her main event.


"The transition is a really exciting time especially as a 400-hurdler. We've been kind of on our backburners for the indoor season, not really doing our event, so we're pumped up and ready to start running the event that we came here to do," said DeCecco. "It'll be a little bit of a hard transition since we haven't been able to run outside yet, we've been working out just indoors so we haven't been able to do much of 400 hurdling, but our first meet will set a good tone for where we are in the season and know what we have to work on."


The Nittany Lions had successful indoor seasons on both the men's and women's sides and are looking forward to what they'll be able to accomplish this outdoor season.


"After coming off such a strong indoor season as a team, I think everyone's really excited to get started with outdoors," said junior captain Megan McCloskey. "It was a good few weeks, kind of a transition period and rest for everyone. Our people coming back from nationals are getting their feet back under them and everyone who just attended Big Tens is just ready to go this weekend and start off the season strong."


Coach Gondak has some starting goals this outdoor season, but wants to get a few meets underway before determining all the team can achieve this year.


"I usually like to get a few weeks into the season to really sit down and put some goals on paper. I like to see where everybody's fitness is and what they're all doing," he said. "We bring a variety of new events into the mix when you move to the outdoor season, so I want to see how our team competes over the next couple of weeks then we'll start to formulate some goals of what we think we can do as we head toward championship time."


The Nittany Lions will be in action for their first outdoor meet of the season this Friday and Saturday March 24th and 25th in Tempe, AZ at the PAC12-BIG10 Challenge. 


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men and women Penn State track and field teams are now more than ready than ever to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, TX on March 10th and 11th.


The men's team is coming off a second-place finish at the Indoor Big Ten Championships while the women captured the Big Ten title at the Spire Institute this past weekend.


These top finishes have brought the teams momentum going into nationals.  On the women's side, Penn State will be represented this weekend in four individual events and the Distance Medley Relay by six athletes, while the men will have five entries to the NCAA championships, including two athletes in individual events and its No. 4 NCAA and school record 4x400-meter relay.


"Obviously, it was a phenomenal weekend for both the men's and women's program at the Big Ten Championships," said head coach John Gondak. "Coming off of that, their motivation and adrenaline and excitement about heading into nationals is fantastic this week so far, so they are in a great spot. I'm looking forward to heading to Texas to give it our best next week."


The meet at Big Tens was filled with incredible performances on both the men's and women's side. Junior Malik Moffett broke the school record in the 200-meter dash twice over the weekend, once in the prelims on Friday and again in the finals on Saturday, earning him the bronze in the event.


"I feel pretty good. I've been chasing that record for a long, long time and it finally feels great to break it actually twice," said Moffett. "With nationals I feel like, I really don't get the opportunity to run against people that fast in the indoor season. Since I'm going, I feel like I can run even faster with them in my heat, so I'm looking very forward to it."


Senior Julie Kocjancic experienced her final Indoor Big Tens placing sixth in the mile and capturing the gold in the DMR. She will finish her indoor career being a part of the DMR at the NCAA Indoor Championships.


"There's a lot that I still want to accomplish, but it was definitely one of my favorite Big Tens. To pull off the win the way that we did and to just feel that the whole team competed and fought to get to where we were was a really good feeling," said Kocjancic. "I'm very excited going into nationals. I think that we haven't really raced our DMR against other fully stacked DMRs and haven't gotten to see what our full potential is, so I'm excited to get that opportunity and see how we do."


Sophomore Isaiah Harris defended his 800-meter title this year and contributed to the winning 4x4 team at the Indoor Big Ten Championships. He is using these wins as momentum as he prepares for the upcoming national meet.


"I was just happy because there were a few good guys there, so it means a lot to come back and defend and score the points for the team. I was really happy with that," said Harris. "This week we're just going hard again, like a normal week. Next week will probably be really light going into travel. We'll have an easy workout on Tuesday and an easy, steady run on Monday. Everything will be toned back a little bit, so we'll feel fresh when we get to Texas. I'm excited, mostly for the 4x4 really because I feel like no one really expected us to get there. We're going to be in the fast heat, so I'm really excited for that."


Harris knows that he's prepared for NCAAs, he says his coaches have trained them to peak during the most important times of the season.


"I trust Gondak and Tucker's training. They both know how to peak people at the right time, so like the same thing we are doing next week. We had an easier week the week before Big Tens, so you really feel fresh just taking a few days of easy running really helps your legs feel nice. I trust Gondak, he's done it multiple times in the past, he knows what he's doing."


