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Nittany Lions kick off Big Ten Championships on Friday
Spend an afternoon with Coach Fritz Spence and the Nittany Lions women's jumps squad
Fritz Spence is in his 12th year coaching the Nittany Lion women’s jumpers and multi-event athletes. He has had outstanding results in his decade with the Nittany Lions, overseeing 16 All-America efforts, including Gayle Hunter, who claimed a total of nine All-America certificates in the long jump and multi-events. Hunter is the indoor school record holder in the long jump 20-11.00 (6.37m) and pentathlon (4342), outdoor school record in the Heptathlon (5797) and National Champion in the 4x400m (3.27.69) relay under Spence’s watch.
Multiple athletes turned in spectacular performances during the 2017 season under Spence’s watch. Sophomore Maddie Holmberg owns the # 3 performance in program history in the heptathlon with her total of 5,636 set at the Virginia Challenge. Holmberg also owns the multi-record in the shot put with her mark of 42-6.25 (12.96m) and the # 7 time in program history in the 100-meter hurdles at 13.70, also qualifying for the
Spence coached Dannielle Gibson to a silver medal in the triple jump at the Big Ten Indoor meet earning second-team honors with a best of 42-11.75 (13.10m). At the NCAA Indoor Championships Gibson earned second-team All-American honors with a 10th-place finish in the triple jump. During the outdoor Big Ten Meet, Gibson again brought home a silver medal in the women’s triple jump with her mark of 42-9.50 (13.04m). The women’s high jump featured Penn State’s Megan McCloskey 5-10.50 (1.79m) and Ahmenah Richardson 5-9.25 (1.76m) finish fourth and fifth, respectively. Dannielle Gibson received Mid-Atlantic Field Athlete of the Year honors for her efforts during the outdoor season. She would go on to finish with second-team All-American honors in the triple jump at the outdoor meet in Eugene, Ore., before going on to captures Gold in the triple jump 44-5.00 (13.54m) at the NACAC U23 Championships.
Under the guidance of coach Spence, Dannielle Gibson tallied a third-place finish in the triple jump. Gibson, a sophomore, scored six points for Penn State with her leap of 42-3.50 during the 2015 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Gibson would also finish fourth in the long jump with her personal-best jump of 20-2.25 (6.15m). Her distance of 20-2.25 (6.15m) ranks 10th all-time at Penn State. Gibson would go on to qualify for the NCAA East Prelims in the long jump and the triple jump. In the vertical jumps, Ahmenah Richardson, a Philadelphia native, cleared a height of 5-8 (1.74m) during the Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships and 5-9.25 (1.76m) in the women’s high jump during the Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Richardson also qualified for the NCAA East Prelims in the high jump. Richardson ended her 2015 season with a personal-best of 5-11.25 (1.81m).
Spence also guided Brittney Howell to an outstanding 2014 outdoor campaign, highlighted by an outstanding long jump at the NCAA first round Championships. Howell also turned in a pair of scoring performances at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Howell would also post the top long jump mark among Nittany Lions during the 2014 campaign going 20-4.50 (6.21m) during the Indoor season and 20-10.75 (6.37m) during the outdoor season. The performance ranks # 5 indoors and # 3 outdoors in the all-time Penn State standings. Coming into her own in 2014 was freshman high jumper, India McCoy. McCoy notched a lifetime-best clearance of 5-10.00 (1.78m) during the outdoor season. Also, coming into her own in 2014 was freshman long and triple jumper Dannielle Gibson. Gibson had an outstanding freshman year achieving a lifetime-best leap of 42-2.00 (12.80m) in the triple jump and 20-1.00 (6.11m) in the long jump during the outdoor season. During the 2014 season, freshman multi-eventer Tal Ben-Artzi had an outstanding indoor seasoning putting up a lifetime best score of 3861 in the indoor pentathlon.
Prior to 2014...
Spence coached Marlene Ricketts, who advanced to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the triple jump in 2013, coming home with USTFCCCA Second Team All-America status. Ricketts ended her senior season with an indoor lifetime-best effort of 42-4.75 (12.92m) and outdoor lifetime-best effort of 42-2.75 (12.87m) in the triple jump. At the time, # 2 and # 5 best performance in program history.
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. Spence guided the duo to a one-two finish at the Big Ten Championships with Loht taking top honors. The Nittany Lions were thoroughly impressive at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, mounting a three and four place finish including a PR toss from Loht at 169-4 (51.92m) for third, and a lifetime-best 167-10 (51.17m) for Kenney in fourth.
Spence guided Tanaya Lloyd, to an outstanding Nittany Lion career overall, as Lloyd finished up with the # 4 best performance in Penn State history at 42-3.50 (12.89m). Spence’s athletes recorded an outstanding medal haul at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in 2011, scoring podium finishes in all four horizontal events.
During the 2009 season, the Nittany Lion jumps squad qualifiers includes Clarence Smith in the triple jump, Gayle Hunter in the heptathlon and long jump, and Bianca Fung in the long jump for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 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 (6.38m) in the long jump during the multi-event competition. Hunter also set school records in the pentathlon 4342, heptathlon 5797. Hunter would also earn Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year honors during the indoor and outdoor seasons under Spence’s watch.
At the Big Ten Championships...
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. 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.
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 Penn State...
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.
Coaching Awards and Honors...
- 2017 USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Women’s Outdoor Assistant Coach of the Year
- 2008 USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Men’s Outdoor Assistant Coach of the Year
- 2008 USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year
- 2006 USTFCCCA Mid-East Region Women’s Outdoor Assistant Coach of the Year
Outstanding Athletes Coached...
- Three-Time NCAA Qualifier (Triple Jump)
- 2017 Indoor / Outdoor First Team All-American (Triple Jump)
- 2017 Indoor / Outdoor Big Ten Champion (Triple Jump)
- 2017 NACA Champion (Triple Jump)
- 2017 NCAA Qualifier Heptathlon
- 2014 Indoor First Team All-American (Pentathlon)
- 2014 Outdoor Second Team All-American (Heptathlon)
- 2014 Big Ten Champion (Heptathlon)
- NCAA Champion (2008, Outdoor 4x400)
- Nine-Time NCAA All-American
- 2009 NCAA Runner-Up (Pentathlon)
- Four-Time Penn State Record Holder (Pentathlon), (Long Jump), (Heptathlon), (4x400m)
- Four-Time Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year
- Three- Times USATF Qualifier
- Penn State Indoor School Record Holder (High Jump)
- Three-Time NCAA Regional Qualifier (Triple Jump)
- PSU McCoy Award Winner (Top GPA by
- ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District
- Two-Time NCAA All-American (Triple Jump)
- Three-Time Big Ten Champion (Triple Jump)
- Two-Time Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year
- 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifier (Triple Jump)
- Two- Times USATF Qualifier
Tracy Partain (Missouri State)
- 2006 NCAA Runner-Up (Heptathlon)
- 2006 NACAC under -23 Championships (Heptathlon)
- Two-Time NCAA All-American (Heptathlon)
- Five-Time Missouri Valley Conference Champion
Fabian Florant (Missouri State)
- 2006 NCAA All-American (Triple Jump)
- Three-Time Missouri Valley Conference Champion (Triple Jump)
Greg Hughes (Missouri State)
- Two-Time NCAA All-American
- Four-Time Missouri Valley Conference Champion
In December of 2015, Spence graduated from Missouri State University with a Master’s Degree in Communications (Master of Science in Administrative Studies (