Skip to main content Skip to footer

Recently in Track & Field Category

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field program is nearing the official start of its indoor season. caught up with senior distance runner Tori Gerlach and senior mid-distance runner Brannon Kidder to get a preview of this year's athletes.

Members of the women's cross country team look to transition their success onto the track in the distance events after claiming both the Big Ten and Mid-Atlantic Regional championships this past fall. It was a memorable season for the Nittany Lions, as they were ranked as high as No. 9 in the country. Penn State went on to advance to the NCAA Cross Country Championships for the sixth-time in the last seven years.

Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.), who leads the distance group, believes the group had a strong fall and looks forward to the indoor season. "It's really nice that now a lot of distance girls can run together," said Gerlach. Gerlach qualified for the 2015 NCAA East Prelims in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meter run where she posted personal-best performances in both events to advance to the last season's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Other members of the strong women's distance group include sophomore Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.), sophomore Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.), and freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.). Chikotas earned her way to in the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA East Prelims. Barrett is coming off the an impressive 38th place finish at the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships where she earned All-American honors. The performance was the best Nittany Lion finish since 2011.

For the men, Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) leads the middle distance group. There's a solid mix of veteran runners and talented young runners, according to Kidder. "It's been a good fall for us, we've got a lot of solid strength work in," said Kidder.

Kidder recorded a runner-up finish in the 800-meter run at last season's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships which earned him first team All-American honors.

Senior Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), senior Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.), junior Conner Quinn (Horsham, Pa.), and freshman Colin Abert (Easton, Pa.) are other standouts for the men's side this year. Creese placed 13th in the 1,500-meter run at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships which earned him second team All-American honors.

Both Gerlach and Kidder stressed it is important for the team to continuing to train through the winter break in order to be in prime condition. With some fine tuning after the break, the Nittany Lions will be ready to put their offseason training to the test in the opening Penn State Relays on Jan. 9th.

For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field preseason training is officially underway and the program is nearing the start of its indoor season. caught up with jumps and multi-events coaches Fritz Spence and Kevin Kelly to get a preview of this year's athletes.


Coach Spence enters his tenth campaign with the Nittany Lion track and field program, and is looking forward to seeing the women's jumps and multi-events groups doing well. "All of the event disciplines have been very successful in training and in the weight room," said Spence.


The Nittany Lion have returning women athletes in the high jump and triple jump events, and have added some freshmen to round out the group. Notable women jumpers and multi-event athletes under Spence's tutelage are senior Ahmenah Richardson (Philadelphia, Pa.), juniors Dannielle Gibson (Nassau, Bahamas), Tal Ben-Artiz (Kibbutz Gazit, Israel) and freshman Madeline Holmberg (Greensburg, Pa.).


The veteran Richardson qualified for the NCAA East prelims in the high jump in the last outdoor season. She looks to lead the jumping group this season and improve on a personal best in the high jump of 5-11.25 feet which put her into a tie for second in the all-time Penn State record books. Gibson qualified for the NCAA East Prelims in the long jump and the triple jump in the last outdoor season after solid performances at the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in both events.


The versatile Ben-Artiz competes in the pentathlon and heptathlon events for the team. She set a pentathlon personal-best at the 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships with a score of 3,861 points and a heptathlon personal-best at the heptathlon with a score of 4,937 points.


Holmberg is ready to make an impact after an impressive high school career in which she was a four-time PIAA state champion (2013: 4x100 relay, 2014: long jump, 300-meter hurdles, 4x100-meter relay) and 2014 PIAA Women's Track Athlete of the Year.


Coach Kelly in his fourth year at Penn State believes that the group he coaches is formidable in all areas. "For the first time since I've been here, we have strength in all event areas that I coach," said Kelly. Also, several athletes have the ability to compete in multiple events.


