Skip to main content Skip to footer

Recently in Track & Field Category


By: Jeff Smith,
- Five coaches from various parts of the world made the trip to Happy Valley this past week to work with the Penn State track and field coaching staff and student-athletes as a part of the ninth edition of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP).

The Nittany Lion track and field program hosted a group of coaches from the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) this past week. Throughout the week, the coaches were given the opportunity to be a part of the daily goings on in a major Division I track and field program, including campus and facility tours, round table discussions, and observation of practice sessions with the Penn State track and field coaching staff and Nittany Lion athletes. The ICECP program is run domestically through the University of Delaware, in conjunction with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Penn State track and field head coach John Gondak and his coaching staff hosted Boikie Gama a mid-distance/distance coach from South Africa, Justice Dipeba a sprints coach from Botswana, Makelesi Batimala a sprints coach from Fiji, Francis Manioru a sprints coach from Solomon Islands and Francisco Antonio Castellanos Garcia a sprints/hurdle coach from Guatemala for a week of experiences while sharing with them the track and field facilities, workout routines, coaching strategies, and sport science techniques. 

For Boikie Gama, this trip is an experience of a lifetime. "I dream track and field; I want to spend the final years of my life coaching track. It's all I want to do when I retire." Back in South Africa, Gama is the Ehlanzeni coordinator for cross-country as well as a computer application and technology teacher at EJ Singwane Secondary School in Pienaar. He lives in Msogwaba with his wife, Phumzile, two children Wendy and Siyabonga and his adopted daughter, Emmarancia. "I cannot wait to take the invaluable knowledge I learned here at (Penn State University) back home.  I have seen many athletes, whom I have coached, travel overseas but this is the first time I have made a trip myself. I hope we will be able to produce more international athletes in the years to come," Gama said.

The mission of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program is to provide national level coaches and those responsible for the development of the sport's national coaching structures in developing countries with a practical program orientated towards developing proficiency in the technical, theoretical, conceptual, managerial and ethical aspects of coaching basketball at all levels of competition. 

"I'm very thankful to the ICECP for continuing to give Penn State the opportunity to host these coaches; it's a week we look forward to every year.  I enjoy sharing our program and facilities with our visitors from overseas," said Gondak.

The six week program consists of two weeks of classroom sessions at the University of Delaware on subjects related to coaching methods, theory and management and sport sciences. One part is a week long apprenticeship with an NCAA Division I men's and/or women's track & field program that allows for a participant to shadow, observe and interact with the coaching staff of that program. Then the coaches travel to the USOC Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the penultimate part of the program. The fourth and final module will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland in April 2017. All told, the project spans a full academic year. The coaches will maintain a journal log on the experience and develop and implement a project when he returns to his home country. 

The apprenticeship is designed so that the participant gets an in-depth sport specific experience that enables the coach to develop their coaching skills, while also acquiring information that can be shared upon returning to their native country to grow the sport in the country. 

Penn State University has hosted international coaches as part of the ICECP program dating back to the fall of 2007. For more on the ICECP program, log on to


By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Dannielle Gibson has broken through this year with remarkable performances, but it's her competitive moxie that drives her for nothing short of greatness.


The junior jumper from the Bahamas has picked up right where she left off during the indoor season. Gibson earned triple jump victories in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Invitational and the Pepsi Invitational so far this outdoor season. She has used the indoor season as motivation to improve.


To wrap up the indoor season, Gibson finished a not too shabby tenth in the triple jump in this March's NCAA Indoor Championship with a leap of 42' 3.25" (12.88m). She displayed vast improvement from her sophomore to junior year. Gibson, a fiery competitor, still wasn't satisfied with her indoor finish and she has made it known that she wants to be one of the best collegiate triple jumpers in the country. Ultimately, Gibson wants to stand at the top of the podium when it's all said and done.


"Coming into the outdoor season, I had the goal of wanting to go undefeated," said Gibson.


Gibson doesn't settle for anything short of excellence on the jumping runway as she practices her craft with jumping coach Fritz Spence. Coach Spence and Gibson continuously work on technique and jumping phases to get winning results.


"It's all about competing, I have the physical skills but right now we're just working on my mental approach," said Gibson.


