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Nov. 6, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The Nittany Lion track and field squads celebrating the accomplishments of the 2011-12 season, Sunday at the team's annual "recognition ceremony," at Ashenfelter III Indoor Track. Throughout the afternoon, Penn State honored a dozen First Team USTFCCCA All-Americans from the indoor and outdoor seasons, as well as nearly 50 Big Ten medalists from the 2011-12 campaign, including six individual Big Ten Champion, and two conference-winning relays.
Each year, the Nittany Lion coaching staff presents a series of "Team Awards," which recognizes the team's "Most Valuable Athlete," "Freshman of the Year," "Most Improved," and "Most Inspirational," as well as "Captain's Awards" and "Coaches' Awards" from the previous seasons.
A quartet of Nittany Lions earned "Most Valuable" status, with Kara Millhouse being named the "Most Valuable Track Athlete," and junior Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) earning "Most Valuable Field Athlete," on the women's side. Meanwhile, junior Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.) copped "Most Valuable Track Athlete" honors for the men's team, while Joe Kovacswas named "Most Valuable" in the field.
All four Nittany Lions enjoyed record-setting campaigns, with Millhouse ending her Penn State career with three school records, and two Big Ten titles on the 2012 season. Millhouse captured her second-straight Big Ten title in the 10,000-meters, and would go on to run a school-record 32:57.33. Loht also nabbed some Big Ten hardware, winning the conference javelin competition, and capping off the year with a third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Loht would also go on to compete at the US Olympic Trials, where she was one of the youngest entrants in the women's javelin field.
Gehret was outstanding in 2012, anchoring the men's 4x400-meter relay to second-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The Altoona, Pa., native, who ended the 2012 campaign with an eighth-place finish at the US Olympic Trials, was just as sharp outdoors, winning top honors in the 400-meters at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, and assisting on the gold-medal 4x400. Gehret hit his stride at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, finishing sixth in the open 400, and anchoring the men's mile relay, which placed fourth overall in the NCAA final, to a sizzling school-record 3:01.52.
Kovacs was also hot outdoors, ending the year with a school-record toss of 69-2 (21.08) in the shot put - good for a fourth-place finish at the Olympic Trials and just shy of a spot on the US Olympic Team. Throughout the season, Kovacs also picked up shot victories at the prestigious Penn Relays, as well as the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Kovacs was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week on four occasions during the outdoor season, and was eventually named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year, and USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year.
Copping "Freshman of the Year" honors were 2012 rookies Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and Lauren Kenney(State College, Pa.). Creese, who's award is titled the "Ed Moran Memorial Freshman of the Year," enjoyed one of the more impressive freshman years on record, setting a collegiate-record 2:19.53 for the 1,000-meters during the indoor season, and also dipping under the 4:00-mile barrier on two occasions. Creese, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year during the indoor and outdoor season, would also anchor the Lions' winning distance medley at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, as well as the winning 4x800-meter relay at Penn Relays. Kenney picked up an individual title in the javelin at Penn Relays, and again at the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round. Kenney also took runner-up honors at the Big Ten Championships, and placed fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, earning All-America status.
Current juniors Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio) and Rebekka Simko(Mentor, Ohio) were the recipients of the "Most Improved" award, as both Nittany Lions qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the first time in 2012. Barr was a two-event qualifier at the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round, advancing to the NCAA Finals in the discus, thanks to a PR toss of 183-6 (55.93). Barr was also a Big Ten scorer in the hammer throw. Simko found her stride in the middle distances setting three school records in 2012, including a blistering 2:03.09 in the 800-meters. Simko - also a two-event qualifier at the NCAA Eastern Prelim - picked up three Big Ten bronze medals on the year.
Winning the "Kevin Dare Most Inspirational Award" was current junior Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), who stepped right into the Lion lineup, earning All-America status on the Nittany Lion 4x400 at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Bennett-Green placed third in the Big Ten 400, and anchored the winning 4x400 at the conference meet. The "Most Inspirational" honor went to Caitlin Lane(Greenwich, N.Y.) on the women's side, after her impressive effort the Big Ten Indoor Championships, where she topped the medal stand in the mile run, and added bronze-medal efforts in the 3,000- and 5,000-meters. Lane's efforts, which included 56 laps on the track over two days of competition, equaled 22 points towards the Lions' total.
Also recognized with "Coaches' Awards" were Logan Caldwell, senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), redshirt-junior Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), junior Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.), and junior Kirsten Nieuwendam(Parimaribo, Suriname). "Coaches' Awards" are intended to honor athletes who have made outstanding contributions throughout the previous season. Loxsom and Nadolsky were both members of the Nittany Lion 4x400 at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, while Caldwell provided scoring finishes in the shot put at both Big Ten competitions.
Kurzdorfer was tops for the Lions in the women's throws in 2012, including a Second Team All-America finish in the hammer. Nieuwendam, who also earned several Big Ten medals in the sprints, represented her native, Suriname, at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Nittany Lions also honored their 2011-12 team captains for their services, which included men's captains Kyle Dawson, Owen Dawson, and Kovacs, as well as women's leaders Ije Iheoma, Tanaya Lloyd, Lane and Millhouse.
The 2012-13 version of the Nittany Lions will begin competition at the Blue-White Instrasquad, which is slated for Saturday, December 15.