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May 12, 2012
MADISON, Wisc. - Sophomore Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) took top honors in the women's javelin, with teammate and freshman Lauren Kenney(State College, Pa.) making it a Nittany Lion sweep in second place, Saturday at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships on McClimon Track. The Nittany Lions enjoyed an outstanding day in qualifying on both the men's and women's sides, with things shaping up for stellar results on Sunday's final day of competition.
Going into the javelin final in third-place overall, Kenney unleashed her best throw of the afternoon on her fifth attempting, posting a mark of 159-04 (48.57) to overtake her teammate for the overall lead. Loht would wait for her final attempt, and the final throw of the competition to turn in the day's best performance, throwing 160-11 (49.05) for her first-career Big Ten title. Loht is the Nittany Lions' second champion of the weekend, following Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) in the 10,000-meters on Friday. The sophomore is also the second-straight Penn State athlete to take top honors in the event, matching Karlee McQuillen's victory from 2011.
Also turning in a scoring performance in a Saturday final was junior Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.) in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Bower clocked 10:17.83 - the second-fastest effort of her career - on her way to a sixth-place finish.
Scoring on the men's side was junior Sean Reilly (Lagrangeville, N.Y.), who cleared 7-00.25 (2.14) to finish fifth in the men's high jump.
Thanks to scoring efforts from Loht, Kenney, and Bower, the Nittany Lion women have accumulated 39 points over the first two days of competition, which currently stands second in the team standings. The Nittany Lions trail only host Wisconsin with 52, while Purdue sits third with 32, Minnesota is in fourth with 27, and Michigan State rounds out the top five with 25 with seven events in the books.
The Nittany Lions were nearly flawless in Saturday's qualifying rounds on the track, as the women's squad advanced athletes to tomorrow's final heats in the 100-, 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meters, as well as the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4x100-meter relay. The men's squad was just as outstanding, qualifying competitors in the 200, 400, 800, and 1500.
Leading the charge in the sprints was sophomore Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.), who picked up heat victories in both the 200 and the 400. Gehret began the afternoon clocking 46.68 to win his section, and advance to the 400-meter final, thanks to the second-fastest performance of the afternoon. The sophomore matched his winning effort in the 200, going 20.78 - a personal best and the fourth-fastest time in school history. Also advancing in the men's sprints was sophomore Brandon Bennett-Green(Elkins Park, Pa.), who clocked a heat-winning 46.78 - the third-fastest effort in qualifying - to move on to the 400 final.
Sophomore Kirsten Nieuwendam (Parimaribo, Suriname) shined in the women's sprints, turning in section wins in the 100 and 200. Nieuwendam won her 100 race via a finishing time of 11.68 - just off her PR 11.60 - and came back to win her 200 heat in 23.61. Both marks were the second-best performances in qualifying. Sprinting to a personal-best effort in the qualifying rounds was senior Ijeoma Iheoma(Holland, Pa.), who finished her 400 preliminary in 53.15. Iheoma's performance, which is the fourth fastest in the Penn State record books, was the sixth-best time in qualifying and good for a lane in tomorrow's final.
Junior Doris Anyanwu (Beltsville, Md.) shaved nearly two seconds off her previous career best in the 400-hurdle rounds, running 59.44 to pick up a heat victory and advance to the final competition. Nieuwendam, Iheoma, and Anyanwu - along with freshman Dynasty McGee(Ypsilanti, Mich.) - also advanced in the 4x100, combining to run a season-best 45.91, going into Sunday's final as the number-five seed.
Sophomore Brittney Howell (Wyncote, Pa.) was the top Nittany Lion finisher in the women's heptathlon, taking ninth overall with a personal-best total of 5093 points. Howell's top event finish of the day was a sixth-place showing in the long jump with a leap of 18-6.50 (5.65). Also enjoying a personal-best showing was senior Anya Uzoh(Laurel, Md.), who took 10th overall in the men's decathlon. Uzoh posted a career-best total of 7119 - the eighth-best showing in the Penn State record books. Highlighting Uzoh's day two efforts was a personal-best toss of 160-11 (49.05) in the javelin.
The third and final day of Big Ten competition is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m., CDT, Sunday morning.
For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log on to www.GoPSUsports.com.
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