Gibson stands at eighth in the country and second among East athletes in the outdoor women's triple jump with a high mark of 42' 11" (13.08m). In the Nittany Lion record books, Gibson finds herself fourth all-time in the triple jump.  A list she looks forward to sometime sitting at the top of some day soon.


Among other factors that positively influence her performance on the jumping runway is her pride for Penn State. The balance of elite academics and athletics impacted her coming to Penn State. Her father Dwight thought Penn State was a perfect fit.


"I love it here, especially the family atmosphere and community and I've never been a part of anything like this before coming here," said Gibson.


Gibson and the Penn State track and field squad will compete this weekend when the team splits up for the Stanford Twilight in Stanford, California on Friday and the Bucknell Team Classic in Lewisburg, Pa. on Saturday.


The men's team comes into this weekend No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic region. They look to be hitting their stride after sharing co-champion honors with No. 2 Oregon in the Pepsi Invitational at the University of Oregon on April 9th.


Currently, Isaiah Harris (800m), Brannon Kidder (800m), and Brian Leap (triple jump) all have top-four marks in the country in their events. Leap earned Big Ten Men's Field Athlete of the Week last week with a personal best triple jump of 53' 4.5" (16.27m) in last weekend's Texas Invitational victory.

For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.


By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Frequently the person in charge of the behind the scenes work for an athletic team goes unnoticed.


It's a position that doesn't get much attention, but it's essential to any successful team. The director of operations position often flies under the radar until there's a hiccup of some sort.


In charge of making sure the i's are dotted and t's are crossed for the Nittany Lion track and field program is director of operations, Laura Loht.


"I gather all of the information we need to be successful on the road as far as being organized," said Loht.


You can find Loht doing a wide range of tasks depending on the day and season. She can be preparing travel arrangements for an upcoming away meet in her office, or pacing throughout the Multi-Sport Facility during a home indoor meet in order to ensure that all aspects of the meet are running smoothly.


During the outdoor season, she checks athletes in at the airport for road meets, while also making itineraries and shuttle schedules when planning for outdoor trips.


"Getting 60 to 70 people on the road is definitely a challenge," said Loht.


Loht, a former three-time All-American and current Penn State javelin school record holder, can't get enough of being around the track and field environment. She also doesn't want to walk away from her craft.


"I love javelin, I love throwing and just being around the sport," said Loht.


After graduation Loht knew she wanted to continue competing and thought remaining in Happy Valley would be best for her future. The people of Penn State and the passion they have mean a lot to Loht as she bleeds blue and white herself.


Shortly after graduation, Loht started working as the operations assistant within the program. She helped out the program in that position for six months until being hired full-time as the director of operations. Head coach John Gondak told Loht that the director of operations position is a "foot in the door" for a future coaching position.


"I want to get into coaching eventually," said the 2014 Penn State kinesiology graduate.


Alongside her operations duties, Loht is training for competition herself. Before getting into her office at the Multi-Sport Facility in the morning, she gets up early to complete her daily training sessions. Last weekend, Loht threw in the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Florida. Loht also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials and looks to give it another shot in a few months. She looks forward to another opportunity.


"Every year something special has happened in my career," said Loht.


Loht chose to go to Penn State for its top-ranked kinesiology program and didn't want to exactly be the top javelin athlete on the team coming in.


"I was going to come in as the number two girl and that's what I wanted. I wanted to be competing with someone, not just come in and be the 'big dog'," said Loht.


During her athletic career at Penn State, Loht and current senior Lauren Kenney were elite javelin throwers for the Nittany Lions.


"In my opinion, we were the best duo in the nation for a while," said Loht.


The duo of Loht and Kenney matched up against each other in high school before competing together for Penn State. Loht attended Indian Valley High School which is a little over 45 minutes away from Happy Valley and Kenney went to nearby State College Area High School.


From her time in high school, through Penn State and post-graduation, Loht has continued to do great things on the track, and she is hoping to continue that excellence in this role.


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.


By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the indoor season in the books, Penn State track and field kicks off its outdoor season this weekend.


The opening outdoor meets give Gondak and his staff an opportunity to see where the team stands and what to build on as they move along towards championship time. It will be an opportunity to see how the men's and women's teams stack up against solid track and field programs. Gondak has a strong contingent of returning athletes from last year's outdoor season. Penn State returns six 2015 NCAA outdoor qualifiers, three 2015 outdoor All-Americans, and a core group of strong veteran contributors.


