April 25, 2012
Penn Relays Notes
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
With outdoor season already well underway, the Nittany Lion track and field squads will get to see where they stand against the nation's best this weekend, competing at the 118th running of the Penn Relays, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania at historic Franklin Field. The Nittany Lions stand to make an impact across all event areas, with several Penn State relay squads and individual athletes expected to vie for Penn Relays victories in their respective events. Action is slated to begin at 10:00 a.m., Thursday morning in Philadelphia.
The Nittany Lions have already enjoyed a successful outdoor campaign, including a school-record run from senior Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) in the 10,000-meters (33:31.37) at last weekend's Mt. SAC Relays. Also making their way into the record books in 2012 is the men's 4x400-meter relay quarter of Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins' Park, Pa.), Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), and Emunael Mpanduki (Harare, Zimbabwe), which set the all-time Penn State mark of 3:06.50 at the Battle on the Bayou at Louisiana State University earlier this month.
About the Penn Relays...
When: Thursday-Saturday (April 26-28)
Where: Franklin Field (University of Pennsylvania)
Host Website/Results: www.pennrelaysonline.com
Penn Relays Twitter: @thepennrelays
Follow the Nittany Lions...
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/pennstatecrosscountryandtrackandfield
On Twitter: @PennStTFXC
Nittany Lion Relays to Watch ...
Men's Sprint Medley Relay - Friday, 6:50 p.m.
The Nittany Lions are the team-to-beat in the men's sprint medley, coming off a "Championship of America" victory in 2011. Anchored by a strong close from then-senior Ryan Foster, the Nittany Lions finished in a school-record 3:17.10 to garner the Lions' first "wheel" since 1987. The victory also marked the Nittany Lions' first sprint medley title since 1942, and fourth SMR win overall. All told, the Nittany Lion men now own a total of 24 Penn Relays wheels. Three of the Nittany Lion's four sprint-relay legs from 2012 could run this year, including sophomores Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.), and Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), and junior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.). Standing in the Lions' way will be sprint powerhouse Texas A&M. The Aggies will also travel a powerful middle-distance contingent, including NCAA 800-meter leader Michael Preble, who has run 1:46.43 this spring. The field is also slated to feature Division II stalwart Saint Augustine's as well as Delaware State, which has experienced outstanding success in the long sprints and middle distances over the past several years.
The Lions will also have a stable of talented legs available, including sophomore and Philadelphia product Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins' Park, Pa.), who was a member of the Lions' NCAA runner-up 4x400-meter relay indoors, and middle-distance standouts senior Owen Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) and freshman Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.).
Women's Distance Medley Relay - Thursday, 5:20 p.m.
Coming off a school-record run in the women's distance medley relay indoors, the Nittany Lions will look to get a piece of the always exciting Penn Relays race as one of the top seeds going into the competition. The Nittany Lions, who placed 13th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this fall, will have a list of options for the mile leg, including Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.), who recently reset her own Penn State record in the 10,000-meters. Millhouse anchored the Lions' school-record DMR indoors, which clocked 11:05.16, along with teammates Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.), Ijeoma Iheoma (Holland, Pa.), and Bekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio).
Iheoma and Simko have both been running well this spring, as Iheoma - a two-time All-American for the Nittany Lions - has a 400-meter performance of 53.97 to her credit this season. Simko has shined in the middle distance events, as the sophomore leads the team in both the 800 (2:05.40) and the 1500-meters (4:20.11). Simko currently stands second in the Big Ten in the 800, and third in the 1500. Also vying for a spot on the Penn DMR is sophomore Marta Klebe (Chesterbrook, Pa.), who has turned in solid PRs of 2:10.08 and 4:27.88 already this season.
In contention for the DMR title are the usual suspects in the women's distances, including last year's champion Georgetown, and hometown-favorite Villanova. Georgetown has been on a roll this year, taking top honors at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and coming back to run a blistering 10:55 for the DMR indoors. The Hoyas will likely anchor distance star Emily Infield, who won the NCAA title at 3,000-meters during the indoor season.
Men's 4x800-Meter Relay - Saturday, 4:40 p.m.