Contributing to the second-place men's finish, Harris knows that the team is on the right track to a potential Big Ten title during the outdoor season.


"It feels really good because the program is moving in the right direction. We're really excited for outdoor since we're hosting it. Gondak is always saying you get like an extra twenty points just for hosting it, and we're getting a bunch of good people back that couldn't compete for indoor," said Harris.


"On the men's side, David Lucas is going to be in discus, which we didn't have in indoor, and we have Michael Shuey in the javelin, who has been a Big Ten champ. We have a lot of good returners. Michael Siagowski who is only a freshman, but he was injured in indoor, he can come back and make an impact right away. We're just really trying to focus on getting that Big Ten title, and now after that second-place title it really seems within our reach."


Harris, Moffett and Kocjancic will be joined at nationals by team members: Dan Chisena, Xavier Smith, Samuel Reiser, Tessa Barrett, Danae Rivers, Dannielle Gibson, Tichina Rhodes, and Rachel Banks.


The NCAA Indoor Championships will take place in College Station, TX on March 10th and 11th


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend marks the end of the Nittany Lions conference indoor track season as they head to Geneva, OH to compete in the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships.

 Some of the team has had their fair share of experience when it comes to this conference meet.

Senior sprinter, Alex Shisler knows his past experiences allow him to be ready to take on his last indoor Big Tens.

"I know what to expect. It's something I've been through, this is going to be my eighth Big Tens, so I know exactly what to expect," said Shisler. "I know what to expect when it comes to competition, I know how to run on that track, and I think all those things are going to benefit me greatly in terms of my competition."

This last shot at indoor Big Tens is leaving Shisler hopeful that the team comes out on top.

"Winning. I'm so excited to at least have that shot," he said.  "This meet is the one that we all look forward to. It's something we haven't done yet, so it's always fun to go in there, compete to the best of our ability and see if we can come out with a trophy." 

Returning to the meet this year is sophomore mid-distance runner, Isaiah Harris, who captured the 800-meter first place last year, running a Big Ten all-time indoor record time of 1:46.24. 

Harris is more secure going into the championships after taking the gold in it last year.

"I feel like going into this weekend I'm more confident based off what I did last year, so it's just a confidence thing. I'm not going to be nervous going into it."

 Although he won the open 800, Harris is more excited to run the DMR with his team.

"I'm excited about the DMR really because we've won it the past five years, but this year we aren't as strong as we have been in the past," said Harris. "Gondak just told me that I'm anchoring it now, so we're going to try I guess to pull an upset and try to keep the streak alive. I'm looking forward to that." 

Head coach John Gondak feels confident in Harris and his team after the Penn State Tune-Up last weekend. 

"Everybody is where you want them to be. A lot of the men that competed last weekend were using it as a workout meet so to speak, doing multiple events to kind of simulate what the conference championships is going to be like," said Gondak. "The women, we wanted to accomplish a few things and they are just very driven and focused right now on going and trying to make a run at winning the Big Ten title. They showed that with what they did in the DMR and with what a handful of other athletes did last weekend so they've got excellent energy right now." 

Gondak feels that all areas of the team are strong enough to contribute to a successful championship meet this weekend.

"The nice part about our program is that I think all areas are going to be the strength of our team. We work to really have a well-balanced program," said Gondak. "In most events, we have an opportunity to score. Obviously, in some events we have a little bit more of an opportunity than others based on our entries, but it's going to take everybody to be on their A game this weekend to have the results we want to have."

"I'm feeling really excited. I've asked the team week in and week out to just keep working to get better, and I think they've done that. I think they're really confident as we head on into the championships this weekend," he added. "They've been competing really well and we've stressed to them that this is just like any competition to them in terms of putting any undue pressure or stress on yourself and go have fun and compete and we'll hopefully have a good result." 

This Big Ten meet will serve as the last opportunity for qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Going into this weekend, the Nittany Lions have had seven NCAA-qualifying performances. The top 16 individuals and top 12 relays at the meet will qualify for the NCAA Championships that will be held in College Station, TX.

The Big Ten Indoor Championships is set to start at 10 a.m. on Friday and continuing into Saturday at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, OH.


12447010.jpegBy Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Indoor Big Ten Championships right around the corner, the Penn State Nittany Lion track team is tuning up this weekend as they host their final indoor meet of season.

The Penn State Tune-Up will be held this Saturday, Feb. 18th at the Horace Ashenfelter Indoor track. This will give the Nittany Lions one last shot to qualify for the Big Ten Championships that are held in Geneva, OH on Feb. 24th and 25th. 

