Men's Track and Field Aims for Improvement at Big Ten Indoor Championships
Feb. 29, 2008
MADISON, Wis. - Looking to use the momentum they've built during already successful 2008 campaign, the Nittany Lion men's track and field team will face its toughest competition of the season this weekend, heading into the Big Ten Indoor Championships, hosted by the University of Wisconsin. Fielding a talented squad all around, the Lions will look to their experienced veterans, as well as their hungry youth in their quest to climb the Big Ten ladder.
The Lions boast three top seeded athletes going into the weekend, with freshman Lionel Williams (Staten Island, N.Y.) holding the top time in the 600-meters, and 2006 outdoor 800-meter champion Mark Miller (Shillington, Pa.) going into the meet as the top-rated half miler. Williams' career-best 1:18.82 , leads Purdue's Stephen Bach by just .01 seconds in the rarely contested event, while Miller's 1:49.43 is also rated 14th in the entire NCAA. Miller won bronze-medal honors in 2007.
Also in position for a conference victory is junior Clarence Smith (Coatesville, Pa.) in the triple jump. Smith's personal-best 50-11.50 (15.53) is tops in the Big Ten as well as a top 20 performance nationally. Smith finished third in the event last indoor season, with teammate Jay Pagana (Selinsgrove, Pa.) following in eighth. Pagana has also experienced big improvements this season, posting a personal-best jump of 50-0.50 (15.25), which is the sixth-best mark in the conference.
The Lions are also set up to gain a handful of points in the mile run, with freshman sensation Samuel Borchers (Yellow Springs, Ohio) leading the way with a provisional-qualifying 4:01.98, which is the fourth-fastest time in the conference. Juniors Brian Fuller (Camp Hill, Pa.) and Tim Johnson (New Cumberland, Pa.) have also been running well this season, coming into the competition of 4:06.34, and 4:11.30, respectively.
Last year's bronze medalist in the 60-meter hurdles, Ron Jules (Tom's River, N.J.) is ready for another trip to the medal stand, as his season-best 8.01 is the third-fastest seed in the preliminaries. Jules, a fifth-year senior, is no stranger to Big Ten success having numerous conference scoring performances to his credit.
Junior Ryan Fritz (Parkesburg, Pa.), the defending champion in the high jump, will look to get back on track this weekend after a late start to his 2008 season. Fritz, who finished fifth at the NCAA Championships in 2007, took top honors at the conference meet last year with a clearance of 7-3 (2.20m).
Senior Tyler Hoffman (Lewisburg, Pa.) will look to provide a spark for the Lions in the weight throw, entering the meet with the fourth-farthest seed mark. Hoffman boasts a provisional-qualifying 65-9 (20.04m) going into the competition. The Lions will rely on rookie duo Blake Eaton (Allegeny, N.Y.) and Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) in the shot put, as the freshmen have displayed outstanding progress this season, and are within striking distance of scoring performances this weekend.
Junior Chris Morrisey (Ligonier, Pa.) and senior Shawn Colligan (Bradford, Pa.) will cover the heptathlon for the Blue and White after finishing fifth and sixth in the event in 2007. Colligan is the highest rated Lion this weekend, going into the competition with a season-best 5073 - the fourth-best score in the Big Ten field.
The Lion heptathletes will get the action underway with the 60-meter dash at 10 a.m. CST. The meet concludes with the 4x400-meter relay, Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CST. Fans can log onto www.BigTen.org to follow all the action, and check back to www.GoPSUsports.com for full Penn State recaps at the conclusion of both days.