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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend marks the end of the Nittany Lions conference indoor track season as they head to Geneva, OH to compete in the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Some of the team has had their fair share of experience when it comes to this conference meet.
Senior sprinter, Alex Shisler knows his past experiences allow him to be ready to take on his last indoor Big Tens.
"I know what to expect. It's something I've been through, this is going to be my eighth Big Tens, so I know exactly what to expect," said Shisler. "I know what to expect when it comes to competition, I know how to run on that track, and I think all those things are going to benefit me greatly in terms of my competition."
This last shot at indoor Big Tens is leaving Shisler hopeful that the team comes out on top.
"Winning. I'm so excited to at least have that shot," he said. "This meet is the one that we all look forward to. It's something we haven't done yet, so it's always fun to go in there, compete to the best of our ability and see if we can come out with a trophy."
Returning to the meet this year is sophomore mid-distance runner, Isaiah Harris, who captured the 800-meter first place last year, running a Big Ten all-time indoor record time of 1:46.24.
Harris is more secure going into the championships after taking the gold in it last year.
"I feel like going into this weekend I'm more confident based off what I did last year, so it's just a confidence thing. I'm not going to be nervous going into it."
Although he won the open 800, Harris is more excited to run the DMR with his team.
"I'm excited about the DMR really because we've won it the past five years, but this year we aren't as strong as we have been in the past," said Harris. "Gondak just told me that I'm anchoring it now, so we're going to try I guess to pull an upset and try to keep the streak alive. I'm looking forward to that."
Head coach John Gondak feels confident in Harris and his team after the Penn State Tune-Up last weekend.
"Everybody is where you want them to be. A lot of the men that competed last weekend were using it as a workout meet so to speak, doing multiple events to kind of simulate what the conference championships is going to be like," said Gondak. "The women, we wanted to accomplish a few things and they are just very driven and focused right now on going and trying to make a run at winning the Big Ten title. They showed that with what they did in the DMR and with what a handful of other athletes did last weekend so they've got excellent energy right now."
Gondak feels that all areas of the team are strong enough to contribute to a successful championship meet this weekend.
"The nice part about our program is that I think all areas are going to be the strength of our team. We work to really have a well-balanced program," said Gondak. "In most events, we have an opportunity to score. Obviously, in some events we have a little bit more of an opportunity than others based on our entries, but it's going to take everybody to be on their A game this weekend to have the results we want to have."
"I'm feeling really excited. I've asked the team week in and week out to just keep working to get better, and I think they've done that. I think they're really confident as we head on into the championships this weekend," he added. "They've been competing really well and we've stressed to them that this is just like any competition to them in terms of putting any undue pressure or stress on yourself and go have fun and compete and we'll hopefully have a good result."
This Big Ten meet will serve as the last opportunity for qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Going into this weekend, the Nittany Lions have had seven NCAA-qualifying performances. The top 16 individuals and top 12 relays at the meet will qualify for the NCAA Championships that will be held in College Station, TX.
The Big Ten Indoor Championships is set to start at 10 a.m. on Friday and continuing into Saturday at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, OH.