Nittany Lions kick off Big Ten Championships on Friday
Spend an afternoon with Coach Fritz Spence and the Nittany Lions women's jumps squad
Spence shares inspiring story about his battle and the Penn State family
Coaching Awards and Honors:
Outstanding Athletes Coached:
Tracy Partain (Missouri State)
Fabian Florant (Missouri State)
Greg Hughes (Missouri State)
Fritz Spence is in his seventh year coaching the Nittany Lion jumpers and multi-event athletes, after six outstanding years in Happy Valley. In his first six years with the Nittany Lions, Spence has overseen 13 All-America efforts, including Gayle Hunter, who claimed a total of nine All-America certificates under Spence's watch.
Spence took on a new coaching role in 2012, overseeing the Nittany Lion men's and women's javelin throwers, including All-America finishers Laura Loht and Lauren Kenney. The Nittany Lions javelinists had a stellar season under Spence, beginning with a victory at Kenney at the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival. During the championship portion of the season, Spence guided the duo to a one-two finish at the Big Ten Championships with Loht taking top honors. Kenney fired back at the NCAA Eastern Preliminary, posting the top mark in the competition on her way to an NCAA bid. All told, Spence led four javelin throwers to the Big Ten final, including Loht, Kenney, and Megan Boyer in the women's final, and Eli Skinner finishing fifth in the men's competition.
The Nittany Lions were thoroughly impressive at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, mounting a three-four finish including a PR toss from Loht at 169-4 (51.92) for third, and a lifetime-best 167-10 (51.17) for Kenney in fourth. With their PR throws, Loht and Kenney now rank third and fifth, respectively, in the Penn State record books.
Along with Loht, Kenney, and Skinner, Spence guided six athletes to the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round, with Marlene Ricketts and Tanaya Lloyd representing Penn State in the women's triple jump and Erika Morgan competing in the women's high jump. Lloyd and Ricketts held their own against the top triple jumpers in the country at the event, placing 14th and 15th, respectively. Spence helped Lloyd, a 2012 graduate, to an outstanding Nittany Lion career overall, as Lloyd finished up with the Lions with the fourth-best performance in Penn State history at 42-3.50 (12.89).
Spence also guided outstanding efforts at Big Ten Indoor in 2012, with Brittney Howell turning in a fifth-place standing in the pentathlon. Then-freshman Sarah Palmer also turned in a scoring finishing, placing fifth in the high jump with a season-best clearance of 5-8 (1.73).
Spence's athletes recorded an outstanding medal haul at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in 2011, scoring podium finishes in all four horizontal events. Along with Hanif 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.
2009 was a also banner year for Spence and the Nittany Lion jumps squad with a trio of Lions qualifying for the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships, including Clarence Smith in the triple jump, Hunter in the heptathlon and long jump, and first-time NCAA qualifier Fung in the long jump. Indoors, Spence guided Hunter to a runner-up finish in the pentathlon - which tied the highest ever finish by a Nittany Lion at NCAA Indoor - while also overseeing Hunter's school record leap of 20-11.25 (6.38) in the long jump during the multi-event competition. At the regional level, Spence led a total of five athletes to appearances at the NCAA East Regional Championships, including Hunter in the long jump, triple jump, and 100-meter hurdles, Fung in the long jump, and Smith, along with teammates Jay Pagana, and Johnson, in the triple jump.
Throughout the year, Hunter set a trio of school records under Spence's watch, scoring 4342 to reset her own pentathlon mark, and posting a total of 5797 to better her own school standard in the heptathlon. Hunter would also earn Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year honors during the indoor and outdoor seasons under Spence's watch.
On the Big Ten stage, Spence guided Smith to triple jump titles at both the indoor and outdoor conference championships, while leading his men's triple jumpers to a one-three-four showing at the outdoor conference meet. Indoors, Spence-coached athletes recorded a total of four scoring performances, while adding another four outdoors.
On the women's side, Spence led Hunter to top three finishes in the indoor pentathlon, and outdoor heptathlon, as well as scoring finishes in the indoor long and triple jumps, as well as the outdoor triple jump. Overall, Spence also oversaw a total of six top-eight scoring finishes in the women's events during the Big Ten Indoor Championships, and four during the outdoor conference meet.
In 2008, Spence led Hunter to a handful of All-America finishes, including fifth-place efforts in the NCAA pentathlon and heptathlon, as well as a fifth-place standing in the outdoor long jump. On the men's side, Spence saw Smith to an All-America finish and a Big Ten title in the triple jump. Spence's efforts were decidedly noteworthy, as he was named Mid-Atlantic Men's Assistant Coach of the Year during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Spence's athletes proved to be a big part of Penn State's scoring effort at the 2008 Big Ten Indoor Championships including a silver-medal finish from Taylor in the men's long jump, and bronze-medal standings from Hunter in the pentathlon, long jump, and triple jump. Spence's contingent was just as successful at the outdoor conference meet, including a two-three-four finish in the triple jump from Smith, Taylor, and Pagana, while the Penn State women provided four scoring finishes, led by Bettis in third.
During his first year in Happy Valley, Spence led Hunter to NCAA appearances in the pentathlon indoors and heptathlon outdoors, where she posted an eighth-place finish, earning All-America honors.
Prior to coming to Penn State, Spence coached 14 conference champions, 26 all-conference performers, 22 regional qualifiers, 10 NCAA qualifiers, and three All-Americans at Missouri State. Spence, who was named NCAA Women's Outdoor Track and Field Mideast Region Assistant Coach of the Year for Jumps/Combined Events in 2006, was a part of a coaching staff that won four Missouri Valley Conference Team Championships in both the indoor (2003 and '04) and outdoor (2002 and '03) seasons. The team also finished three times as the conference runner-up for the team championship (indoor 2002, outdoor 2004 and '06).