"It's neat to watch the team compete for the first time," said head coach John Gondak.


The Nittany Lions will travel across country to Tempe, Arizona to compete Friday and Saturday in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Challenge hosted by Arizona State. Penn State is one of the four schools representing the Big Ten Conference in a competition against four schools representing the Pac-12 Conference. Conference versus conference scoring should make the meet unique as Penn State looks to display pride for the Big Ten.


The schedule of events varies a bit for the outdoor segment of the track and field season from the indoor segment. Instead of 17 events during a typical indoor meet it changes to 21 for outdoor meets. On the track, the dimensions of an outdoor track doubles to 400m after months of training on a 200m indoor track.


Additional outdoor specific events play into the hands of the Nittany Lions. Javelin throw, the steeplechase, the 100m, the 4x100m relays, and 10,000m are intriguing events to watch this weekend as athletes compete in them for the first time this year in actual competition


"I'm excited to see different events," said Gondak.


Gondak noted the Nittany Lions have six quality women javelin throwers who can compete well at the conference championship level. Each of those athletes have been training during the indoor season because there's no javelin event in indoor competition. Leader of the women's javelin group is senior multiple-time All-American Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.). Kenney missed last outdoor season due to injury but is ready to go for the Nittany Lions after months of training.


Senior Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) returns to compete in her signature steeplechase event. Gerlach earned a silver medal finish in last year's Big Ten Outdoor Championships.


Veteran distance runner Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and jumper Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.) give the Nittany Lions more depth in the outdoor season after competing unattached during the indoor season due to no indoor eligibility remaining.


Younger athletes will be important for the Nittany Lions as well. Sophomore All-Big Ten cross country athlete Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) is returning after missing the indoor season due to injury.


In the sprinting events, freshman Dan Chisena (Exton, Pa.), last year's PIAA Class AAA Outdoor 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay state champion lace up the spikes alongside fellow newcomer Anton Porter (Bronx, N.Y.).


For more on Nittany Lion track & field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.



By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Eight Penn State track and field athletes are competing in the final indoor meet of the season, the NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend.


The four Nittany Lions of Brannon Kidder, Alex Shisler, Rachel Fatherly and Tori Gerlach are making returns to the NCAA Championships. Four more athletes, Isaiah Harris, Jordan Makins, Tessa Barrett, and Dannielle Gibson are making their debuts in the NCAA Championships.


Here's how each of the Nittany Lion NCAA competitors earned their way to the NCAA Indoors:


On the men's side, USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Men's Track Athlete of the Year and senior leader Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) held the Penn State school record in the 800m before his teammate Harris broke it last week. Kidder has been instrumental in Harris's development as a young Nittany Lion mid-distance runner. In the 800m, Kidder ran a personal best 1:47.01 which was the best time in the country and school record at the time in the Penn State National. Kidder's versatility to compete in multiple events has been valuable for coach John Gondak and the Nittany Lions. Kidder won the Big Ten Indoor Championships in the mile last week with a time of 4:07.89 but will run the 800m event in the Indoor NCAAs.


Breakout freshman Isaiah Harris (Lewiston, Maine) has turned heads with his performances in his freshman indoor campaign. In last week's Big Ten Indoor Championships, Harris re-wrote the record books with a winning 800m performance of (1:46.24) in which he set a new all-time Big Ten indoor record, a Big Ten Indoor Championships record, a SPIRE institute facility record, a Penn State school record, and a personal best time.


The men's distance medley of sophomore Jordan Makins (Perth, Australia), senior Alex Shisler (State College, Pa.), Harris, and anchor leg Kidder has continued the long-time Penn State tradition in the DMR. In one of the fastest races of the year, the quartet won with a time of 9:27.20 in the Penn State National. The quartet is coming off of a victory in the Big Ten Indoor Championships last week. Senior Robert Rhodes (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and freshman Colin Abert (Easton, Pa.) are alternates for the DMR.


On the women's side, USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Women's Field Athlete of the Year and senior leader Rachel Fatherly (Williamsport, Pa.) led a strong Penn State women's throwing contingent led all year. USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Women's Assistant Coach of the Year Patrick Ebel has coached Fatherly to many excellent performances. Fatherly earned runner-up honors in the Big Ten Indoors with a shot put throw of 52' 11". Fatherly also finished fourth in the weight throw. She will compete in the shot put this weekend.


