By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Several freshmen within the Penn State track and field program have transitioned from high school track and field to the collegiate level quite smoothly thus far this indoor season.
Head coach John Gondak is filled with hope as the indoor season moves towards the postseason and the start of the outdoor season nears.
"I'm really excited about the depth we have now," said Gondak at spring sports media day.
Some of the depth that Gondak praises is a product of the newcomers and redshirt-freshmen. The freshmen are a special group of athletes that have the will to get better instead of becoming complacent with just being on the team. They're a group of competitors at the least and it has shown so far. According to Track & Field Results Reporting System (TFRRS), on Penn State's team, nine top event marks on the team have been recorded by freshmen.
One of those top marks is held by freshman Isaiah Harris (Lewiston, Maine) in the 600-meter event. His time of 1:17.74 is the seventh best time in the country. He has shown versatility in multiple mid-distance events. Harris earned Big Ten Co-Men's Track Athlete of the Week honors this week with an outstanding performance in the 800-meter event in last weekend's Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup.
"Coach set it up with (Brannon) Kidder pacing the field through 600-meters and Kidder went through 600-meters perfect. I knew I had it in me I just had to get the pacing right and everything went perfect," said Harris.
"In his fourth meet (last weekend), he ran 1:47.31 for the 800-meters which is currently ranked fifth in the country so I'm very pleased with Isaiah and his development and coming in and contributing right away," said Gondak.
Two other freshman have top times on the men's side in Colin Abert (Easton, Pa.) and Chisom Ifedi (Columbus, Ohio). Albert holds the second-best time in the country in the 1,500-meter run in 3:48.15, while Ifedi is the top freshman high jumper in the country with a height of 7' 1.5".
On the women's side a few freshman are standing out to Coach Grondak in Keianna Albury (Nassau, Bahamas) in the sprints and Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.) in the longer distances.
"Keianna Albury is someone who comes in with some great performances and is going to be a big difference for us along with some others," said Gondak.
"Tessa Barrett sat out all last year and this is her freshman season on the track and she's PR'd in the mile and PR'd in the 3000-meters was an All-American in cross country this past fall helping lead our team to a 16th-place finish. She's going to be a significant contributor freshman wise on the track, he added.
For the first time this season, Penn State's freshmen athletes will be competing away from the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track, which will be a different experience for the young athletes. "It's nice to be able to be sleeping in your own bed at night and get up and get the performances out of the way," said team captain and senior distance runner Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.).
Coach Gondak hinted on another difference aspect of road competition. "It's very nice to be at home, you can kind of control the competitions and enter people and get them in where you believe they're ready to compete whereas when you get on the road sometimes you're at the mercy of their meet director and them putting the competition together," he said.
The Nittany Lions split up this weekend with about half of the team going to compete in the one-day Fastrack National Invite in Staten Island, New York and a selected group of athletes competing in the two-day Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington.
Selected distance athletes competing in the Husky Classic are senior Tori Gerlach (3,000-meter run), sophomore Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.) (5,000-meter run), redshirt-freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.) (5,000-meter run), sophomore Timothy McGowan (Northport, N.Y.) (3,000-meter run), senior Glenn Burkhardt (Kennett Square, Pa.), and sophomore Ean DiSilvio (Pittsburgh, Pa.) (5,000-meter run).
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