The Penn Relays 4x800-meter relay crown has narrowly eluded the Nittany Lions over the past two seasons, including a closely-contested 7:12.15-7:12.90 one-two finish behind the University of Virginia a year ago. Despite the defeat, the Lions still managed to run the seventh-fastest effort in collegiate history, and came ever-so-close to the Penn State and Penn Relays record of 7:11.17 - which has stood since 1985. The Lion lineup could feature some major fire power in 2012, including Loxsom, who ran 1:45.28 to close out the outdoor season last spring. Also looking to be a member of the Nittany Lion quartet is Owen Dawson, an All-American in the 800, who owns a personal best of 1:47.7. A pair of rookies will likely cover half of the Nittany Lion squad, with Creese and classmate Ryan Brennan (Chester, N.Y.) already off to outstanding collegiate careers. Creese, who has run 1:48.64 for 800, was wildly impressive indoors, dipping under the 4:00-mile barrier on two occasions, and making an appearance in the NCAA mile final as the only freshman in the field. Brennan has also come on strong this season, running 1:50.30 to win the event at the Auburn War Eagle Classic last weekend.
Texas A&M will once again be looking to run away with the event title, having run 7:15.99 in the 4x800 at Texas Relays earlier this season. Also in the mix will be the Ducks of Oregon, who placed second in the event in their last Penn Relays appearance in 2010.
Men's 4x400-Meter Relay - Heats: Friday, 4:40 p.m.; Championship: Saturday, 6:00 p.m.
Having finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the Nittany Lions are certainly no strangers to competing at the highest level in the men's 4x400-meter relay, and the competition is shaping up to be just as star-studded at the Penn Relays. The Lion quartet of Nadolsky, Bennett-Green, Loxsom, and Gehret, which set a school-record 3:05.22 indoors, sprinted to a runner-up finish in the event during the indoor season, running 3:05.31 to post Penn State's best-ever finish in the event. The momentum has continued into the outdoor season, as the Nittany Lions have already shattered the Penn State record in the event, running 3:06.50 at the LSU Battle on the Bayou earlier this month, with Bennett-Green, Gehret, Loxsom, and Emunael Mpanduki (Harare, Zimbabwe). Gehret has been running especially well individually, clocking 46.05 for the 400-meter at Auburn last weekend, which ranks second on the all-time Penn State top 10. Bennett-Green also has an outstanding quarter mile to his credit this season, running a PR 46.71 at LSU.
But the road to a Penn Relays wheel is never an easy one, as the Nittany Lions will need to advance through the Friday preliminaries to qualify for Saturday's Championship of America final. The Nittany Lions will have their work cut out for them, with Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and LSU all expected to run, and all coming in with 2012 bests of sub-3:04.
Field Events in Focus...
Women's Championship Hammer - Thursday, 10:00 a.m.
Competing in her first-career Penn Relays will be sophomore Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.), who is one of the favorites in the women's championship hammer. Kurzdorfer - a transfer from Kent State University - has been a welcome addition to the Lion lineup this spring, boasting a PR 206-7 (62.97) in the hammer - the top mark in the Big Ten this season, as well as the second-best performance in the NCAA East Region. Kurzdorfer has also made an immediate impact on the Nittany Lion record book in the event, as her personal best is the second-farthest throw in Penn State history. The last Nittany Lion to win the hammer crown was Jennifer Leatherman in 2006.
Women's Championship Javelin - Thursday, 2:00 p.m.
One of the Lions' most successful events over the past several seasons, with former Nittany Lion Karlee McQuillen claiming back-to-back titles in the 2010 and 2011. A pair of underclassman will look to take over the torch in 2012, in sophomore Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) and freshman Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.). Both Nittany Lions have enjoyed outstanding success so far in 2012, with Loht leading the Big Ten at 163-9 (49.91) and Kenney standing second in the conference with a PR toss of 157-8 (48.07). Loht, who was third at Penn last year, has already picked up victories at the Jim Click Shootout and LSU Battle on the Bayou, while Kenney was tops at the Bucknell Team Challenge last weekend, setting a facility record on the way. Loht and Kenney both have Penn Relays wins under their belts, as Loht won the high school javelin title in 2010, and Kenney took top honors in 2011.
Men's Championship Shot Put - Friday, 10:00 a.m.
Leading the way for the Nittany Lions in the men's shot put is senior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.). Kovacs, who placed sixth at the USATF Indoor Championships via a PR toss of 66-1 (20.14), will be one of the favorites for the Penn Relays watch, coming off a third-place effort at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago. Competing in the championship section for the first time will be senior Logan Caldwell (Ebensburg, Pa.). Caldwell had a stellar indoor season, posting a personal-best 61-7 (18.77) to place fourth at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Kovacs has been on a roll outdoors, as the senior stands undefeated in the event over four tries, with a pair of Big Ten Athlete of the Week certificates to his credit. His season-best 63-10.25 (19.46) stands first in the Big Ten and sixth in Division I.