"The tune-up meet is going to help our team reach the best of its abilities to enter the Big Ten meet with has much strength and momentum as possible," said junior hurdler Rachael DeCecco. "This meet will give those who still need a qualifying mark one last chance to get it and it will give others the opportunity to improve their marks to make them the most competitive at Big Tens. Good marks this weekend will give our team strong momentum going into the Big Ten meet to get after a team championship."

"The tune-up meet is crucial for several reasons," said senior multi Rob Cardina. "The first is that it's the last meet to sharpen and fine tune our skills before we compete at the big ten championships. Secondly, it's a smaller meet so the energy at the track will be lacking from the crowd. It's a great chance for us as a team to bring the energy ourselves and support one another. It's exemplifies the Spire Institute we compete in next week. We're excited." 

For some of the team, this smaller meet will feel more normal to them, taking the pressure off of competing at a higher energy meet with a lot of other schools. 

"Danae (Rivers) and Rachel Banks are running the 600 with me too, so I just think that it will be a great opportunity to chase her and be able to have a good team atmosphere," said sophomore hurdler Elyse Skerpon. "It will also feel just like practice because there won't be a ton of people there, allowing me to race more relaxed." 

Other members of the team are taking this meet off to help them rest up for the championships.

"I'm really excited for this weekend, particularly because I'm taking the week off. After competing five weekends in a row, I think that this is going to be really good for me in preparation for the Big Ten meet. Mentally and physically, it'll just give me a chance to relax and get myself in the Big Ten mode. It will also just give my body a break and let me rest for one weekend before we head out to Spire, so I can be really fresh there," said junior pole vaulter Hannah Mulhern. 

"There are a few people that are competing this weekend, and I'm really excited to see how it goes for them. It's called the tune-up meet so it's going to be good for a lot of people to fine tune in their event areas and just do whatever they need to do to be best prepared for the Big Ten meet."

 Going into this last home indoor meet, the team is set with high goals for the end of their indoor season.

"For the rest of the indoor season, a goal for our team is to win the Big Ten Championships. We have a lot of talent in all event groups so a team championship is within reach," said DeCecco."I think individually, everyone hopes to perform at the Big Ten meet better than they ever have. If everyone brings they're A-game, I think our women's team could be top contenders for a team championship." 

"As a team, both men and women are in a great spot to score high at Big Tens. We have all the key components from high scorers to point grabbers. Every point counts and we've been stressing that all year. I want nothing more than to bring home 2 trophies from that meet," said Cardina. "Personally, I want to score as many team points as possible for the men's squad. The ultimate goal is to win the very competitive men's heptathlon. It's been great working with Coach Kelly and all the guys and girls in his jump crew. It would be special to go out on top."


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Members of the Penn State track and field team will travel to compete in the Spire Invitational this weekend, which serves as a good trial run before the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

The championships will be held this year at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, and the Nittany Lions are heading that direction to get a feel for the environment and facility.    

"It's obviously a huge benefit to be able to get on a facility where you will have your championships. Our facility here is a 200-meter banked track and the Spire center is a 300-meter oversized track, so it's a little bit of a different than what our facility provides. For the field events, they want to feel the runway, they want to feel the ring, kind of get an idea of what it's like," said head coach John Gondak. "That's why we're going there, and hopefully it'll give us a boost as we go into Big Tens." 

"Competing at Spire will give our team a really good opportunity to get to experience the environment there," said junior pole vaulter Hannah Mulhern. "It's kind of a dead atmosphere, so it'll give us the chance to get in there and experience that and practice making a good atmosphere for ourselves."

Penn State hosts a lot of indoor meets at its own facility, so traveling to a different facility is a complete different process for the team to experience.  

"Getting to compete at Spire two weeks before the Big Ten Championships is definitely a big advantage for us. I know that we're very comfortable competing at home because we have such a nice facility and we're really lucky to compete there and having that atmosphere is very nice, but when we go to Spire we have to adjust to being on the road," said junior high jumper Megan McCloskey. "We have to get used to stuff like that, like Coach Gondak said before, when we're at Spire this weekend we get to take the opportunity to locate workout facilities, warmups, restrooms and stuff like that to plan and prepare rather than having to do that when we actually get there for Big Tens."

For some of the team, competing at Spire hasn't happened for some time, so getting to go there and experience the atmosphere will be a good step going into championship season.