Senior captain Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) finished second in both of the 3,000m (9:12.88) and 5,000m (15:50.49) Big Ten Indoor events. Gerlach will be competing in the 5,000m run this weekend.


Redshirt-freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.) set a 5,000m school record time of 15:46.08 at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington in the later part of the indoor season. In the Big Ten Indoors, Barrett finished third in both of the 3,000m (9:16.49) and 5,000m events (15:51.56) behind fellow teammate Tori Gerlach.


Junior Dannielle Gibson (Nassau, Bahamas) finished second with a triple jump of 42' 11.75" in the Big Ten Indoor Championship. Early in the indoor season, Gibson set a personal best with a triple jump of 43' 1.5" in the Nittany Lion Challenge.


Here's how the Nittany Lions stack up against athletes around the country going into the NCAA Indoors:

Men's Athlete(s) Event Time/Distance NCAA Rank
Jordan Makins, Alex Shisler, Isaiah Harris, Brannon Kidder Men's Distance Medley 9:27.20 3rd
Isaiah Harris Men's 800m 1:46.24 4th
Brannon Kidder Men's 800m 1:47.01 8th

Women's Athlete(s) Event Time/Distance NCAA Rank
Rachel Fatherly Women's Shot Put 56' 8" 8th
Tessa Barrett 5,000m 15:46.08 9th
Tori Gerlach 5,000m 15:50.49 15th
Dannielle Gibson Triple Jump 43' 1.5" 15th

Friday and Saturday's competition both begin at 1 p.m. The meet will be broadcast live on the ESPN family of networks.

For more on Nittany Lion track & field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.




By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's all about the team aspect when the Penn State track and field program competes against other Big Ten institutions in the 2016 Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio this Friday and Saturday.


After months of preparation dating back to late August, head coach John Gondak and the Nittany Lions have reached a meet they've had circled on the calendar. The Nittany Lions feel like the six meet indoor regular season has them prepared and battle-tested for an opportunity to pursue both men's and women's team titles.


"This weekend is a weekend where we try to go have people win individual Big Ten championships as well as score as many points as we can as a team," said Gondak.


When individual athletes win their events it definitely helps the team strive towards winning a title, but Gondak believes there is an underlying factor to team championships.


"A championship isn't won by the people that win their meets, a championship is won by people that place in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth can get those extra points for your team," said Gondak.


Instead of competing for times and measurements in normal regular season meets, it's now essentially about beating the competition. Two athletes who have been setting quick times and beating most of their competition this year are senior Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) and junior Lexi Masterson (Jeannette, Pa.).


Kidder, one of the middle-distance runners on the No. 17 nationally ranked men's team, comes into this weekend with the fastest men's 800-meter time (1:47.01) in the Big Ten and fifth in the country. He's also the anchor leg on the Big Ten leading men's distance medley which is third nationally. For Kidder, the importance lies in the overall team's success this weekend.


"Big Tens is always a fun meet because it means a lot more when you're racing for the team and not just for yourself," said Kidder.


Masterson, the leader of the pole vault event group has broken the Penn State school record multiple times this year with her highest clearance of 13' 9.25" (4.20m).


"Coming into this week I'm expecting big things from my group. I'm just hoping to score well for the team," said Masterson.


Kidder and Masterson are just two athletes of a long list of standout Penn State athletes. Here are a few of the top Nittany Lion track and field athletes that are looking earn Penn State valuable individual points in the 2016 Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championship.


Athletes to watch on the men's team (TFRRS rankings coming into the weekend):




Big Ten Rank


Jordan Makins, Alex Shisler, Isaiah Harris, Brannon Kidder

Distance Medley Relay




Brannon Kidder





Isaiah Harris





Xavier Smith


6.68 seconds



Malik Moffett


21.02 seconds



Chisom Ifedi

High Jump

7' 1.5"



Athletes to watch on the women's team (TFRRS rankings coming into the weekend):




Big Ten Rank


Dannielle Gibson

Triple Jump

43' 1.5"



Tessa Barrett





Rachel Fatherly

Shot Put

56' 8"



Rachel Fatherly

Weight Throw

6' 3.25"



Tori Gerlach





Tori Gerlach





Quenee Dale

60m Hurdles

8.26 seconds



Lexi Masterson

Pole Vault

13' 9.25"



Elizabeth Chikotas






By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Brannon Kidder earned an opportunity to compete in the distinguished Millrose Games at The Armory in New York this Saturday as the rest of the Penn State track and field program competed at home in the Penn State Tune-Up.


