After 12 years and 103 NCAA All-Americans on the women's side, as well as five years and 22 All-America honorees with the men's squad, Beth Alford-Sullivan is in her 13th year at the helm of the Nittany Lion women's program and her sixth campaign as the Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country, overseeing both the men's and women's programs. Sullivan's decorated resume is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in the country, as it includes two NCAA "Trophy" Team finishes, six Big Ten team titles, on Big Ten "Triple Crown," as well as three individual NCAA Champions, and one NCAA Champion relay. Most recently, Sullivan coached Bridget Franek, who totaled 10 All-America finishes over her career, to top honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Since taking the reins of both the men's and women's programs in 2006, Sullivan has remained steadfast to the vision of having two programs in the top tier of the conference and the NCAA and continued coaching the Nittany Lions to countless milestones in 2010-11, beginning with dual bids from the men's and women's cross country teams to the 2010 NCAA Championships. The occasion marked the first time since 1994 that both Nittany Lion squads had qualified for the event in the same year. The 2010 campaign was also indicative of the national prowess of the program, as the women's team made its second consecutive NCAA appearance, while the men's squad qualified for the national meet for the second time in three years. On the track, Sullivan led the Nittany Lion men to an 11th-place standing - the highest placing by a Penn State team in over two decades - at the NCAA Indoor Championships, via All-America efforts from freshman Brady Gehret in the 400-meters, and Ryan Foster in the mile run, as well as the men's 4x400-meter relay.
Under Sullivan, the Nittany Lion women's team has become a national mainstay, scoring at the national meet in the last 11 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and 10 of the last 11 NCAA Indoor Championships. The women's squad has also recorded top four "trophy team" finishes in two of the last four years, placing fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2008 and 2010.
Sullivan also boasts a tremendous amount of international experience in her own right. Most notably in 2004, Sullivan was named a member of the Olympic coaching staff for the Athens Games, where she helped the United States squad to nearly 25 medals in the sport of track and field. More recently, Sullivan served as the Head Coach for the United States women's team at the 2011 Pan Am Junior Championships.
Associate Head Coach Chris Johnson will begin his eighth season directing the Nittany Lion men's and women's sprints, hurdles, and relays contingents, following a sensational campaign in 2011.Throughout the 2011 campaign Johnson-coached athletes bettered a total of four school records, while freshman Brady Gehret ran to bronze-medal honors in the 400-meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Johnson was also named USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Women's Assistant Coach of the Year - the sixth such honor of his coaching career.
Since coming to Happy Valley in the fall of 2004, Johnson has guided well over 50 All-America performances, including NCAA victories from Shana Cox in the 400-meters and Dominique Blake, Barber, Gayle Hunter, and Cox in the 4x400-meter relay in 2008. Johnson has directly coached many of Penn State's most decorated athletes in program history, including Cox and Barber, who have both earned 11 All-America citations a piece. Johnson's athletes have also enjoyed outstanding success on the Big Ten stage, with 20 individuals and 13 relays earning conference crowns.
In 2011, Johnson guided a trio of All-America 4x400 relays with the women's squad finishing sixth indoors and fourth outdoors, and the men's team taking fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships. All told, Johnson has overseen a grand total of nine All-America relays, including an NCAA title run in the women's mile relay in 2008. Johnson's relays have been a mainstay at the national level in recent years, as the Nittany Lions are the only squad to have posted top four finishes in each of the last four years in the women's 4x400 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Indoors, Johnson coached freshman phenom Gehret to a school-record 46.22 in the 400, while the men's 4x400-meter relay, including Gehret and fellow Johnson protege Aaron Nadolsky, clocked a school-record 3:07.27. The duo also assisted on the Nittany Lions' record-setting relay outdoors, running 3:07.19. Nadolsky and Gehret would also lead off the Nittany Lions' record-setting sprint medley relay at the prestigious Penn Relays. The Nittany Lions clocked 3:17.10 to win Penn State's first "wheel" in the men's relay since 1987.
Dr. Andrew Hardyk, entering his 19th year with the Nittany Lion track and field program, will continue to mentor the Penn State high jumpers, decathletes, and pole vaulters in 2011-12. Hardyk has now coached a total of 22 All-America finishes during his tenure with the Nittany Lions.
Hardyk's high jumpers impressed in 2011, with both Bryson Hartzler and Sean Reilly bettering the seven-foot barrier over the course of the year. Hartzler cleared 7-1.50 (2.17) during the indoor season, which is tied for the fourth-best jump in the Nittany Lion indoor record books. Reilly stepped up during the outdoor season, topping out at 7-0.25 (2.14) - the sixth-best clearance in school history.
