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Jan. 26, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Holding on to its reputation as one of the premiere meets of the entire indoor season, the Penn State National Invitational didn't disappoint, as over 50 NCAA qualifying marks, as well as two American masters records, were posted over the course of the weekend, including provisional marks from Nittany Lion athletes Sam Borchers (Yellow Springs, Ohio), Dominique Blake (Bronx, N.Y.), Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio), and the women's 4x400-meter relay, to go along with Gayle Hunter's (Riverside, Calif.) automatic qualifier in the pentathlon from Friday night. This year's version of the nine-year old competition, held at Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track was undoubtedly one of the best on record, as five meet records, and three facility standards were reset over the weekend.
Borchers has now officially arrived on the collegiate scene after a storied high school career, posting a provisional qualifying 4:01.98 for the mile run - the fourth fastest time by a collegian this year. Borchers outstanding performance was also good for his second school record in as many weeks, breaking Nittany Lion legend Greg Fredericks' long standing 4:02.30 from 1972. Borchers opened at 2:05.2, before splitting 1:59.0 on his final half, including a 57.9 on the final 400, and a 28.0 on his final lap.
The men's mile more than lived up to all the hype with the top four finishers under 4:02, and the winner, Mircea Bogdan, formerly of UTEP, running a meet and facility record 3:59.15. Bogdan, a former NCAA champ in the steeplechase, sprinted past the field on the final turn, becoming the second man ever to sneak under four minutes at Ashenfelter Indoor Track, and the second in the past two years at the National Invitational.
Pittsburgh's Sam Bair finished second in 4:00.16, with Penn State alum and former facility record holder Matt Lincoln in third in 4:00.60. Borchers took fourth overall, with Nittany Lion junior Brian Fuller (Camp Hill, Pa.) in fourth in a career-best 4:06.34.
Blake hung tough against some sensational competition, finishing as the top collegian - second to only Cynetheia Rooks, a former NCAA champion while at LSU - with a season-low and provisional-qualifying 54.30. Blake also ran the lead-off leg on the Lions' winning 4x400, which clocked an NCAA-leading 3:38.21. Blake opened with a 54.1 spilt, following by a 55.3 from Fawn Dorr (Akron, N.Y.). Aleesha Barber (Decatur, Ga.) provided a 54.3 on the third leg, handing off to anchor Hunter, who laid down a gutsy 54.0 to hold off a hard-charging Tennessee squad, which also dipped under the provisional standard (3:39.85).
Franek also held her own in one of the hottest heats of the day with the top five finishers hitting the provisional standard in the women's mile. Franek posted a career-best 4:44.34 to finish second behind Georgetown's Elizabeth Maloy, who finished in 4:43.02. Maloy and Franek now stand fourth and fifth, respectively, in the NCAA mile standings.
The Nittany Lion men were sharp in the 800-meters, as three Lions went under 1:52 on the day with Mark Miller (Shillington, Pa.) leading the way at 1:50.90 to take fifth. Sophomore Mike Cadau (Mahanoy City, Pa.) ran a PR 1:51.54 to finish sixth, while freshman Lionel Williams (Staten Island, N.Y.) took eighth in 1:51.93.
Freshman Gabriela Baiter (Greenlawn, N.Y.) shined in her first taste of big-time collegiate competition, popping a personal-best 41-0.50 (12.51) to finish second in the triple jump. Senior Lena Bettis (Riverside, Calif.) was also hot on the runway, recording a season-best leap of 40-10.50 (12.46) to take third.
Junior Clarence Smith (Coatesville, Pa.) was the top Lion finisher in the men's field events, with a fourth-place finish in the triple jump. Smith posted a jump of 50-3.50 (15.33) - barely three inches of the NCAA provisional standard - for fourth, while Ryan Taylor (Spanish Town, Jamaica) took sixth with a mark of 49-4.50 (15.05).
Freshmen Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) and Blake Eaton (Allegeny, N.Y.) also had solid afternoons with a four-six finish in men's shot put. Kovacs marked a throw of 55-3.75 (16.86), while Eaton put up a mark of 54-10.75 (16.73) - collegiate career bests for both rookies.
The Lions finish out their four-week long home stand next weekend with the Sykes-Sabock Challenge on Feb. 1-2, at Ashenfelter Indoor Track.