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Feb. 9, 2013
GENEVA, Ohio - The Nittany Lion track and field squads got a preview of the SPIRE Institute, which will serve as the host site for the 2013 Big Ten Championships, competing at the SPIRE Division I Invitational on Saturday. Headlining the day's performances was the effort of Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio) in the 35-lb weight throw, as the redshirt-junior bettered his own school record in the event on his way to a third-place finish on the day. Also highlighting the Nittany Lion charges in the field events was sophomore Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.), who took home an individual victory in the triple jump.
Barr, who set the Penn State record at 67-3.50 (20.51) last month, shattered his own personal best, thanks to a toss of 67-11.75 (20.72). Barr's effort, which was good for third in the Big Ten heavy field, currently sits 10th nationally, and sixth in the loaded conference rankings. Meanwhile, Leap was the lone Nittany Lion to come out with a victory on the weekend, taking the SPIRE triple jump title with an effort of 49-05 (15.06).
Adding to the already productive weekend in the sprints, the Nittany Lion turned in a total of five season- and personal bests in the 400 meters on the day, including identical 47.42 efforts from both Emunael Mpanduki (Harare, Zimbabwe), and Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.) - which yielded eighth, and ninth-place standings, respectively. Junior Bernard Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.) wasn't far behind, dropping his lifetime best in the event to 47.86, while sophomore Matt Gilmore (Philadelphia, Pa.) followed with a season-best 48.10. Bennett-Green and Gilmore wound up in 16th and 18th places overall. Mpanduki and Nadolsky are currently tied for the sixth-best performance in the Big Ten this season.
On the women's side, sophomore Dynasty McGee (Flint, Mich.) took care of the competition in the women's "invite" 400, placing second overall thanks to a collegiate PR 53.87. McGee finished second-to-only defending NCAA Outdoor Champion Ashley Spencer of Illinois, who clocked a sizzling 52.07. Spencer and McGee now hold the top two spots in the Big Ten rankings, while McGee moves to five on the all-time Penn State performance list.
The Nittany Lions were outstanding in the field events throughout the afternoon, including third-place finishes from juniors Brittney Howell (Wyncote, Pa.), and Marlene Ricketts (Westbury, N.Y.) in the long jump and the triple jump, respectively. Howell turned in a season-best 19-6.25 (5.95) in the long jump for third, while Ricketts went 40-09.75 (12.44), also earning bronze medal honors.
Senior Jane Swenson (Brandon, S.D.) also added a top three finish, placing third overall in the shot put, thanks to a toss of 50-5.25 (15.37). Swenson led a series of stellar performances in the shot, with junior Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.) following in fourth with a season-best mark of 50-00.50 (15.25). Kurzdorfer would turn in another solid finish in the women's 20-lb weight, finishing sixth overall with an effort of 62-8 (19.10).
Also standing out in the throws was freshman Rachel Fatherly (Williamsport, Pa.), who came away from her first-career road trip with a pair of personal bests, as the rookie threw 49-00.25 (14.94) in the shot put - good for seventh - and 57-5 (17.50) in the weight - enough for 10th overall.
The majority of the Nittany Lion squads will take next weekend off prior to the Big Ten Indoor Championships, which are set for February 22-23, at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. A partial squad will travel to the elite Millrose Games in New York City on Saturday, February 16.