Reilly's outdoor campaign also included a bronze-medal finish at the Big Ten Championships, as well as an appearance at the NCAA First Round. The Nittany Lions scored three at the indoor conference meet with Reilly finishing sixth, and Hartzler and then-freshman Jon Hendershot tying for eighth overall. Hardyk's charges also excelled in the multi-events, with current senior Anya Uzoh totaling 7045 points in the decathlon - the 10th-best total in school history. Uzoh would score a seventh-place finish in the heptathlon at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
In 2010, Hardyk led then-senior Ryan Fritz to a fourth-place finish in the high jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, as well as a sixth-place effort at the USATF Outdoor Championships. At the conference level, Hardyk would guide Fritz to a third-place effort at the Big Ten Outdoor Championship. Nationally, Hardyk also assisted in guiding then-sophomore Jocelyn Witmer to her first-career appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the pole vault.
John Gondak enters his sixth year as an assistant coach at Penn State, working with Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan and the Nittany Lion cross country and distance runners as well as serving as the primary mentor for the Penn State middle-distance athletes. Gondak's middle distance charges experienced unparallelled success in 2011, including six school records, two All-America performances, and two Big Ten victories. The Doylestown, Pa., native has also had a huge impact on the Nittany Lions' success on the cross country course, including a Big Ten title by the women's squad in 2009, and NCAA-qualifying efforts by the women's squad in 2009 and 2010, and by the men's team in 2008, and 2010.
Under Gondak's watch, the Nittany Lions ripped through the Penn State records books, led by then-sophomore Casimir Loxsom, who set two individual school records, and was a member of three school-record relays. Individually, Loxsom clocked 1:01.28 for the 500-meters to start the indoor season. The time would stand as the fastest run by a collegian in 2011. Outside, Loxsom would blitz to a school-record 1:45.28 in the 800-meters, bettering Randy Moore's 1:45.96, which had stood since 1985. In the relays, Loxsom - and fellow Gondak charge - Lionel Williams - would assist on the record-setting 4x400-meter relays during both the indoor (3:07.27) and outdoor (3:07.19) seasons. Also making a mark in Nittany Lion history in 2011 was senior Ryan Foster, who clocked a school-record 3:58.49 for the mile run and posted an NCAA-leading time of 2:19.96 for the 1000-meter during the indoor season.
Nationally speaking, Loxsom would place fourth in a blistering 800-meter final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, running 1:45.31. Foster starred during the NCAA Indoor Championships, placing third in the mile run, while Loxsom and Williams ran legs on the Lions' fifth-place 4x400.
The Nittany Lions also made a splash at the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival, taking top honors in the sprint medley relay, thanks to outstanding splits from Loxsom on the 400-meter carry and Foster on the 800 anchor. The team, which claimed Penn State's first Penn Relays win since 1987, would also clock a school-record 3:17.10 in the effort. Gondak also led the Nittany Lions to a second-place finish in the 4x800-meter relay (Williams, Samuel Borchers, Loxsom, and Foster) in an epic battle at the Penn Relays, where the team clocked 7:12.90 - the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history.
Fritz Spence is in his sixth year coaching the Nittany Lion jumpers and multi-event athletes, after four outstanding years in Happy Valley. In his first five years with the Nittany Lions, Spence has overseen 11 All-America efforts, including Gayle Hunter, who claimed a total of nine All-America certificates under Spence's watch.
Spence oversaw a breakout year from Hanif Johnson in 2011, with the junior claiming bronze-medal finishes at both Big Ten Championship competitions, and qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Johnson posted a career-best leap of 51-8.50 (15.76) during the outdoor season, which stands as the fifth-best jump in school history.
Spence's athletes were outstanding at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, scoring podium finishes in all four horizontal events. Along with Johnson's bronze-medal finish in the triple jump, junior Doug Moppert added a third-place finish in the men's long jump, while Tanaya Lloyd claimed runner-up status in the women's triple jump, and Bianca Fung posted a third-place finish in the women's long jump.
Spence also guided a healthy contingent of Nittany Lions to NCAA First Round, including Johnson, Moppert, Lloyd, and Fung, along with high jump standouts Kelsey Couts and Erika Morgan, who both recorded clearances of 5-8.50 (1.74) on the season.
Indoors, Spence coached conference scoring performances by a quartet of athletes on the women's side, with Lloyd finishing fifth in the triple jump, Fung and Morgan placing fifth and eighth, respectively, in the high jump, and freshman Brittney Howell taking sixth in the pentathlon, and seventh in the long jump.