"It's going to be nice going back down there," said junior jumper Bryce Williams. "Last time I competed there, it was freshman year. It'll be nice to get a feel how Spire competes and how the track feels and get used to competing there at a not less competitive meet, but in an easier feel before Big Tens. I hope to PR, I don't know how far that'll be. I'm just going to trust my training and listen to my coach and see what I can do when I go out and compete." 

This meet at Spire marks the down swing of the Nittany Lions indoor season. After this meet, the Nittany Lions will have one more home meet before they go back to Spire for the indoor championships. The team is setting high expectations when going into these last three meets.

"For the rest of our indoor season, first and foremost, I'm hoping to accomplish a Big Ten Indoor Championship as a team. I think that's really important," said McCloskey. "Since I've been here, we haven't accomplished that and we've always been really close and I think this year we have a really good squad of girls who are prepared and have been putting in a lot of work, which has definitely showed at the beginning of this season. Individually, I'm just hoping that I can continue improving with my heights and my ultimate goal would definitely would be to be on the podium when all is said and top three and Big Tens and if things go well hopefully I'll be going to the national championships."

"I just want to keep making strides in the right direction," said Mulhern. "I want to keep improving on myself and on my performances, so I can help the team out at the Big Ten championships. I hope by that time to be jumping well enough to score and hopefully get on the podium at Big Tens."

Along with going to Spire this weekend, some of the team is traveling to Seattle, WA, to compete in the Husky Classic. Coach Gondak is hoping both of these meets show improvement among the team.

"I just want us to keep getting better every week, and I think we've done that very well through the season," said Gondak. "I know we rested a lot of kids last weekend, so hopefully now that we've got everybody back into play this weekend we can continue to get better as a team. I think we have about 70 athletes competing this weekend so it's going to be a good last test as we go into championship time."

VIDEO: Lee & Rhodes Talk Black History Month

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  In the first of a three-part video series, Penn State women's volleyball student-athlete Simone Lee sits down with track and field student-athlete Tichina Rhodes to talk Black History Month and diversity throughout the entire Penn State Athletics community. 

Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its student-athletes and coaches who have helped shape Nittany Lion history. View more here.


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Isaiah Harris, Tessa Barrett and Danae Rivers currently all have NCAA leading times after the Penn State National Open this past weekend.  


Sophomore Isaiah Harris started the day off with a bang. Harris and Penn State alum, Casimir Loxsom ran a world record-breaking race in the 600m. Loxsom won the race with a time of 1:14.91. Not far behind, Harris came in second with a time of 1:14.96. Loxsom and Harris are now No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively.


"I felt really good throughout the whole race, even when I was done," said Harris. "I knew Cas was going to go out fast like we talked about what he was going to do before the race. I knew he was going to try to go out at 48, so I knew if I just stuck with him it would be a perfect race for me. So, I want to thank Cas for pulling me along."


Harris and Loxsom had already ran against each other at this past summer's Olympic trials, so they had formed a special bond on and off the track.


"We talked a lot, like we texted, talked on Twitter and stuff like that. We kept in contact, so he's like a friend now. It's pretty cool," said Harris. "We were at Oregon at the trials and he had dinner with us a few times and hung out with me and (Penn State alum Brannon) Kidder. It's cool having someone who can push you and be competitive with, but you're also friends with at the same time."


This world record-breaking race is just a start of what the rest of the season will be for Harris.


"I think it's a big confidence boost for what I can do in the future," said Harris. "It's really going to help me in the 800. When we go out fast in the 800, the first 600 I'm going to feel more comfortable knowing that I can run faster than that. It's going to help me overall and hopefully it can lead to a faster 800."


Harris' time is now the collegiate 600m record and currently No. 1 in the nation.


Also on the track, sophomore Tessa Barrett broke the 3,000-meter school record running a time of 9:07.22, which is also the top time in the nation.


"I'm so glad I had Tori (Gerlach) to help push me along," said Barrett. "It was really cool because the (5,000m) school record holder, Bridget Franek, was here today, so that was really cool. I didn't even know."


This school record and leading national time is just the beginning for the rest of Barrett's indoor season. This mark and her teammates will only push her to achieve more going forward.


"I think it was a good benchmark just to know that I could run that time. I think moving forward, just keep the ball rolling," said Barrett. "It's amazing having teammates like Danae and Isaiah and seeing them run amazing, it's just inspiring me to do more. I think we got a lot of energy right now so definitely just keep moving forward."


