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USTFCCCA announces its Program of the Year rankings Tuesday
Maddie Holmberg, Megan McCloskey, and Danae Rivers place as First Team All-Americans
Junior Isaiah Harris wins the men's 800-meter run in 1:44.76
John Gondak begins his fourth year as the head coach of Penn State cross country/track & field as the 2016-2017 school year commences.
Gondak's résumé while with the Blue & White - which can be matched by few middle distance mentors in the country - includes 39 first team All-Americans, 34 Big Ten Champions, 46 Penn State records, six Big Ten Freshman of the Year honorees, 10 Penn Relays victories, and three sub-4:00
The 2016-17 season was a historic year for Penn State track & field/cross country. The Blue & White got the memorable year started in cross country where the Nittany Lions competed at the NCAA Championships for the seventh time in the last eight years. At the NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Ind. Elizabeth Chikotas and Jillian Hunsberger teamed up to become the first duo to earn All-American honors at the championships in the NCAA era. The Nittany Lions have finished in the top-20 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since '11-'12 and in the top-20 for five out of the last seven NCAA Championships that Penn State has participated in dating back to 2009.
Moving to the indoor oval, the women’s team captured its fourth Big Ten Championship in program history (’04, ’10, ’14) scoring 96.5-points. The men's team recorded their highest finish in program history taking second-place with a total score of 84-points that included a Big Ten record performance in the 4x400-meter relay as the combination of Dan Chisena, Xavier Smith, Sam Reiser and Isaiah Harris ran 3:04.80. The women's Big Ten Championship paired with the men's second-place finish is the highest combined finish in Penn State track & field history. At the indoor track & field championships in College Station, Texas, the women’s team posted the second-highest finish at the indoor championships ever (10th-place) and the first top-10 finish since the 2009 season. Indoor All-Americans included: Danae Rivers in the Mile (Third-Place), Isaiah Harris in the 800-meters (Fourth-Place), Tessa Barrett in the 5,000-meters (Fifth-Place), the women’s DMR (Sixth-Place) and Dannielle Gibson in the triple jump (Eighth-Place).
The overwhelming success of the indoor season set the teams up for the continued success it saw during the outdoor season.
Serving as the host for the Big Ten Outdoor Championships for the third time since joining the conference in 1992, the Penn State men’s team won its first title in program history scoring 117-points over the three
At the NCAA Championships, the Nittany Lions saw four athletes finish the season with All-American honors including Isaiah Harris in the 800-meters (Second-Place), Tori Gerlach in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (Third-Place), Michael Shuey in the javelin (Third-Place), and Dannielle Gibson in the triple jump (Eighth-Place).
Overall, 2016-17 saw 15 school records broken, 10 top-five indoor marks set as well as 34 top-ten outdoor marks hit. Between cross country, indoor and outdoor, Penn State had 14 athletes honored as All-Americans. Penn State captured two Big Ten Conference titles, the only team in the conference to do so during the ’16-’17 competition year.
The extraordinary year for Penn State on the course and on the track capped the third year for Gondak as the head coach for the Blue & White following the two years prior that included multiple accomplishments among the programs.