The Nittany Lions have depth at pole vault according to Kelly. There are five female pole-vaulters in junior and NCAA East Prelims qualifier Lexi Masterson (Jeannette, Pa.), junior Kasey Kemp (Irwin, Pa.), junior Erin Knabe (Voorhees, N.J.), sophomore Hannah Mulhern (Altoona, Pa.) and freshman Megan Fry (State College, Pa.).


As for the men, senior pole-vaulters Dylan Bilka (Seven Fields, Pa.) and Patrick Anderson (Kane, Pa.) are veteran leaders looking to contribute for the Nittany Lions.


As for the jumps, senior Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.) finished second in the triple jump with a personal-best leap of 52-6.75 feet at the Big Ten Indoor Championships last year and earned second team All-American honors at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships.


Sophomore Bryce Williams (State College, Pa.), who qualified for the 2015 NCAA East Prelims during the outdoor season in the triple jump, "has just looked beyond what he looked like at any point last year," said Kelly.


Senior Robert Cardina (Lancaster, Pa.) returns this season for the Nittany Lions. At the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Cardina earned first team All-America honors as he placed eighth with his lifetime-best score of 7,666 points. That score made him the first Penn State student-athlete to be named an All-American in the decathlon since 1998. It was also the highest Penn State finish in the decathlon at the NCAA Championships since Dave Masgay placed seventh in 1987.  


The Nittany Lions have talented multi-event freshmen athletes in Luke Rarig (Catawissa, Pa.) and Alex McCord (Lititz, Pa.). Rarig was a five-time PIAA State medal winner and 2015 PIAA 110-meter hurdle state champion


Coach Kelly said that the high jump has been a strength of the program for years. Freshmen Devin Bradham (Williamstown, N.J.) and Chisom Ifedi (Columbus, Ohio) look to keep that tradition going throughout their Penn State careers. Both freshmen have been pleasant surprises according to Kelly. Bradham was a three-time New Jersey state champion in the high jump and Ifedi was a gold medalist at the 2014 USA Track & Field Junior Championships in the high jump. Junior Malik Moffett (Erie, Pa.) looks to give the Nittany Lions a boost at high and long jump as well.


Penn State track and field athletes are continuing to train and prepare for the first official competition of the season next Saturday. The indoor season kicks off with the annual intrasquad Blue-White Meet on Dec. 12. Following the Blue-White Meet, is the opening home Penn State Relays on Jan. 9.


For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.  



By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field preseason training is officially underway and the program is nearing the start of its indoor season. caught up with throws coach Patrick Ebel to get a preview of this year's athletes.

Ebel enters his fourth season with high expectations for the Nittany Lion throwing group. He's coached numerous athletes who have notched phenomenal throwing performances while winning titles and breaking records in his first three years at Penn State. Ebel had the pleasure of coaching Penn State great, and now professional thrower, Darrell Hill (Philadelphia, Pa.), who graduated last year after a remarkable throwing career in which he capped it off with a second place finish in the shot put at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a throw of 66 feet, 8.25 inches

Not having Hill competing will be different for the Nittany Lions, but he's left an impact beyond what he's done in the shot put circle. Coach Ebel mentioned that when Hill threw for Penn State he gave advice to the younger throwers on how to throw in big events. Even though Hill won't be suiting up in the blue and white this year, he can still be found at the Multi-Sport Facility working on his craft. The throwers that Hill has impacted look to follow up on his career with success of their own.

This year's throwing contingent has depth with a combined total of 22 throwers between the men and women. The group of women throwers returns three of its top performers in the shot put, weight throw, hammer, and discus events. For the women, senior Rachel Fatherly (Williamsport, Pa.), sophomore Obeng Marfo (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), and junior Alyssa Robinson (Saint Clairesville, Ohio) were all Big Ten place winners last year and look to build upon those accomplishments this season. Coach Ebel expects big things from all three throwers.

Fatherly went on to qualify for the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in shot put last season. She finished 10th at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a throw of 54 feet, 8.25 inches.

