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Feb. 11, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Bolstered by outstanding efforts over the weekend, as well as an entire season of stellar performance, the Nittany Lion men’s track and field team currently stands among the nation’s best, vaulting to No. 5 national standing in the latest United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) computer rankings. The Nittany Lions are set up for a record run at the NCAA Indoor Championships next month, as standout senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) leads the NCAA in the 800 meters, and super sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) stands second nationally after a school-record setting effort in the mile.
“It’s a really exciting time for our program, as this is the highest we’ve ever been ranked on the men’s side,” said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. “We’re certainly proud of the efforts of team across the board throughout the indoor season. We’ll look forward to the conference meet first, then we’ll see how we progress throughout the post season.”
The Nittany Lions are also tops among a talented group of Big Ten programs in the rankings, leading a total of six conference squads in the top 25. Appearing behind the Nittany Lions at No. 5, are Nebraska in seventh, Indiana at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 11, as well as Minnesota and Michigan, which appear at 23rd and 25th, respectively in this week’s standings.
Loxsom has stood at the top of the heap in the 800 for the better part of the last month after clocking a personal-indoor best and Penn State record 1:46.98 at the Nittany Lion Challenge on January 12. The senior leads an impressive presence by the Nittany Lion middle distance contingent in the half mile, as a grand total of five Nittany Lions are currently ranked in the nation’s top 20 in the event.
Emerging at No. 2 in the national performance rankings this week is Creese, who turned the heads of the nation this past weekend, running school-record 3:57.11 at the Husky Classic at the University of Washington. Creese's PR performance betters Ryan Foster's 3:58.49 from the 2010 campaign, and is also his third career trip under the 4:00 barrier. The 3:57.11 effort is current second in the national rankings, behind only Oklahoma's Patrick Casey at 3:56.28.
Freshman standout Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) is also a fixture in the national middle-distance rankings, as the rookie currently rates at No. 6 in the 800, and No. 14 in the mile. The freshman impressed early on in the January, blitzing to a PR 1:48. 17 for the 800, and followed up with a sub-4:00 performance in the mile, going 3:49.48 on January 26, becoming just the fourth athlete in program history to break the elusive distance barrier.
The Nittany Lions are also among the top 10-rated relays in the country in the 4x400-meters, as the quartet of Emunael Mpanduki (Harare, Zimbabwe), Loxsom, Matt Gilmore (Philadelphia, Pa.), and Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.). In fact, the Nittany Lions return three of four members of their NCAA runner-up 4x400 from a year ago, including Bennett-Green, Loxsom, and Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.). The Nittany Lions have been highly productive in the sprints this season, setting a collegiate record in the 4x200-meters last month with Mpanduki, Gilmore, Bennett-Green, and Nadolsky going 1:24.70 at the Penn State National.
Leading the way for the Nittany Lions in the field events is junior Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio), who currently stands at No. 10 in Division I in the 35-lb weight throw. Barr has spent most of the indoor season setting and resetting the Penn State record in the event, recording a toss of 67-10.75 (20.72) at the SPIRE Division I Invitational last weekend. The performance currently stands as the all-time Nittany Lion best.
Also laying claim to an all-time Penn State standard this weekend was senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.) in the 3,000 meters. Masters ripped to a PR and school-record 7:54.52 for the 3K in Seattle, bettering Ken Frasier’s 8:00.78 from 1989. Masters’ effort currently rates 17th nationally, and third in the conference.
The majority of the Nittany Lion squad will train through this weekend, with a small contingent set to travel to the Millrose Games at the historic Armory Track and Field Center in New York City. The Nittany Lions are currently slated to compete in the 4x800-meter relay, with a wealth of options in the pool, including Loxsom and Kidder, as well as fellow middle distance specialists Ricky West (Toronto, Ontario), and Za’von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.). West and Watkins hold the 15th and 16th fastest 800 times in the country this season, owning season bests of 1:48.92, and 1:49.03, respectively. Creese is also up there in on the national 800 performance list, standing 19th at 1:49.13.
From there, the Nittany Lions will move on to the Big Ten Championships, set for February 22-23, at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. For ticket information, log on to www.spireinstitute.org. </>