During his 12 years with the Penn State track & field team, Gondak has helped the Nittany Lions' post nine Big Ten track & field titles. The 2009-10 school year was a sensational year for the Penn State Nittany Lions as the women won the Big Ten Triple Crown (XC, ITF, OTF). The women continued their success into the postseason as they finished fourth at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The Nittany Lions women’s team also finished fourth at the NCAA Outdoor meet in 2008. More recently, the men’s track team has posted top-20 finishes three-straight years (10th-place ’15, 17th-place ’16, and 20th-place ’17), as well as a top-10 finish for the women’s team at the 2017 Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Individually, two Nittany Lions have captured Big Ten Cross Country titles (Bridget Franek, 2009, and Caitlin Lane, 2011). The Penn State men have been represented in seven of the past nine years at the NCAA Cross Country Championships either by an individual or as a team, including four-time qualifier Vince McNally. During the 2013 season, Matt Fischer posted the highest finish at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships in school history (third) and placed fourth at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. At the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships, Fischer went on to finish 78th. The following year, Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer finished eighth at the Big Ten meet, won the Mid-Atlantic Regional and advanced to the NCAA Cross Country Championships for the second-straight year ending his Penn State cross country career with a 167th-place finish at the NCAA meet following second-team All-Big Ten honors and Mid-Atlantic Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Year plaudits. At the 2013 Outdoor Championships Gondak guided senior Casimir Loxsom and freshman Brannon Kidder to a 2-3 finish in the 800-meters becoming the first program to have two top-three finishers in the men's outdoor 800-meters in 68 years (Michigan in 1945), when the Michigan Wolverines earned first and third-place finishes.
Gondak has also been widely recognized by the coaching community on multiple occasions earning awards from the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) ranging from Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year during his early years to the most recent, Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Women’s Head Coach of the Year. At the conference level, Gondak has been named Big Ten Head Coach of the Year on three occasions.
• 2017 Big Ten Men's Outdoor Head Coach of the Year
• 2017 Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Women's Head Coach of the Year
• 2017 Big Ten Women's Indoor Head Coach of the Year
• 2016 Mid-Atlantic Region Cross Country Women's Head Coach of the Year
• 2015 Mid-Atlantic Region Cross Country Women's Head Coach of the Year
• 2015 Big Ten Women's Cross Country Head Coach of the Year
• 2015 Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Men's Head Coach of the Year
• 2014 Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Men's Assistant of Coach of the Year
• 2013 Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Men's Assistant of Coach of the Year
• 2013 Mid-Atlantic Region Outdoor Men's Assistant of Coach of the Year
• 2010 Mid-Atlantic Region Outdoor Assistant of Coach of the Year
• 2009 Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant of Coach of the Year
Under Coach Gondak, Penn State student-athletes have found great success in the classroom. The Penn State cross country teams have tallied a cumulative 16 USTFCCCA All-Academic Team honors as well as 27 USATFCCCA Individual honors.
82 Penn State distance student-athletes have been named to the Big Ten's Distinguished Scholar list since the Inaugural Class of 2008. Since his arrival on campus, Penn State track & field has garnered 322 All-Academic Big Ten Track & Field honors, 118 All-Academic Big Ten Cross Country Honors, and Four Academic All-Americans.
In the Big Ten...
Since joining the conference in 2006, Gondak has coached a total of 34 Big Ten Champions, including 16 of the last 24 winners in the 800-meters (Indoor/Outdoor) on the men’s side.
The Nittany Lions have also been consistent at the conference level in the relays, with the Men’s DMR winning five-straight Big Ten titles (2012-16). The Nittany Lions have been highly recognized under Gondak's watch, as Penn State has earned a total of six Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors since 2010 -Casimir Loxsom (i), Robby Creese (i/o), Brannon Kidder (i), Danae Rivers (i/o) – as well as three Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients since 2006 – James Pagana (’09), Jessica Babcock (’11) and Emily Giannotti (’14).
Penn State has captured 11 team titles since Gondak’s arrival in Happy Valley
Women’s Cross Country – (2): 2009, 2015
Women’s Indoor – (3): 2010, 2014, 2017
Women’s Outdoor – (5): 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014
Men’s Outdoor – (1): 2017
Penn Relays Success...
Gondak and the Nittany Lions have become a fixture on the podium at Penn Relays, taking top honors in the women’s 4x400-meter relay in 2008, men’s sprint medley relay in 2011, 2012, and 2015, victories in the men’s 4x800-meter relay in 2012, 2013 and 2016 as well as a men’s DMR title in 2013.