The men's side is made up of many underclassmen throwers. Ebel said the group largely consists of incoming freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and sophomores. There are two seniors on the men's side, one of those throwers is Michael Shuey (Johnsonburg, Pa.). Shuey is looking to repeat once again after winning the Big Ten outdoor javelin title the last two seasons with throws of 236 feet, 8 inches in 2014 and 236 feet, 2 inches in 2013. He also won the Big Ten outdoor competition in 2013 by over 26 feet. Coach Ebel expects a fair share of men throwers to represent Penn State at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships.

Both the men and the women throwers are continuing to train and prepare for the first official competition of the season in a few weeks. The indoor season kicks off with the annual intrasquad Blue-White Meet on Dec. 12. Following the Blue-White Meet, is the opening home Penn State Relays on Jan. 9.

For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit www. or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.  

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field preseason training is officially underway and the program is nearing the start of its indoor season. caught up with first-year sprints, hurdles, and relays coach Erin Tucker to get a preview of this year's athletes.

Tucker brings a wealth of experience and success to the Penn State program. He's been a part of three national championships at Florida in recent years, and has coached several student-athletes that have competed at the Olympics. He looks to keep the winning tradition going with the Nittany Lions during this year's indoor and outdoor seasons.

Tucker's sprinting groups are filled with many young athletes looking to contribute and build off of what they accomplished last season. On the men's side, there is more depth than last year. There are nine sprinting athletes in comparison to last season's total of just four athletes. "The fact that we have nine, we've already moved a little bit up the ladder and stepped up the curve so to speak," said Tucker.

For the men, local senior Alex Shisler (State College, Pa.) is coming off an All-American indoor season in the distance medley relay last season. Tucker looks for Shisler and freshman Sam Reiser (Melbourne, Australia) to have solid years in the 400-meter dash event. Reiser won three national gold medals for Team Australia at the World Junior Championships in his high school career.

Returning sophomore short sprinter Xavier Smith (Douglassville, Pa.) looks to improve upon an impressive 2015 track season. "He's shocked a lot of people this year in how he's progressing this fall," said Tucker.

As for impact freshmen athletes, freshman Cody Minnig (Levittown, Pa.) looks to switch over from long jumping to contribute for the short sprinting group.  Anton Porter (Bronx, N.Y.) also looks to contribute in the short sprinting events, and David Marrington (Langhorne, Pa.) looks to run well in the outdoor hurdles.

The women's side is made up of a lot of young athletes. "We have a number of young ladies that were here last year that got an opportunity 'to get their feet wet' (in the Big Tens and the NCAAs)," said Tucker.

For the women, juniors Tichina Rhodes (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Megan Osborne (Chillicothe, Ohio) both ran on the 4x400-meter relay that qualified for nationals last season. They know what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level, according to coach Tucker. Remarkably, Rhodes had a lot of success in the 400-meter dash last season without the use of blocks. Coach Tucker said she's been working on her block mechanics to build upon what she accomplished last year.

Sophomore Quenee Dale (Ypsilanti, Mich.) looks to improve on her freshman year in the short sprints, hurdles, and relay events. Coach Tucker is extremely excited to see what freshman Keianna Albury (Nassau, Bahamas) can do this season as she brings great size, strength, and ability to the team. Albury won the 200-meter dash at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships. "Her potential is limitless," said Tucker.

Freshman Lauren Costa looks to contribute for the relay events. She has been a great teammate by helping her teammates out at practice.

Both the men and the women sprinters are continuing to train and prepare for the first official competition of the season in less than a month. The indoor season kicks off with the annual intrasquad Blue-White Meet on Dec. 12th. Following the Blue-White Meet, is the opening home Penn State Relays on Jan. 9th.

For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.  


By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - To coach cross country and track and field, it takes a special individual that has passion for the craft of running and the internal drive to get the most out of their student-athletes. Just a few months into her Nittany Lion coaching career, Angela Reckart has already left an impact on the State program.


