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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Members of the Penn State track and field team will travel to compete in the Spire Invitational this weekend, which serves as a good trial run before the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
The championships will be held this year at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, and the Nittany Lions are heading that direction to get a feel for the environment and facility.
"It's obviously a huge benefit to be able to get on a facility where you will have your championships. Our facility here is a 200-meter banked track and the Spire center is a 300-meter oversized track, so it's a little bit of a different than what our facility provides. For the field events, they want to feel the runway, they want to feel the ring, kind of get an idea of what it's like," said head coach John Gondak. "That's why we're going there, and hopefully it'll give us a boost as we go into Big Tens."
"Competing at Spire will give our team a really good opportunity to get to experience the environment there," said junior pole vaulter Hannah Mulhern. "It's kind of a dead atmosphere, so it'll give us the chance to get in there and experience that and practice making a good atmosphere for ourselves."
Penn State hosts a lot of indoor meets at its own facility, so traveling to a different facility is a complete different process for the team to experience.
"Getting to compete at Spire two weeks before the Big Ten Championships is definitely a big advantage for us. I know that we're very comfortable competing at home because we have such a nice facility and we're really lucky to compete there and having that atmosphere is very nice, but when we go to Spire we have to adjust to being on the road," said junior high jumper Megan McCloskey. "We have to get used to stuff like that, like Coach Gondak said before, when we're at Spire this weekend we get to take the opportunity to locate workout facilities, warmups, restrooms and stuff like that to plan and prepare rather than having to do that when we actually get there for Big Tens."
For some of the team, competing at Spire hasn't happened for some time, so getting to go there and experience the atmosphere will be a good step going into championship season.
"It's going to be nice going back down there," said junior jumper Bryce Williams. "Last time I competed there, it was freshman year. It'll be nice to get a feel how Spire competes and how the track feels and get used to competing there at a not less competitive meet, but in an easier feel before Big Tens. I hope to PR, I don't know how far that'll be. I'm just going to trust my training and listen to my coach and see what I can do when I go out and compete."
This meet at Spire marks the down swing of the Nittany Lions indoor season. After this meet, the Nittany Lions will have one more home meet before they go back to Spire for the indoor championships. The team is setting high expectations when going into these last three meets.
"For the rest of our indoor season, first and foremost, I'm hoping to accomplish a Big Ten Indoor Championship as a team. I think that's really important," said McCloskey. "Since I've been here, we haven't accomplished that and we've always been really close and I think this year we have a really good squad of girls who are prepared and have been putting in a lot of work, which has definitely showed at the beginning of this season. Individually, I'm just hoping that I can continue improving with my heights and my ultimate goal would definitely would be to be on the podium when all is said and top three and Big Tens and if things go well hopefully I'll be going to the national championships."
"I just want to keep making strides in the right direction," said Mulhern. "I want to keep improving on myself and on my performances, so I can help the team out at the Big Ten championships. I hope by that time to be jumping well enough to score and hopefully get on the podium at Big Tens."
Along with going to Spire this weekend, some of the team is traveling to Seattle, WA, to compete in the Husky Classic. Coach Gondak is hoping both of these meets show improvement among the team.
"I just want us to keep getting better every week, and I think we've done that very well through the season," said Gondak. "I know we rested a lot of kids last weekend, so hopefully now that we've got everybody back into play this weekend we can continue to get better as a team. I think we have about 70 athletes competing this weekend so it's going to be a good last test as we go into championship time."