The Lancaster, Ohio native ran against some of the finest 800-meter athletes in the world. In the 800-meter event, Kidder rallied from the middle of the pack and continued to move forward in the field. During the last lap, Kidder caught up to the leader Duane Solomon as they ran side-by-side to the finish line. Solomon, a 2012 Olympian edged out Kidder at the line by a smidgen of .07 seconds.


Second-place is never fun in any sport but Kidder was pleased with his performance. 


"Today was just about having fun and trying to compete. I competed but I couldn't quite get him. Overall good day though," said a cheerful Kidder after the race.


Kidder was joined in New York by head coach John Gondak. "It was a great effort and exactly what we were looking for; it was a great experience for him," said Gondak.


An experience like the Millrose Games for Kidder can be pivotal towards coming out on top in the all-important meets in the coming weeks. While Kidder competed at the Millrose Games, the rest of his Nittany Lion teammates were finishing up the Penn State Tune-Up meet at the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track.


Ten Penn State athletes took first-place finishes on the day across all event areas. In a fast field of 600-meter Penn State competitors, freshman Isaiah Harris (Lewiston, Maine) set a personal with a time of 1:17.50. His time was good for fourth-best in the country as of Saturday.


Another personal record went down as sophomore Obeng Marfo (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) took the victory in the women's shot put. Marfo threw 52'-1.75" (15.89m) to clinch the win. Senior Rachel Fatherly (Williamsport, PA) sat out of the shot put event in order to rest up for the Big Ten Championships but did earn first-place in the weight throw with a toss of 67'-3.25" (20.50m).


In the men's shot put event, junior Jon Yohman (New Wilmington, Pa.) bested his competition by over seven feet with a throw of 56'-8.75" (17.29m).


In the field events, junior Lexi Masterson (Jeannette, Pa.) dominated the pole vault event once again. Masterson cleared 13'-5.25" (4.10m) while junior Dannielle Gibson (Nassau, Bahamas) led a Nittany Lion contingent to win the women's long jump with a leap of 19'-4.75" (5.91m).


In the sprinting competition, freshman Lauren Costa (North Fayette Township, Pa.) recorded the fastest 60-meter time of 7.68 seconds. She missed her personal best by .01 seconds which she set in last weekend's Fastrack National Invite.


The Nittany Lions also found success in the long distance races. More personal records were broken by the two freshmen in Frances Bull (Mentor, Ohio) and Colin Abert (Easton, Pa.). Bull ran 1:32.75 in a women's 600-meter victory. Abert won the men's mile title with a 4:03.92 time.


In the longest race of the afternoon, graduate student John Dugan (Ramsey, N.J.) won the 5,000-meters. He completed the 25 lap race in a time of 15:07.13.

The indoor regular season slate came to an end this weekend. Penn State will compete next in the Big Ten Indoor Championships at the SPIRE Institute in Genera, Ohio starting Friday and wrapping up Sunday.


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.


By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field program is back in action at the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track this Saturday in the Penn State Tune-Up after last weekend's road competitions.


The Penn State Tune-Up marks the last meet before the Big Ten Indoor Championships next weekend and it's the last home meet of the indoor season. It's the last opportunity for Nittany Lion athletes to supplant themselves into the postseason with top performances and a chance to build confidence before the Big Ten and NCAA Indoor Championships.


"When you look at the performances that we've been this year as a program so far I'm very pleased our programs are rounding out well with all event areas, sprinters, jumpers, throwers, middle distance runners, and distance runners all having a phenomenal season so far, so I'm excited for the Big Ten Indoor Championships," said head coach John Gondak at spring sports media day.


With the postseason nearing, some of the top Penn State athletes will get a well-needed rest in order to prepare for the Big Ten Championships after having five meets in six weeks. Saturday is a chance for younger members of the team to show what they can do in competition.


Saturday's meet gets underway with the women's shot put starting at noon and the meet concludes with the women's 4x400-meter relay event.