Reckart commonly referred to as "Coach Reck" by student-athletes and staff is not new to the coaching ranks. She previously served as an assistant at the University of North Carolina before making the move to join Penn State head coach John Gondak's staff. In Reckart's time at North Carolina, she coached the cross country and track and field teams to historic seasons for the program. She's looking to bring that same continued success to Penn State.


The high-energy distance coach is a 2008 graduate of the College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and a former standout track athlete herself. During her time at TCNJ, she was a member of the track and field team and posted All-America honors seven times. She was a member of two national championship 4x400-meter relays. After her collegiate running career concluded, she started coaching at TCNJ by helping with the middle distance program. Then, she moved on to be a graduate assistant and volunteer coach at North Florida before her stay at North Carolina.


She combines her athletic experiences, her exercise science background and personable personality to coach up the Nittany Lion runners. Reckart's easy-going personality makes it easier for the team to connect with her.


Hailing from New Jersey, Reckart has always thought highly of Penn State and about how special it would be to coach at Penn State. Now that she earned the opportunity, she has shown that she is loving every second of it. Reckart has taken to social media on many occasions to display her Penn State passion and pride. Here are a few of her tweets since she's been on campus since July. 


Coach Gondak and Reckart have lead the cross country program to an impressive 2015 campaign. Both the men's and women's sides have worked hard at practice during the off-season and in-season to achieve this success. The women's team has been nationally ranked all season and is currently No. 15 in the USTFCCCA rankings.


Coming up for the Nittany Lions...


The Nittany Lions are preparing for post-season competition, which begins with the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, November 1 in Chicago.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Six coaches from various parts of the world made the trip to Penn State last week to work with the Penn State track and field coaching staff and student-athletes as a part of the eighth edition of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP).

The ICECP is a six-week intensive coaches' education program broken into four modules that provides coaches from around the world an opportunity to attend lectures and presentations while participating in hands-on coaching work in the United States for the benefit of their education and career.

Penn State head track and field coach John Gondak and his coaching staff hosted Emanuela Aparecida Santana Coito (Brazil), Leyhor Tolud (Suriname), Josephine Mary Singarayar (Malaysia), Rashid Burnashev (Uzbekistan), Nedim Covic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Niuone Eliuta (Tuvalu) for a week of experiences while sharing with them the track and field facilities, workout routines, coaching strategies, sport science and introducing them to Penn State student-athletes.

The visit with the Penn State track and field program was a part of the ICECP's second module relating to sport-specific apprenticeship that allowed participants to observe and interact with coaches from National Governing Bodies (NGBs), university athletic teams or elite sport clubs in each of their respective sports.

Coach Gondak gave the coaches the opportunity to do hands-on track and field work focusing on the specific disciplines of sprints, mid-distance and jumps. Gondak's experience with the coaches allowed the coaches to participate in activities different from normal ICECP lectures and presentation trainings.

"I'm very thankful to the ICECP because they give us the opportunity to come and explore Penn State," said Singarayar, a sprinting specialist from Malaysia and Malaysian women's 800 meter record holder.

Singarayar noted that she definitely learned a lot from the Penn State coaches. Most importantly she would llike to take the sports science aspects back to her country to try out. She also marveled at the Penn State track and field program's way of doing things. "The system they are brought up on is amazing to see," the former track standout said.

The student-athletes impressed Singarayar as well. "They (the student-athletes) are very confident, very self-motivated and very independent. What I mean is they come, they know what they have to do, they warm up and the coaches are there ready to give them the workout. The moment they are finished they are back to their own life," she said.

Gondak and the Penn State track and field coaching staff took some time a break from the program to have some fun as they headed over to the Pegula Ice Arena to ice skate. This was the first time some of the coaches ever ice skated. "I liked it. It was very funny and it was my first time," said Aparecida Santana Coito, a youth coach from Brazil focused on physical education.