Along with those huge performances, freshman Danae Rivers is right there with her older teammates. Rivers is now 3-for-3 in school records. Rivers has broken the 600m school record, the 800m school record and now the mile school record consecutively in past three meets. Rivers' mile time of 4:34.87 is now No. 1 in the NCAA.


"I had a game plan from the get-go, so I knew to go out with Grace (Trucilla) who was rabbiting today. Stick with her then that last 800 just keeping going," said Rivers. "It feels amazing. I'm on my feet right now so that's pretty good. I'm a little sore, but I'm just glad I got it done and working with the coaches is very great."


Head coach John Gondak knew that Rivers would be a top performer after watching her throughout this past preseason.


"It's pretty amazing. As I said after the first two, she did some things this fall in training that made me think that this was a special athlete and she just continues to show it," said Gondak. "What's pretty amazing is that you go 3:18 for a 1200 last night, then 4:34 No. 1 time in the country for the mile, then back it up with a second PR in the 4x4 with a split of 53.6 It's just amazing range and she's got some great opportunities ahead of her to do some special things and she's got a great head, looking forward to seeing where things go with her."


Gondak is more than pleased with the performances on and off the track that happened at the Penn State National Open.


"It got started with a bang with a world record, which was thrilling. Cas Lozsom came back and was shooting for that world record, and pulled Isaiah Harris to a collegiate record and the No. 1 and No. 2 times ever in the world. It was an exciting start," said Gondak. "The meet today produced a lot of Big Ten No. 1 performances and a lot of No. 1 NCAA performances. Across all of the events, it was just a fantastic National Open and I'm thankful for the teams that came here and made it a great experience."

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 


Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

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By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior two-time Big Ten Champion Tori Gerlach thought her career as a Penn State runner was ending last year, but things quickly changed.

Gerlach had competed in four indoor meets during the 2016 indoor season and intended on running and competing during the 2016 outdoor season as well. Then, she got injured and couldn't compete at all for what was supposed to be her last outdoor season.

After carefully considering her options, Gerlach decided to come back for a fifth year at Penn State. Now, she knows this spring will be her very last time competing as a Nittany Lion.

"I'm excited, but I also thought I was done last year until all of a sudden, with two months to go, I had to change my plan entirely because I got injured," said Gerlach. "I'm really excited although it's kind of bittersweet, knowing it's coming to an end, but I feel like it's going to be the best season I've ever had." 

Gerlach only has outdoor eligibility left, so she has spent this year's cross country and indoor seasons training for the upcoming season. 

Although she isn't running for Penn State right now, she still gets to compete unattached in indoor home meets in order to be as prepared as possible for meets coming up this March.

"The training is still intense. I'm doing the same exact things; I just don't have that many races to prepare for," said Gerlach. "In cross country, I just trained for everything. I didn't have to cut back in mileage because I was racing. It was emotionally not as intense, which is really nice." 

"Her training really doesn't differ that much than if she were competing in the indoor season," said head coach John Gondak. "She still is running in multiple races unattached and is training with the team. I wish the outdoor season would start tomorrow in respect to her, she's ready for it." 

"She's a multiple Big Ten champion and will be a great asset to our team this outdoor season as we prepare to win a Big Ten Championship at home."

Having this chance to run at the indoor home meets unattached allows for Gerlach to get back in the racing mindset, so she isn't completely starting over this outdoor season.

"I am racing at home, and it definitely feels like I'm getting back into it," said Gerlach. "It's not as intense and I don't have to spend my energy worrying about (indoor) Big Tens and Nationals, I can just workout with my teammates, race with my teammates and know in the back of my mind that outdoor is the main focus." 

Gerlach has been a huge part of this Penn State track and field program since she came in as a freshman in 2012.

She currently has the number one all-time indoor performances in the mile and the 1,000-meter run with times of 4:37.83 and 2:43.15, respectively. She also has the second all-time indoor performance in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:50.49 and the second all-time outdoor performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:53.98. 

Gerlach is also a two-time Big Ten indoor champion where she won the 3,000-meter run in 2014 and then later won the 5,000-meter run in 2015. 

Although track has been successful and a major part of Gerlach's college years, she says the whole student-athlete experience has impacted her life in more ways than just running. 

"Being an athlete isn't all about the running and racing, it definitely has shaped me into who I am as a human being in general."   

Gerlach and the rest of the Nittany Lions will kick off their 2017 outdoor season with the Pac-12-Big Ten Challenge in Tempe, Arizona on March 24th.


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