The Nittany Lions will compete against athletes from Georgetown, West Virginia, Connecticut, Elon, Coppin State, Susquehanna, Messiah, Lebanon Valley, Dickinson, and Monroe College.


As for last weekend's results, several Penn State distance runners competed in the Husky Classic at the University of Washington. Redshirt-freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.) broke the 31-year-old school record in the 5,000-meters with a time of 15:46.08 in that meet. Barrett's time sits at seventh-best in the country and second among freshmen. Her record-breaking performance marked the seventh time a Penn State record has been broken this season.


Barrett's distance running teammate, senior Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) ran a personal best in the 3,000-meters with a time of 9:13.65 in the same meet.


The majority of the Nittany Lions competed in the Fastrack National Invite at the new Ocean Breeze indoor track in Staten Island, New York. Penn State was victorious in five events with wins in on the track, on the field, and in the throws last Saturday. Senior Rachel Fatherly (Williamsport, Pa.) continued her hot throwing to take two events for the Nittany Lions. Fatherly won the shot put with her best throw of 16.62m (54'-6.50") and won the weight throw with a season best toss of 20.42m (67'-0").


School recorder holder Lexi Masterson (Jeannette, Pa.) claimed the pole vault title. The junior's clearance of 4.20m (13'-9.50") earned herself the win for the second straight week.


Also in the field events, freshman Madeline Holmberg (Greensburg, Pa.) won the long jump with a season-best leap of 5.91m (19'-4.75").


On the track, school record holder Xavier Smith (Douglassville, Pa.) won the 60-meters final with a time of 6.80 seconds.


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

By Zach Reagan, 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).


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.


By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field won team titles in both the men's and women's competitions of the Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup, with strong performances from several Nittany Lions this weekend.


Penn State continued to dominate the Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup, which has been commonplace in the history of the event. The women led throughout both days of the competition while scoring 211 points. The men battled back from a day one deficit to earn the victory on day two with a total of 178 points.


"It was an outstanding competition. We had our first scored meet of the year. Obviously, it gives you a metric to see how you stack up against other teams when comes to team score," said head coach John Gondak.


The weekend's action was highlighted by performances from senior Rachel Fatherly (Williamsport, Pa.) who earned women's co-athlete of the meet. On day two, she won the women's shot put with a school record breaking throw of 17.20m. Fatherly had the school record in mind when she set her personal goals at the beginning of the season.


"On that first throw I told myself `stay down and relax' and then I hit it and I knew it was huge," said Fatherly. "I walked out of the circle I ran back to the measuring tape and it was over 17.20m so I knew it was a school record and I started jumping and screaming in excitement."


Fatherly's motivation for a big shot put throw came from a bit of dissatisfaction with her performance in the weight throw event the previous day despite winning the competition.


Sharing the women's co-athlete of the meet with Fatherly was junior Lexi Masterson (Jeannette, Pa.) who won the women's pole vault event while breaking the school record with a clearance of 4.20m. Masterson once again reset her own school record for the second time this season.


On the men's side, freshman Isaiah Harris (Lewiston, Maine) ran the fifth-quickest time in the country in the 800-meter event. Harris benefitted from Brannon Kidder's pace to set his personal best.


"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 today. I felt smooth and coach said I looked smooth so good day overall," said Harris.


Other men's event winners were sophomore Xavier Smith (men's 60-meters), senior Alex Shisler (men's 400-meters), sophomore Riley Gaibler (600-meters), freshman Chisom Ifedi (men's high jump), and sophomore Jon Yohman (men's shot put).


Other women's event winners were junior Tichina Rhodes (women's 400-meters), sophomore Quenee Dale (60-meter hurdles), women's 4x400 meter relay (junior Megan Osborne, freshman Frances Bull, sophomore Deja Davis, and junior Tichina Rhodes), senior Ahmenah Richardson (women's high jump), junior Dannielle Gibson (women's long jump), and senior Kaitlyn Lopez (women's triple jump).


On Sunday, Penn State track and field alum were welcomed back to Happy Valley. Former Penn State athlete Joe Kovacs, 2015 IAAF world champion in the shot put was honored to celebrate his outstanding achievement.


For the first time this indoor season, the Nittany Lions will be competing away from the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track this upcoming weekend. The team will split up with some Penn State athletes competing at the two-day Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington and some competing at the Fastrack National Invite in Staten Island, New York.


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.



  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago