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Feb. 28, 2014
GENEVA, Ohio - Thanks to a sizzling finish from sophomore Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), the Nittany Lions captured the program's third-straight conference title in the distance medley relay Friday evening at the Big Ten Indoor Championships at the SPIRE Institute. Kidder, along with teammates senior Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins Park, Pa.), sophomore Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, NY.), and junior Ryan Brennan (Chester, N.Y.) earned teamed-up to capture the Big Ten title. In a tight team race, Penn State ran at the front throughout with Kidder using a strong finish to bring the Nittany Lions the victory in 9:45.48.
"The competition has stacked itself up as we had figured it would. Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Penn State are in a battle," said Director and Head Coach of Track & Field Beth Alford-Sullivan. "We had a very solid first day. We expect tomorrow to bring a battle and I believe our Nittany Lions are up to the challenge."
Watkins, who will also represent the Nittany Lions in tomorrow's 800-meter final, led off with a 1200-meter split of 2:55.0, surging to the front of the pack over the final strides of the race and handing off to Bennett-Green with the Lions in the lead pack. Bennett-Green then maintained the Penn State advantage to give the stick to Brennan on the 800-meter leg. Brennan, who will also come back in the Saturday's 800 final, took command of a tactical 800-meter leg before handing off to Kidder at the front of a pack of Big Ten competitors.
The sophomore bided his time before taking over the lead with just over 300-meters remaining. Kidder turned on the jets to hold off a flurry of furious finishers, solidifying the Lions' third-straight victory in the event. The Nittany Lions once again held off last year's runner-up Wisconsin on a flying last lap.
Also getting in on the day one scoring were junior Steve Waithe (Baltimore, Md.) and sophomore Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.), who turned in seventh and eighth place finishes respectively in the men's long jump. Leap leapt out to 23-6.75, while Waithe reached 23-5.25. Adding more points on the board in the field was junior Darrell Hill (Philadelphia, Pa.) in the men's shot put. Hill turned in a sixth-place effort in the event via a toss of 59-4.
The Nittany Lions were on fire in the middle distances all afternoon, advancing all three of their entrants through the preliminary round and on to the men's 800-meter final. The Lions qualified one athlete from each of the three preliminary heats, led by automatic qualifying performances from Watkins, Brennan, and Kidder. In the men's mile preliminaries, both junior Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and junior Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.) advanced to tomorrow's final. Creese was the first to secure his slot in the final, running 4:03.98 for the second automatic spot in his heat. Endress finished close behind Creese in a PR of 4:04.27 to take the first non-automatic qualifying slot.
Also advancing to tomorrow's final rounds were senior Bernard Bennett-Green (Elkin Park, Pa.), and freshman Byron Robinson (Chesapeake, Va.). Bennett-Green won his preliminary heat with the fourth-fastest mark in qualifying at 47.34, while Robinson clocked 47.37 to win his section.
In the men's heptathlon, freshman Rob Cardina (Lancaster, Pa.) finished day one with a score of 3,232, which holds him in fourth position leading into day two of the grueling multi-event. Nebraska and Wisconsin are currently tied on top of the men's team standings, boasting 41.5 points with five events in the books. Michigan State stands second with 28 to round out the top three. The Nittany Lions currently are in sixth place with 16 points.
The program picks back up tomorrow morning, with action kicking off at 10:00 a.m.