Not only is the program fun and valuable for the coaches, it remains very important to the Penn State track and field program. "Over the years, the staff has been incredible ambassadors for the US Olympic Community, their sport, Penn State and the United States. They have demonstrated all that is good about sport in the US. They have not only shared with the coaches, but they have embraced the experience so that the Penn State coaching staff and student athletes have benefitted. Penn State track and field has contributed to making the world a better place through sport and I thank them," said the Dr. Matthew J. Robinson, Professor of Sport Management University of Delaware and Director of the ICECP.

"The Penn State University track and field program's contribution to the success of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) over the past eight years cannot be quantified. In the early stages of the program Coach Gondak and Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan helped us define the apprenticeship experience, which is an essential part of the six week experience," said Robinson.

The ICECP is in conjunction with the United States Olympic Committee, the University of Delaware and the International Olympic Committee, the International Coaching Enrichment Certification Program which aims at assisting national-level coaches in developing proficiency in the areas of sport sciences, talent identification, athlete development, safe sport, coaching education, coaching management and grassroots sport development, according to the ICECP's website.

The intended outcome is for ICECP participants to return to their countries and serve as coaches within their respective sports, while becoming foundation builders for future coaches and athletes and spreading Olympic spirit.

This year's ICECP features coaches representing five continents, 34 countries and 14 sports. Through the first seven years of the program, the ICECP has reached 198 participants from 23 sports and 87 countries. Last year's segment at Penn State included four coaches from around the globe.

Before Penn State, the visited the University of Delaware for part of the program. As the experience finished up at Penn State, the group of coaches from the ICECP class of 2015 will travel to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado for the third module then lastly to the International Olympic Committee's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland for the last module of the program.

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the spring of 1985, Penn State track and field student-athletes Vince Watson, Steve Shisler, Chris Mills, and Randy Moore ran the fastest 4x800-meter relay of their career finishing in seven minutes, 11.17 seconds - a Penn Relays Carnival and Penn State University record-breaking time.

In the spring of 2015, the relay record celebrated its 30th anniversary and Steve Shisler, now coach at State College High School, celebrated by watching his son, Alex, run on the winning Championship of America Sprint Medley Relay.

"We knew [we ran] a good time [in the 4x800-meter relay] when we were in it and we all had the sense that it would last for a while. It's a special achievement," said Shisler. "But the best part about that weekend is that Alex was a part of a Championship of America sprint relay. It was a great thing to see."

Junior Alex Shisler is a sprinter for Penn State track and field and it was at his first Penn Relays in the 10th grade, when he decided that he would uphold the Penn State tradition in his family and eventually become a Nittany Lion.

"My parents loved going [to Penn State] but [they] wanted me to go wherever I wanted to go," said Alex. "Since sophomore year of high school I knew I was going to run collegiately and in my mind I had it made up that I was going to go to Penn State. Both of my parents ran here and are on the school records here and I wanted to carry on that legacy."

Alex is a sprinter while his parents were middle-distance runner but, nonetheless, the pride of being a Penn Stater allows for a strong family bond and a supportive, understanding, and very dedicated cheering section.

The Penn State track and field tradition is also strong among three other current student-athletes and their families - freshman Elyse Skerpon, junior Robert Cardina, and freshman Megan McCloskey.

The Skerpons

Freshman Elyse Skerpon's (Sprints/Hurdles/Relays) father, Donald Skerpon, was a pole vaulter at Penn State during his college career.

After spending his first year at the University of Rhode Island, Skerpon decided to set his sights a bit closer to home. After a few phone conversations with then-head coach Harry Groves, Skerpon found his way to Happy Valley.

He spent the rest of his undergraduate career as a Nittany Lion and started a family tradition that carried down to his three children - Luke (class of '12) was a member of the Blue Band, Taylor is a senior on the baseball team, and Elyse is just beginning her career with the track team.

"It's a great experience as parents. You have a lot of the same anxiety but it's great to see them work hard and make things happen," he said. "You build such great memories...and it's great to be able to come back [to State College]."

