Coaching Awards and Honors:
Outstanding Athletes Coached:
Inger Appanaitis (Nevada)
Cameron Neel (Central Washington)
Former NCAA Division II Assistant Coach of the Year T.J. Crater is in his fourth year on the Nittany Lion coaching staff. Crater came to Happy Valley following coaching stints at Nevada and Central Washington and coaches the Nittany Lion throwing events.
Over his first three years in Happy Valley, Crater has led the Nittany Lion throws contingent to outstanding success, overseeing a trio of NCAA bronze-medal finishes, six NCAA All-America efforts, and five Big Ten victories.
Crater, who guided nine athletes to the NCAA First Round competition in 2011, also coaches world-class shot putter and Nittany Lion volunteer assistant, Ryan Whiting. Whiting qualified for the final at the IAAF World Championships last summer, and is one of the top five-ranked athletes in the world in the event.
Crater's throwers were sensational at the conference level in 2011, with senior Joe Kovacs taking the Big Ten indoor title in the shot put, thanks to an NCAA automatic-qualifying effort of 65-1.25 (19.84) - which also stands as the second-best throw in the Nittany Lion record books.
Outside, Crater tutored senior Blake Eaton to his second-straight Big Ten outdoor title in the shot, with Kovacs following in second to complete the Nittany Lion sweep. Senior Karlee McQuillen would also add a Big Ten victory, taking top honors in the javelin. Crater's women's javelin contingent put on a clinic at the conference meet, with freshman Laura Loht placing third, and classmates Megan Boyer and Kaitchen Dearborn finishing fifth and seventh, respectively, to build on McQuillen's victory.
Nationally speaking, Crater guided Kovacs and Eaton to NCAA berths during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Kovacs would place third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, adding his second NCAA bronze medal to the Nittany Lion trophy case, after finishing third in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2010.
On the women's side, Crater led McQuillen to the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the third-straight year, along with Loht, who made her first-career NCAA appearance in 2011. Both athletes would earn Second Team All-America status.
Under Crater's watch, the current crop of Nittany Lion throwers have rapidly made their into the Penn State record books, with Eaton (64-2.50/19.57) and Kovacs (62-10 /19.15) ranked second, and fourth, respectively, in the all-time Nittany Lion outdoor shot put standings, and Crater coached athletes claiming three of the top six spots on the the discus top 10 list.
Prior to 2011, Crater coached a Big Ten winning effort from Tanner Evak in the javelin in 2009. The same year, Crater saw Emma Schmelzer earn Big Ten Field Athlete of the Championship honors, thanks to 21-point total indvidiual via second-place finishes in the discus and hammer, and a fourth-place standing in the shot.
At Central Washington University, Crater was named the 2007 United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA)-Division II West Region Men's Assistant Track and Field Coach of the Year and the 2007 USTFCCCA-Division II National Men's Assistant Track and Field Coach of the Year. At CWU, Crater coached 30 national qualifying performances from 10 national qualifiers. He also coached nine All-Americans at the Division II level and 12 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) individual champions. Crater's throwers recorded 104 of Central Washington University's 238 points to help lead the men's track and field team to a 2007 GNAC Title.
One of Crater's top athletes at Central Washington was Cameron Neel, who finished his career as a five-time NCAA All-American, eight-time GNAC Champion, and was named the NCAA West Region Athlete of the Year in 2007. Crater also made quite an impact on the GNAC conference as Crater-coached athletes hold eight conference records. He lettered four years in track and field at the University of Idaho, from 1998-2002. While competing for the Vandals, Crater was an NCAA Championships qualifier in 2002 (35lb weight) and was a five-time All-Big West Conference Performer, three times in the hammer throw and two times in the shot put.