Nittany Lions Eye Victories at Penn Relays

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Brandon Bennett-Green

April 24, 2013

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Coming in as the defending champion in two relays, and multiple field events, the Nittany Lion track and field squads will aim to fire on all cylinders this weekend, traveling to the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival, at historic Franklin Field. Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan will also be recognized throughout the Relays, serving as an "Honorary Referee" for the competition.

Sullivan has been at the helm of the Nittany Lion women's program for 14 years, and been the Director and Head Coach of the combined Nittany Lion men's and women's program since 2006. Sullivan's Nittany Lions have captured four "Championship of America" relay victories at Penn in the past five years alone, and have accumulated 14 individual Penn Relays titles under her watch. This summer, Sullivan will represent the United States as the Head Women's Coach at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia.

The Nittany Lions enter as the returning champion in the men's 4x800-meter relay, as well as the two-time defending champion in the men's sprint medley. The Blue and White contingent will be poised and ready to make another run at both titles, traveling a healthy stable of middle distance athletes, as well as standouts in the sprints.

Coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the Nittany Lions could also vie for a title in the men's distance medley with sensational sophomore Robby Creese (Mt. Airy, Md.) likely to cover the anchor. Creese turned in a lifetime-best 3:57.11 for the mile during the indoor season, and has already clocked 3:41.32 for the 1500 this spring. Creese, along with teammates Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), and Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.) combined to run a sizzling 9:26.60 inside - the second-fastest indoor effort in collegiate history.

Ready and waiting to assist on any of the Nittany Lion relays will be senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), who was a member of the Nittany Lions' winning SMR and 4x800 at Penn a year ago. Loxsom, who owns a personal-best 1:45.28 in the 800, has run 1:46.77 in 2013, after finishing in runner-up standing at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Kidder has also been wildly impressive this spring, posting a PR 1:47.23 at the Mt. SAC Relays last weekend, in addition to a career-best 3:42.07 for the 1500 the week prior.

The Nittany Lions also stand to make a splash in the sprints, with three of four members of their Penn Relays runner-up 4x400 from 2012, including Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), Bennett-Green, and Matt Gilmore (Philadelphia, Pa.).

The Nittany Lions boast a pair of returning champions in the field events in sophomore Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.) and junior Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.), who won the 2012 Penn Relays javelin and hammer, respectively. Kenney has been in top form this spring, opening with a PR toss of 176-11 (53.93) - the third-best throw in the NCAA this year - at the Crimson Tide Invitational earlier this month. Kenney, who placed fourth in the NCAA last year, owns two-straight Penn Relays victories, having taken top honors at the event as a high school senior. Also in the hunt for the javelin crown will be junior Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.). Also a Penn Relays Champion as a high prep, Loht took gold-medal honors at the Big Ten Championships last year, and went on to finish third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Head Coach Beth Sullivan

Kurzdorfer came away with a decisive victory in the hammer last year, posting a toss of 205-1 (62.53) to pick up her first-career Penn Relays watch. As a sophomore, Kurzdorfer would go on to finish in medal standing at the Big Ten Championships, and end the season with a Second Team All-America showing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Kurzdorfer's season-best 200-0 (60.96) in the hammer is the second-best toss in the Big Ten in 2013.

Senior Natalie Bower is the top returning finisher in the individual track events after finishing second in the "Championship" steeplechase in 2012. Bower currently leads the Big Ten in the event, thanks to a season-best effort is 10:16.79 at the Bison Outdoor Classic.

Action at the Relays begins at 10:00 a.m., Thursday morning and concludes on Saturday evening.

About the Penn Relays ...
Thursday-Saturday, April 25-27, 2013
Where: Franklin Field (University of Pennsylvania)
Coverage and Information:
Meet Results:

Nittany Lions Notes ...

Success in the Sun ...

