Top distance athletes travel West for Mt. SAC Relays
Track and Field set for six-team scored competition in Tuscaloosa
Track and Field posts top 10 finish at NCAA Indoor Championships
Creese, Loxsom advance through Friday's preliminary rounds
Track and Field to compete among nation's best on Friday and Saturday
John Gondak begins his eighth year in Happy Valley working with the Nittany Lion cross country and distance squads. Gondak's resume while with the Blue and White - which can be matched by few middle distance mentors in the country - includes 18 USTFCCCA First Team All-Americans, 18 Big Ten Champions, 17 Penn State records, four Big Ten Freshman of the Year honorees, five Penn Relays victories, and three sub-4:00 milers.
Aside from his athletes' efforts on the track, the Doylestown, Pa., native has also had a huge impact in the Nittany Lions' success on the cross country course, including a Big Ten title by the women's squad in 2009, and an NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional title in 2012. Over the years, Gondak has assisted in NCAA-qualifying efforts by the women's squad in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 and by the men's team in 2008, and 2010. The Nittany Lion women's squad placed 13th at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships - the highest finish in nearly two decades. In fact, the Nittany Lion women have enjoyed four-straight NCAA-qualifying performances in cross country, capturing top 15 standings on three out of four occasions.
Gondak has also been widely recognized by the coaching community as he was named United States Track and Field/Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year during the indoor season in 2009, and again for his efforts during the 2010 outdoor season. Gondak swept the Mid-Atlantic awards in 2013, winning the USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Men's Assistant Coach of the Year award during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
2013 Recap ...
Gondak's charges enjoyed another record breaking campaign in 2013, led by a trio of runner-up finishes at the NCAA Championships. Gondak would lead the Nittany Lions to a pair of silver-medal standings at the NCAA Indoor Championships, with Casimir Loxsom finishing second individually in the 800 meters, and the quartet of Brannon Kidder, Brandon Bennett-Green, Za'Von Watkins and Robby Creese combining for an impressive second-place finish in the distance medley relay.
Gondak's NCAA success continued during the outdoor season, thanks to a two-three finish from Loxsom and Kidder in the 800 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Under Gondak's watch, Penn State became the first program to have two top three finishers in the men's outdoor 800 since Michigan in 1945. Also excelling at outdoor nationals was Creese, who earned First Team All-America status in the 1500 meters. Thanks to his sixth-place finish, Creese was the first Nittany Lion to earn an All-America finish in the event since 1994.
At the conference level, Gondak led Loxsom to Big Ten Athlete of the Championships and Athlete of the Year honors, thanks to a record-breaking performance in the 600 during the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Loxsom clocked a sizzling school and conference-record 1:15.42 in the event, which stands as the current all-conditions American best. Gondak also guided freshman duo Kidder and Watkins to a one-three finish in the 800, which included four Nittany Lions in the final. Meanwhile, Creese took top honors in the mile run - becoming the first Nittany Lion in program history to win the indoor conference mile title. Creese - just a sophomore- would also anchor the winning DMR, helping the Nittany Lions to their second-consecutive conference victory in the event.
The Nittany Lions were wildly successful in the relays in 2013, beginning with a victory in the 4x800-meter relay at the prestigious Millrose Games in New York City. The Penn State foursome - Watkins, Kidder, Ricky West, and Loxsom - tied a long-standing school record 7:21.37 in the effort, also setting Millrose Games and Armory facility records.
From there, Gondak guided the quartet of Kidder, Bennett-Green, Watkins, and Creese to a school-record 9:26.60 for the distance medley at the Alex Wilson Last Chance. The performance was not only the best in the NCAA ranks in 2013, but the second-fastest time ever run by a collegiate squad indoors.
The Blue and White would also shine on one of the sport's greatest relay stages - the Penn Relays - winning the DMR, and capturing the program's second-straight title in the 4x800. Gondak and company - Kidder, Bennett-Green, Loxsom and Creese - would claim yet another school-record in the distance medley, finishing in 9:24.68 - the top collegiate effort during the outdoor season. A day later, Gondak led the foursome of Creese, Watkins, Loxsom and Kidder to top honors in the 4x800. Loxsom was named "Collegiate Athlete of the Relays" for his efforts, becoming the first Nittany Lion in program history to earn the honor at the storied competition.
