Kovacs, Johnson Earn USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Awards
June 4, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) was named Mid-Atlantic Region Men's Field Athlete of the Year, while Associate Head Coach Chris Johnson was selected as the Mid-Atlantic Men's Assistant Coach of the Year, announced by the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday. Kovacs, Johnson, and the Nittany Lions are already en route to the NCAA Outdoor Championship, scheduled for June 6-9, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kovacs has dominated the NCAA shot put scene this spring, remaining undefeated against collegiate competitors, including victories at the Big Ten Championships, NCAA Eastern Preliminary, and Penn Relays. Kovacs smashed the Nittany Lion school record in the event at the conference meet, launching a sensational put of 68-5 (20.85) - the best throw in the NCAA by nearly two feet.
The Nazareth, Pa., native's efforts have not gone unnoticed this spring, as he was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week on a total of four occasions, before earning Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year honors. The senior is set to compete at 10:00 a.m., CST, Saturday, at Drake Stadium.
Johnson has had the men's sprints and relays contingent running at top speed this spring, led by sophomore sensation Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.), who took top honors in the 400-meters at the Big Ten Championships, running a sizzling 45.22. Following in third place in the conference 400 was sophomore Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins Park, Pa.), who finished in 45.94.
Gehret's effort is not only the second-fastest performance in Penn State history, but also guarantees him a spot at U.S. Olympic Trials later this month. Gehret, who will compete in the open 400 this weekend, has also been top notch in the 200-meters under Johnson's watch, as the sophomore scored a second-place finish at the conference meet, running 20.62.
Johnson would also guide the men's 4x400-meter relay to the top of Big Ten podium, thanks to a then school-record 3:04.78, from the quartet of Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), Gehret, and Bennett-Green. The same foursome, which also combined to win the sprint medley at Penn Relays, would go on to reset their own Nittany Lion standard in the event last weekend, clocking a blistering 3:03.57. Johnson and the men's relay have been on a roll all year, as the squad placed second at the NCAA Indoor Championships - the highest finish in program history. The 4x400 preliminaries are set for Thursday evening, with the final to follow on Saturday afternoon.
Johnson, who now has seven USTFCCCA awards to his credit, is in his eighth year on the Penn State women's staff, and his sixth year overseeing both the Nittany Lion men's and women's sprint, hurdle, and relay athletes.
Action in Des Moines is slated to begin on Wednesday. The Nittany Lions will travel an impressive total of 16 athletes to the event.