"After my dad came here, we've had season football tickets and we've been coming to football game since I was born, basically," said Elyse. "Coming here all those years made me want to be here and continue what my family started."

Since his track and field days, Donald Skerpon says the program still remains the flourishing team he was once a part of but thinks the commitment has changed quite a bit.

"It's a lot harder now," he laughed. "We worked really hard and it was a lot of time but it wasn't quite as intense [as it is now]."

The Cardinas

Jennifer Williams-Cardina is among the top ten performers all-time at the university in the women's high jump event and is a former multi-events athlete.

During her time as part of the program, the indoor track was flat, white, and located at the old ice hockey rink. Though things have come a long way since, she remembers those days with joy saying she wouldn't change a thing if she could experience it all over again.

She has since left the streets of Happy Valley and her life as a student-athlete but has the opportunity to return as a spectator to see her son, junior Robert Cardina (Multi-Events), continue the Williams-Cardina legacy.

"I can remember when Rob was little he ran everywhere. He ran through the house. He would ask us to time him running outside around the house," said Williams-Cardina. "Finally, when Rob was in middle school, and went out for track, I had the opportunity to teach him how to high jump.  We went to the track at night and on weekends to practice. I absolutely loved sharing this time with Rob."

Currently, Robert Cardina holds the school record in the heptathlon and is second all-time in the decathlon.

"Some parents don't know the ins and outs of the program and they don't know what it takes. [Having this in common with my mom] is an advantage [for me]. She prepared me well," said Cardina. "It's important to note that we both came here and left our imprint on the track and field program on both the men's and women's side."

The McCloskeys

Megan McCloskey is in her first season with the Nittany Lions as a high jumper.

She began jumping in the fourth grade and had a very special coach to help her get through it, Mimi McCloskey, her mother and former middle-distance runner at Penn State.  

"My mom ran the 800[-meter run] and the 1600[-meter run] and I tried those when I was younger but it wasn't really for me," said Megan. "I started jumping in the fourth grade and [my mom] learned it at the same time I did. She was learning how to coach high jump while I was learning how to do high jump."

While her mother coached her athletic career up until high school and Megan has now graduated into the rigorous life of Division I track and field, she says she still looks to her parents for support.

"My dad played football. So he loves talking about that stuff. They always talk about the things he got to do and [the things] she got to do because it was a completely different experience," said Megan.

"I understand how hard the transition from high school to college competition can be for someone. When you are a freshman, not only do you need to adjust to being on your own and away from familiar surroundings, you must also adjust to new coaches, teammates, competition schedules, and the fact that everybody at this level is very accomplished at what they do," said Mimi.

Mimi McCloskey was a middle distance runner in the early 80s however, similar to Donald Skerpon, she says the program has changed since her workout days.

"Although the track remains much as it was 30 years ago, the training that Megan goes through is much different. The time commitment was much less than it is today," she said.

And like the Shislers, the Cardinas, and the Skerpons, the McCloskeys are just want their children to be happy.

"My hopes for Megan include her continued growth both as a high jumper and a student. But more importantly, I hope that she really enjoys her time at Penn State both on and off the track and graduates with amazing memories and lifelong friends," said Mimi.


The Penn State track and field program is an interesting and very special bond to have according to all the former and current athletes but it's even more special when it's a bond between parent and child.

Every parent and every student-athlete described this to be 'a very cool connection to have' describing their Penn State related dinner conversations and laughing at the times their parents talk about 'their glory days'.

But the current generation of Penn Staters only hopes to one day live up to their parents' great achievements.

"I want to leave my Alex Shisler stamp on Penn State track and field. I want to continue what my parents did." said Shisler.

"I know [my mom is] happy that I'm here," said Cardina. " It's a bond with my mother, a connection through track and field. She knows she was able to get through it and she helps me get through it too. It keeps the legacy in the family. I love my mother."

A legacy that thanks to experiences and memories made many years ago still stands strong and doesn't look to end any time soon.

Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).

By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"


The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).


Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.

It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.


In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.


While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago