Nittany Lions Send 16 to NCAA Outdoor Championships
June 5, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A contingent of 16 Nittany Lions will make the trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships to week, with national titles on the line - June 6-9 - at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The Nittany Lions have been on a roll in recent weeks, with a bevy of strong performances coming at the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla., last month, including a school-record run of 3:03.57 by the men's 4x400-meter relay.
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Penn State will travel an already decorated group of individuals and relay athletes, led by senior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.), who was recently named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year. Kovacs, who will compete in the shot put, has been on a tear all season, picking up multiple victories, including the Big Ten Championships, and Penn Relays. The senior, who placed third in the event a year ago, is the top seed going into the meet, leading the field with a PR 68-5 (20.85) - the best throw by a collegian by nearly two feet.
Also back and looking to improve from last year's outdoor championships is junior and Big Ten Outdoor Champion Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), who finished fourth in the 800-meters at NCAAs last spring. Loxsom, who ranks third among collegians this spring in the half mile, will also run as a member of the record-setting men's 4x400, along with teammates Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins Park, Pa.) and Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.). The quartet will look to carry their NCAA momentum over from the indoor season, as the same foursome placed second at the NCAA Indoor Championships this winter - the highest-ever finish by a Nittany Lion men's 4x400.
Gehret will also take to the track as an individual, qualifying through in the 400-meters. Gehret, who split 44.4 on the record-setting relay at the Eastern Preliminary, took top honors in the event at the Big Ten Championships last month, running a sizzling 45.22, which is also an "A" qualifier for the US Olympic Trials. The sophomore would also score a second-place finish in the 200-meters at the conference meet, running a PR 20.62.
The 4x400 has been fire this spring, placing second at Penn Relays, and picking up a victory at the Big Ten Championships - the first Big Ten men's crown in the event in school history. The same foursome was also victorious at Penn Relays, taking top honors in the sprint medley relay to claim Penn State's second-straight victory in the event.
The Nittany Lions will also travel a stellar squad on the women's side, with Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.), Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.), Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.), and Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio) set to represent Penn State individually. The women's 4x400-meter relay will also toe the line, marking the seventh-straight year that the Nittany Lions have qualified a team in the event, including an NCAA title in 2008.
Loht and Kenney have dominated the javelin ranks this season, as the duo provided a one-two finish at the Big Ten Championships, with Loht topping the podium. Kenney, who was also the Penn Relays Champion, followed up with a PR toss of 162-10 (49.65) which was the top performance at the NCAA East Prelim, while Loht owns a season-best 163-9 (49.91). Kurzdorfer, who placed second in the conference, is also ready to represent in the field, coming into the championships with a seed mark of 207-10 (63.35) - the second-best toss in PSU history - in the women's hammer.
Simko will toe the line in the middle distances, competing in the 800-meters. The sophomore, who qualified for the Eastern Prelim in the 800 and 1500-meters, has already run 2:05.40 this season - the third-fastest effort in the Penn State record books, as well as an Olympic Trials "B" Qualifier.
Action in Des Moines is set to begin on Wednesday.