A small contingent of Nittany Lion track and field standouts fared well against sensational competition, racing at the Mt. SAC Relays at Mount San Antonio College on April 18-20. Senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.) posted one of the more impressive performances at the competition, breaking the 14-minute barrier in the 5000 meters, thanks to a lifetime-best 13:57.33 - the fastest effort by a Nittany Lion in nearly a quarter century. His performance - which is among the top five efforts in the Big Ten this year - ranks No. 10 in the all-time Nittany Lion standings. In fact, Masters' effort is the fastest in nearly 25 years, as the senior becomes the first Nittany Lion to crack the all-time Penn State Top 10 in the event since Steve Brown ran 13:50.54 in 1989 Also climbing the all-time Nittany Lion ranking is freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), who clocked a lifetime-best 1:47.23 in the 800 to move to No. 8 in the Nittany Lion archives. Kidder's performance came via a sixth-place finish in the "Invitational" 800, which also included a clocking of 1:46.77 by Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) - good for fifth in the same race. The duo, which finished as the top two collegiate finishers in the race, now carry a one-two ranking in Division I.

Winner, Winner ...

The Nittany Lions men's and women's track and field squads to post 17 event victories - despite cold and windy conditions - Saturday, April 20, at the Bucknell Team Challenge at Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium. Paced by a pair of individuals victories from junior Marlene Ricketts (Westbury, N.Y.), the Penn State women's contingent also came away with the team title, scoring 228 points to better host Bucknell with 128. Ricketts captured dual event wins in the horizontal jumps, earning top honors in the long and triple jumps. Ricketts' gold-medal performances included efforts of 18-9.75 (5.73) in the long jump, and 41-9.25 (12.73) - a season best by just over two inches - in the triple jump. Highlighting things in the men's field events was redshirt-junior Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio), who launched a career-best 207-10 (63.35) to place second in the hammer throw. Barr's mark - which is the second-best toss in Penn State history - currently stands fourth among Big Ten competition.

Awards Abound ...
Sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and redshirt-junior Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio) have both run their way Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week honors, announced by conference offices on Wednesday, April 17. Creese posted a lifetime-best performance in the 1500 meters at the Bison Outdoor Classic last weekend, while Jones held her own against stellar sprint competition at the Battle on the Bayou at Louisiana State University.

Big Performances on the Bayou ...
The Nittany Lion men's and women's track and field squads held their own against outstanding competition - both turning in second-place finishes in the team standings - April 13 at the LSU Invitational - Battle on the Bayou at Bernie Moore Stadium. Sophomore Darrell Hill (Philadelphia, Pa.) led the way individually, launching a career-best effort in the shot put to take over the No. 3 spot in the national rankings in the event. Hill was one of a host of Nittany Lions to pick up event victories on the weekend, including redshirt-junior Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio), who came away with top honors in the stacked 100-meter field, to go along with a personal best in the 200 meters. Sophomore Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.) was equally as outstanding in the field events, taking home a victory in the long jump, and finishing as the top collegiate competitor in the triple jump.

Bests at Bucknell ...
Sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) set a facility record in the 1500 meters, leading a host of outstanding performances by the Nittany Lions track and field squads, April 13, at the Bison Outdoor Classic at Bucknell University. Junior Marta Klebe (Chesterbrook, Pa.) led the way on the women's side, who took top honors in the women's 1500 meters. Creese paced a bevy of Nittany Lions in the 1500, leading a 1-2-3-4 sweep in the event along with teammates Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), Tyler Corkedale (West Windsor, N.J.), and Ricky West(Toronto, Ontario). The sophomore clocked a personal-best 3:41.32 - bettering his own facility record 3:43.79, set in 2012.

Early Big Ten Accolades ...
Sophomore Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.) and freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) have both received Big Ten Athlete of the Week accolades, announced by conference offices on Wednesday, April 10. Both Kenney and Kidder came away with event victories at last weekend's Crimson Tide Invitational at the University of Alabama, putting up conference leading performances in their respective events.

Season Opener ...
Bolstered by six event victories, including the NCAA's second-ranked javelin mark from sophomore Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.), the Nittany Lion captured the women's team title, Saturday at the Crimson Tide Invitational at the University of Alabama. The Nittany Lion men's squad also fared well, adding three victories to the program title, highlighted a Big Ten leading effort by freshman Brannon Kidder(Lancaster, Ohio) in the 800 meters. Clinching the team title with a dramatic victory in the 4x400-meter relay, the Nittany Lion women totaled 115.50 points on the evening, edging out conference rival Nebraska with 108.50.