Under Gondak's guidance, the Nittany Lion middle distance contingent set a total of six school records throughout the 2013 seasons, including Penn State indoor standards in the 600, 800, mile, 4x800, and DMR. Loxsom set a pair of records individually, going 1:15.42 for 600, and 1:46.98. Also setting a new school standard individually was Creese, who clocked a blistering 3:57.11 for the mile run.
On the Big Ten Stage ...
Since joining the conference in 2006, Gondak has coached a total of 18 Big Ten Champions, including nine of the last 12 winners in the 800. The Nittany Lions have also been consistent at the conference level in the relays, with the DMR winning consecutive Big Ten titles in 2012 and 2013.
The Nittany Lions have been highly recognized under Gondak's watch, as the Nittany Lions have earned a total of four Big Ten Freshman of the Year citations since 2010. Loxsom was the first Nittany Lion to earn the honor, winning after an outdoor 800-meter victory as a freshman in 2010. Creese swept the honors during the indoor and outdoor campaigns in 2012, while Kidder was named the conference's top rookie during the 2013 indoor season.
Penn Relays Success ...
Gondak and the Nittany Lions have become a fixture on the podium at Penn Relays, taking top honors in the sprint medley relay in 2011 and 2012, in addition to a victory in the 4x800 in 2012. The first sprint medley title came in 2011, marking Penn State's first Penn Relays win since 1987. The relay would also clock a school-record 3:17.10 in the effort. The same year, Gondak led the Nittany Lions to a second-place finish in the 4x800-meter relay (Lionel Williams, Samuel Borchers, Loxsom, and Foster) in an epic battle at Penn Relays, where the team clocked 7:12.90 - the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history. The Nittany Lions' 2012 4x800 victory was the first by a Penn State squad since 1987.
The Lions continued to excel in 2013, taking top honors in both the 4x800, and distance medley.
Outstanding Athletes Coached ...
Over his career, Gondak has coached some of the Nittany Lions' post prolific athletes, including four-time Big Ten Champion Ryan Foster. Foster capped his Penn State career in 2011, setting a then school-record 3:58.49 for the indoor mile, and going on to finish third in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The former Nittany Lion excelled under Gondak's watch, ending up with a total of three All-America finishes - including two bronze-medal efforts - to go along with numerous Penn State records. In fact, Foster was at the helm of a banner middle distance day in Nittany Lion history, which featured three All-America finishes in the same race. Foster led the way in third, followed by Owen Dawson in eighth and Lionel Williams in 11th. In fact, Gondak's charges hold four of the top five indoor 800 marks in the Penn State record books, with Loxsom on top at 1:46.98, Foster at 1:47.32, Dawson at 1:47.77, and Kidder in fourth at 1:48.17.
All told, Foster owns one of the more impressive PR ranges on the Nittany Lions record books, boasting career bests of 1:46.78 in the 800, all the way to his 3:58.49 mile PR. Foster also rates second in the Penn State record books in the 1000, at 2:19.60.
Loxsom - a 2013 graduate - also enjoyed one of the most outstanding middle distance careers in Nittany Lion history, including a school-record run of 1:45.28 in the 800 during the 2011 season. The effort bettered Randy Moore's long-standing school best 1:45.96, which had stood since 1985. The same year, Loxsom would place fourth in a blistering 800-meter final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, running 1:45.31. Gondak would also guide a then-freshman Loxsom to a sizzling 1:16.92 for 600-meters in 2010, which formerly stood as World Junior (Under-19) Best. Loxsom would go on to post an impressive victory in the event at the USATF Junior title and advance to the IAAF World Junior Championships. Loxsom would post a silver-medal finish at the World Junior event, clocking 1:46.57. Loxsom's finish was the highest-ever finish by a U.S. athlete in a distance event at the world junior competition.
Gondak has also been instrumental in the development of current junior Creese, and rising sophomore Kidder. Creese wasted no time in making a mark on the Penn State record books, running 2:19.53 to set Collegiate and American Junior Records in the 1000 meters during his freshman campaign in 2012.
Kidder showed outstanding promise bettering the sub-4:00 mile barrier during the indoor season, going 3:59.48 to become just the fourth sub-4:00 miler in Nittany Lion history. Incidentally, Gondak has guided three of the four outstanding milers. Kidder's success would continue during the outdoor season, as the rookie clocked a sizzling 1:46.87 for the 800 at the USATF Senior Championships. Kidder would also place third in the 800 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a freshman.
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 captain of the cross country program. Gondak graduated summa cum laude as the valedictorian of the civil engineering program.
Outstanding Athletes Coached ...