Track and Field Poised For Top Flight Performances at Big Ten Outdoor Championships
May 14, 2009
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.: May 13, 2009 - Bolstered by top end talent and impressive depth throughout the squads, the Nittany Lion track and field teams are poised for big finishes at the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships, set for May 15-17, at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of the Ohio State University. Both Nittany Lion programs have been putting up outstanding performances all spring and have already proven themselves as conference contenders in 2009, as both the men's and women's team posted top three finishes at the indoor conference championships.
Coming off a pair of conference titles indoors, sophomore Shavon GReaves (Lakewood, N.J.) will look to go four-for-four on the year, as she enters the weekend as the top seed in the 100- and 200-meters. Likewise, junior Fawn Dorr (Akron, N.Y.) - the indoor conference champion in the 400-meters - will aim to secure another pair of titles for the Blue and White, boasting the top seed times in the 400 and 400-meter hurdles. Dorr is not only tops at the conference level in the quarter hurdles but is also among the top 10 athletes in the country in the event with a season-best 57.78.
On the men's side, sophomore Ryan Foster (Tasmania, Australia) leads all entrants in the 800-meters, coming off a conference title indoors. Foster's 1:48.79 has been tops in the conference since he posted the mark in mid-April. Foster and teammate Owen Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) provided an exciting one-two half mile finish at the indoor conference meet, and will aim for similar results this weekend, along with sophomore Lionel Williams (Staten Island, N.Y.) - the Big Ten runner-up at 600-meters indoors. All three athletes are ranked among the conference top 10.
Senior Clarence Smith (Coatesville, Pa.) holds the top mark in the triple jump at 52-6.75 (16.02) - the best seed performance by more than two feet. Smith - already a two-time Big Ten Champion, including a triple jump title this past indoor season - has quite a supporting cast of Lions, including freshman regional-qualifier Hanif Johnson (Harrisburg, Pa.), who owns the fifth-best mark in the competition. Teammates Jay Pagana (Selinsgrove, Pa.) and Ryan Taylor (Spanish Town, Jamaica) are also in scoring position, coming into the competition ranked sixth and seventh, respectively. Last year, Smith, Taylor, and Pagana engineered an impressive two-three-four showing the conference triple jump, adding crucial points to the Lion total.
Nittany Lion workhorse Gayle Hunter (Riverside, Calif.) is once again up for a busy weekend, as she will not only complete the seven events of the women's heptathlon, but also compete in the open 100-meter hurdles, 200-meters, long jump and triple jump. Hunter is already an NCAA automatic qualifier in the heptathlon, and has regional marks to her credit in the short hurdles, 200, and long jump. Hunter - the 2009 NCAA runner-up in the pentathlon - will be in a battle to the finish in the multi-events as she will have to contend with fellow multiple-time All-Americans Liz Roehrig of Minnesota and Bettie Wade of Michigan.
One of the most anticipated matchups of the championships will be the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase, featuring Lion junior Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio) and Michigan State's Nicole Bush. Franek - the defending Big Ten Champion - has already reset her own Penn State standard in event twice this season, recently running 9:43.57 at the Payton Jordan Invitational. Bush and Franek are ranked one-two in the NCAA and are both among the top 10 performances in the world in 2009. The steeple could be one of the Lions' deepest events, as the field will also include junior Cheryl Spring (The Woodlands, Texas), who is an NCAA regional qualifier in the steeplechase and the 5,000-meters.
The Penn State men also look strong in the steeple as seniors John Mahoney (Richboro, Pa.) and Mike Syrnick (Philadelphia, Pa.) - both regional qualifiers - sit in scoring position with seed marks of 9:03.73 and 9:03.84, respectively. Sophomore Samuel Borchers (Yellow Springs, Ohio) returns as the defending champion in the 1500-meters, along with teammates Tim Johnson (New Cumberland, Pa.), Brian Fuller (Camp Hill, Pa.) and Vince McNally (Smoketown, Pa.) - Johnson, Fuller, and McNally have all clocked the regional standard in the 1500 this season. Another pair of regional qualifiers - Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) and Dennis Pollow (Ransomville, N.Y.) - will vie for points toward the Lion total, running the 5000-meters on Sunday.
Another competition shaping up to be outstanding throughout in the women's javelin, including Nittany Lion sophomores Kim Hanslovan (DuBois, Pa.) and Karlee McQuillen (Johnstown, Pa.). Hanslovan set the school record last weekend, posting a throw of 178-4 (54.35) at the Penn State Open, while McQuillen - a 2008 All-American - has a top 2009 toss 169-8 (51.72). Standing in the Lions' way will be 2008 Olympian Kara Patterson of Purdue - the Big Ten and NCAA leader in the event this season.
The Lions will hope to just as successful in the men's javelin, led by senior Tanner Evak (State College, Pa.) - the top seed in the event. Evak is already a two-time Big Ten medalist as well as an NCAA qualifier. The Nittany Lions have dominated the event over the years, winning nine titles since 1995. Evak will be joined by freshman Joe Gingerelli (Wood-Ridge, N.J.), who boasts the fourth-best throw in the conference this season.
Elsewhere in the throws, senior Emma Schmelzer (Bloomington, Ill.) will look to close out her Big Ten career in style, coming into the weekend as one of the top five entrants in the shot put, discus, and hammer. Schmelzer, who has regional marks on the books in all three events, finished third in the discus last year, and is a two-time Big Ten silver medalist coming off a runner-up effort in the weight throw during the indoor season. As for the men, Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) sits in second in the men's shot put competition with an NCAA top 10 toss of 60-9.50 (18.53).
Riding the momentum from a school-record performance last weekend, senior John Vellenoweth (Wheeling, W.Va.) will hope to clear big bars in the men's pole vault, entering the weekend as the second-seed with a PR clearance of 17-5.50 (5.32). Junior Ryan Fritz (Parkesburg, Pa.) is also poised for success in the vertical jumps, boasting the second-highest clearance in the high jump at 7-1 (2.16). Fritz is already a two-time conference champion in the event.
Action gets underway in Columbus on Friday, with the men's decathlon and women's heptathlon set to go at 12 p.m. Log onto www.gopsusports.com for full recaps following all three days of competition.