Tremendous Tosses ...
Kenney, who finished fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago, wasted no time in proving she'll be a national contender again in 2013, unleashing a personal-best 176-11 (53.93) on her first attempt at the Crimson Tide Invitational. Kenney's PR, which was nearly 10 feet better than her previous lifetime best, is not only the second-farthest effort in the NCAA this year, but also ranks as the second-best toss in Nittany Lion history. Teammate Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) made it a Nittany Lion sweep in the event, turning in an effort of 159-7 (48.65) for second. Freshman Michael Shuey (Johnsonburg, Pa.) stood out for the Nittany Lions in the men's javelin, taking second-place overall with a career-best throw of 226-6 (69.04) to improve on his high school PR by nearly 15 feet. Shuey's mark currently stands at No. 16 on the NCAA descending order list.

Off and Running ...
The Nittany Lion track and field squads enjoyed a successful season opener - with all seven competing athletes turning in lifetime bests - last Friday evening at the Stanford Invitational. The Nittany Lions took advantage of the ideal weather conditions in Palo Alto, posting outstanding performances in the distance events. A trio of Nittany Lions also earned spots on the all-time Penn State Top 10 lists in their respective events at Stanford, including senior Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.), who now stands at No. 7 all-time in the women's 5,000 meters, thanks to a PR 16:12.88. Bower's performance is also the current Big Ten leader. Also moving up the all-time rankings were Abbie Benson (Elma, N.Y.), and Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.). Benson clocked a PR 10:33.30 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to climb to No. 9 all-time, while Giannotti went 34:54.26 for 10,000 meters, which stands as the 10th fastest effort in school history.

Indoor Wrap Up ...
The Nittany Lion men's track and field program wrapped up a record-setting indoor campaign last month, posting a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Arkansas. Penn State was paced by a pair of runner-up finishes at the championships, and brought home a grand total of six USTFCCCA First Team All-Americans in the effort. The Nittany Lions were on fire throughout the indoor season, claiming school records in nine events in 2013, while also setting all-time collegiate bests in two disciplines.

Sensational Senior ...
Loxsom, who was named USTFCCCA "Mid-Atlantic Men's Track Athlete of the Year," capped his sizzling indoor season with a second-place finish in the 800 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships - the best-ever finish by a Nittany Lion in the event. Loxsom was nearly unstoppable in the middle distances this season, as the senior claimed Big Ten Athlete of the Championship and Athlete of the Year honors for his record-breaking efforts. At the conference meet, Loxsom tore to an all-time, all-conditions indoor American and collegiate best en route to an individual victory in the 600 meters. The senior clocked a sizzling 1:15.42 in the event, bettering his own school-record 1:15.92. Loxsom's 1:15.92, which he ran at Ashenfelter III Indoor Track in January, stands as the current American Collegiate Record, as it was run on a 200-meter track.

Nittany Notables ...
With the men's indoor finish, Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan becomes the first female director to lead a men's program to a top 10 finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships. That said, Sullivan was also named USTFCCCA "Mid-Atlantic Region Men's Coach of the Year" for the Nittany Lions' successes in 2013, marking the second time she has won the men's award, as well as the 27th "Coach of the Year" citation over her decorated career. Sullivan wasn't the only Nittany Lion earning hardware during the indoor season, as USTFCCCA "Mid-Atlantic Men's Assistant Coach of the Year" honors went to Associate Head Coach John Gondak, and the USTFCCCA "Mid-Atlantic Women's Assistant Coach of the Year" award when to first-year assistant Randy Bungard.

Leading Ladies ...
The Nittany Lions also garnered a top tier conference standing on the women's side during the indoor season, as the Blue and White finished fourth overall to mark the program's 11th-straight top four finish at the indoor conference championships. Juniors Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio), and Marlene Ricketts (Westbury, N.Y.) led the Lions, thanks to silver-medal finishes in the 60-meters and triple jump respectively. The duo would also go on to represent Penn State at the NCAA Indoor Championships, with Jones capturing Second Team All-America status in the 200 meters, and Ricketts earning the same honor in the triple jump.




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