The Nittany Lions' 2012 4x800 victory (7:12.90) was the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history first by a Penn State squad since 1987. With Gondak as his mentor, Casimir Loxsom was named the Penn Relays Athlete of the Meet in 2013 for his 1:46 split on the Penn Relays Champion DMR relay. In addition to the relay titles, the Nittany Lions have recorded 24 individual Penn Relays Champions since 2006.
International Coaching Info...
During the summer of 2014, Gondak coached the U.S. men's distance squad at the North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) U-23 Championships. Under the guidance of Gondak, the U.S. men's distance team won two gold, four silver, and three bronze medals.
Gondak has also continued the tradition of hosting international coaches as a part of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) that provides national level coaches a practical program orientated towards developing proficiency in the technical, theoretical, conceptual, managerial and ethical aspects of coaching track & field at all levels of competition.
Prior to Penn State ...
Prior to Penn State, Gondak spent nearly eight seasons at the University of Kentucky before moving to Georgia Tech in 2006. As an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Wildcat middle distance/distance runners, Gondak oversaw 25 All-America finishes in his event area, while 19 athletes earned All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors. Prior to working at Kentucky, Gondak was the cross country and assistant track and field coach at Georgia Tech from 1995-96, and Toledo from 1996-98.
Gondak started out as a walk-on athlete at Syracuse and quickly improved, qualifying for the IC4A Championships as a sophomore, junior and senior in the distance-medley relay and mile run. During his senior year, he was placed on scholarship and named
Outstanding Athletes Coached...
• 2x Penn State School Record Holder
• 2x USTFCCCA First-Team All-American
• 5x Big Ten Medalist
• 2014 NCAA Indoor Runner-Up (DMR)
• 2013 NCAA Indoor Runner-Up (DMR)
• 3x USTFCCCA First Team All-American
• Collegiate 1,000-Meter Record Holder (2:19.53)
• 4x Big Ten Champion
• Two-Time Big Ten Freshman of the Year
• 4x Penn State School Record Holder
• 8x Big Ten Medalist
• 2x Penn State School Record Holder
• 2017 IAAF World Championships Semifinalist
• 2017 USATF Silver Medalist in the 800-meters (1:44.53)
• 2017 NCAA Silver Medalist in the 800-meters (1:45.40)
• 2017 NCAA Indoor/Outdoor All-American
• 2016 NACAC U-23 Champion (800m)
• 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Sixth-Place (800m)
• 2016 NCAA Outdoor All-American
• 2016 NCAA Outdoor Fourth-Place (800m)
• 2016 Big Ten Outdoor Champion (800m)
• 2016 Big Ten Indoor Champion (800m)
• Penn State School Record Holder (800m Indoor/Outdoor)
• All-Time Big Ten Indoor Record Holder (800m)
• 2015 NCAA Outdoor Runner-Up (800m)
• 2014 NCAA Indoor Runner-Up (DMR)
• 2013 NCAA Indoor Runner-Up (DMR)
• 2013 NCAA Outdoor Bronze Medalist (800m)
• 7x USTFCCCA First Team All-American
• 9x Big Ten Champion
• 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
• USATF Senior Semi-finalist (800m)
• 2013 Millrose Games Champion (4x800)
• 2014 USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Track Athlete of the Year
• 6x NCAA All-American
• 6x Big Ten Champion
• American Collegiate Record Holder (600m, 1:15.79)
• All-Conditions American Record Holder (600m, 1:15.42)
• 2013 Penn Relays - Collegiate Athlete of the Relays
• 2013 Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Championships
• 2013 Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year
• 9x Penn State Record Holder
• USATF Junior Champion (800m)
• IAAF World Junior Silver Medalist (800m)
• 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
• 4x USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Track Athlete of the Year
• 7x Penn State School Record Holder
• 2x USTFCCCA First Team All-American
• 3x Big Ten Champion
• 2x Big Ten Freshman of the Year
• 2017 Mid-Atlantic Women's Track Athlete of the Year (i)