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Feb. 25, 2012
LINCOLN, Neb. - Propelled by individual victories from Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) and Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.), the Nittany Lion women's team turned in a third-place finish in the team standings, Saturday at the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships. The men's squad also fared well - placing sixth overall - thanks to a silver-medal effort from the 4x400-meter relay - Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins Park, Pa.), Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), and Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.) - as well third-place finishes from junior Sean Reilly(Lagrangeville, N.Y.) in the high jump, and Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) in the mile.
Also turning in a silver-medal showing was the women's 4x400 relay, with Nittany Lions Dynasty McGee (Ypsilanti, Mich.), Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio), Kirsten Nieuwendam (Parimaribo, Suriname), and Ijeoma Iheoma(Holland, Pa.) running a season best 3:35.80.
"Penn State had a great showing at the new combined indoor Big Ten Conference Championships," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field Beth Alford-Sullivan. "First off, let me say that Nebraska hosted a great championship. They phenomenal facility and run a great meet, and obviously have a tremendous track and field program. It was a great environment to compete it, and I think our teams responded really well to it."
The Nittany Lions placed third in an exciting battle in the team standings, with new-rival Nebraska coming out on top with 114.50 points, followed by Ohio State with 106. The Lions totaled 99 points, with Illinois and Michigan State rounding out the top five with 79 and 77.50, respectively. Indiana nosed Minnesota for the men's team title, scoring 104 to the Gopher's 100. Nebraska placed third with a 99-point total, following by Ohio State (94.33), Wisconsin (75) and Penn State (51.33).
"On the women's side, we've gone 10 years being in the hunt for the win, and have continued to do that with a third-place finish," said Sullivan of the women's team. "I'm impressed with the efforts that were put forward, led by team captains Caitlin Lane and Kara Millhouse, as well as great results in the 200, 400 and 4x400. We scored 10 points more than I predicted, but I still feel we had another 10 points in us this weekend. It's always had to walk away knowing you could have done a little more, but overall, I felt the women held their own and will continue to progress throughout the year."
Millhouse, who placed second in the 3000 meters on Friday evening, clipped along within the pack for much of the 5000-meter distance, before mounting a surge with around 800 meters to go, pulling away from the field and taking the title by over five seconds in 16:17.45. The championship victory - which is the first Big Ten gold in Penn State history in the event - was the second of Millhouse's career, after taking top honors in the conference 10,000 meters last spring. Also ascending the medal stand in the 5K was Lane, who clocked 16:25.16 to earn bronze-medal honors.
Lane, who was also third in the 3,000, had a sensational weekend in her own right, competing in three events, and never finishing lower than third, including a victory in the mile run. Lane also put on a confident display in the mile run, mounting a charge in the closing laps and never looking back to finish in 4:39.90. Lane is also now a two-time Big Ten champion, coming off a victory in cross country this fall. Lane is the second Big Ten mile champion for the Lions in the last three years, as Bridget Franekcaptured the crown in 2010.
The Lions also enjoyed a solid day in the sprints, with a double-scoring performance from Nieuwendam, who placed second in the 400 meters, and fifth in the 200 meters. Nieuwendam sprinted to a heat victory in the 400 final, running 54.15 - which held up for the second-fastest time of the day. Also scoring in the event was Iheoma, who placed seventh in 54.84. Jones also got in on the scoring in the 200, placing fourth overall in 23.75.
A trio of Nittany Lions claimed top eight standings in the field, with Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.) taking eighth in the women's 20-lb weight via a toss of 63-7.75 (19.40). Performing quite well for a rookie was Sarah Palmer (Gansevoort, N.Y.), who took fifth in the high jump with a clearance of 5-8 (1.73). Tanaya Lloyd(Philadelphia, Pa.) also came through with an eighth-place effort, thanks to a leap of 40-9.50 (12.43).
"As for the men, it's frustrating not to finish in upper echelon of this conference," said Sullivan on the men. "We came up 8-10 points short of what I felt we were capable of, but that said, we still had some great competitions, great results and some surprises. Our men look to have figured out what it will take to compete at this level, and now it's a matter of pressing through and accomplishing it."
The 4x400 led the charge on the men's side, with Gehret's anchor solidifying Lions' silver-medal effort in 3:08.71. Ohio State nosed the Lions for the victory, winning in 3:08.06. The Nittany Lion 400-meter contingent also had a stellar weekend individually, with Bennett-Green and Nadolsky just missing the medal stand with four-five finish in the open quarter, clocking 46.82, and 47.01, respectively - personal bests for both.
Creese - just a freshman - would make the medal stand for the second time of the weekend, following his outstanding anchor on the winning DMR, by placing third in the mile, with a finishing time of 4:07.69. Classmate Ryan Brennan(Chester, N.Y.) would also turn in a scoring performance in the track events, placing eighth in the 600 meters at 1:19.97.
Reilly topped out at 6-11.75 (2.13) to claim his second-straight Big Ten bronze, after claiming the honor at the outdoor championships last year. Jon Hendershot (Nazareth, Pa.) tied for eighth in the event, clearing 6-9.50 (2.07). Also turning in points in the men's field events was Hanif Johnson(Harrisburg, Pa.), who posted a leap of 50-6.75 (15.41) to place sixth in the triple jump.
"I'm very proud of coaching staff and support staff that continue to propel our program to new heights," concluded Sullivan. "We'll go home, recover, and try and get some last chance qualifiers out of the way before going to NCAAs. I believe we will be well represented in Boise and can compete are poised to compete at that high level."
The Nittany Lions will be back in action next weekend, competing in "Last Chance" competitions at Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
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