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Feb. 23, 2013
GENEVA, Ohio - Paced by individual victories by sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), and senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) the Nittany Lion men's squad placed third overall in a hotly contested race for the team title, Saturday at the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships at the SPIRE Institute. Creese, Kidder, and Loxsom led a bevy of outstanding performances by the Nittany Lions, who scored 87 points - just off team champion Wisconsin with 90 points, and Illinois in second with 87.50.
A mere four points separated the top five programs in the team race, with Nebraska following the Nittany Lions in fourth with 86.66 points, and Minnesota rounding out the top five with 86. The 87-point total was the highest indoor conference tally in program history, while the third-place finish is tied for the Nittany Lions' best-ever Big Ten indoor standing, along with the program's third-place showing in 2009. Including Friday's victory in the distance medley relay, the Nittany Lions also set a new standard for conference champions in the single season, with three individual titles and one relay gold, bettering the previous program best of two in a single indoor championship.
Loxsom, who has already been on a record-setting tear this season, outdid himself yet again, winning the men's 600 meters in a sizzling school-record 1:15.42. Loxsom's performance - which was the first victory in the men's 600 in program history - was not only enough to better his own Penn State record, but now stands as new Big Ten, meet, and facility records. In fact, the senior's effort is the fastest ever run by an American, the best ever clocked by a collegian, and the third-best time ever run in the event indoors.
After anchoring Friday's DMR victory, Creese once again proved to have one of the best finishing kicks in the business, outlasting a stacked field over a furious last 200 meters, to break the tape at 4:01.51 and become the Nittany Lions' first-ever Big Ten Champion in the men's mile. The sophomore now has three Big Ten titles to his credit, having anchored the winning men's DMR a year ago, to go along with his two gold-medal performances in 2013.
Kidder would turn in a wire-to-wire win in the men's 800, crossing the finish line in 1:49.73, leading a stellar effort from the Nittany Lion contingent in the event. Kidder, who led off the men's DMR on Friday, headlined a 21-point showing from the Nittany Lions in the half mile final, followed by fellow freshman Za'Von Watkins in third at 1:50.32. Sophomore Ryan Brennan (Chester, N.Y.) - another member of Penn State's gold-medal DMR - followed in fifth place, stopping the clock at 1:50.65. Senior Ricky West (Toronto, Ontario) rounded out the scoring, taking seventh overall in 1:50.79. With Kidder's victory, the Nittany Lions have now won five of the last six indoor 800 titles, including victories in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The Nittany Lions saw some of their greatest point production in the sprints and hurdles, thanks to a second-place standing from junior Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.) in the 400 meters. Following a stumble with less than 200-meters remaining, Bennett-Green maintained his composure, and sprinted to a silver-medal finish in a season-best 46.82. Bennett-Green would also assist on the third-place 4x400-meter relay, along with teammates Bernard Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), Loxsom, and Matt Gilmore (Philadelphia, Pa.). The squad clocked 3:08.56 in the event final - just off the Lions' season-best 3:08.03. Also coming up with a scoring finish in the sprints and hurdles was sophomore Sancho Barrett (Amityville, N.Y.), who clocked a lifetime-best 7.91 to take seventh in the 60-meter hurdle final.
Sophomore Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.) also posted a lifetime best on the day, turning in an effort of 50-10.25 (15.50) to take bronze-medal honors in the triple jump - his first-career Big Ten podium performance. Adding to the Nittany Lions' point haul in the jumps were senior Sean Reilly (Lagrangeville, N.Y.), and junior Jon Hendershot (Nazareth, Pa.), who both tied for sixth in the high jump via a clearance of 6-11 (2.11).
Coming up big in the field events was redshirt-junior Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio), who reset his own school record to take fifth in a highly competitive men's weight throw competition. Barr's toss of 68-05.75 (20.87) bettered his own Penn State best of 67-11.75 (20.72), which he set at the SPIRE facility two weeks ago. The junior's performance also moves him to 12th on the NCAA descending order list.
Senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.) was also a clutch member of the Lions' roster, scoring an eighth-place finish in the men's 5000 meters - his second scoring performance of the weekend. Masters held his own in one of the most outstanding races of the championships, going 14:08.69 in the 5K, after competing in the 3000 meters less than 24 hours earlier.
The Nittany Lions will be back at it again next weekend, traveling to both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame for "Last Chance" competitions. Qualifiers will then proceed on to the NCAA Indoor Championships, which are slated for March 8-9, at the University of Arkansas.
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