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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field preseason training is officially underway and the program is nearing the start of its indoor season. GoPSUsports.com caught up with first-year sprints, hurdles, and relays coach Erin Tucker to get a preview of this year's athletes.
Tucker brings a wealth of experience and success to the Penn State program. He's been a part of three national championships at Florida in recent years, and has coached several student-athletes that have competed at the Olympics. He looks to keep the winning tradition going with the Nittany Lions during this year's indoor and outdoor seasons.
Tucker's sprinting groups are filled with many young athletes looking to contribute and build off of what they accomplished last season. On the men's side, there is more depth than last year. There are nine sprinting athletes in comparison to last season's total of just four athletes. "The fact that we have nine, we've already moved a little bit up the ladder and stepped up the curve so to speak," said Tucker.
For the men, local senior Alex Shisler (State College, Pa.) is coming off an All-American indoor season in the distance medley relay last season. Tucker looks for Shisler and freshman Sam Reiser (Melbourne, Australia) to have solid years in the 400-meter dash event. Reiser won three national gold medals for Team Australia at the World Junior Championships in his high school career.
Returning sophomore short sprinter Xavier Smith (Douglassville, Pa.) looks to improve upon an impressive 2015 track season. "He's shocked a lot of people this year in how he's progressing this fall," said Tucker.
As for impact freshmen athletes, freshman Cody Minnig (Levittown, Pa.) looks to switch over from long jumping to contribute for the short sprinting group. Anton Porter (Bronx, N.Y.) also looks to contribute in the short sprinting events, and David Marrington (Langhorne, Pa.) looks to run well in the outdoor hurdles.
The women's side is made up of a lot of young athletes. "We have a number of young ladies that were here last year that got an opportunity 'to get their feet wet' (in the Big Tens and the NCAAs)," said Tucker.
For the women, juniors Tichina Rhodes (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Megan Osborne (Chillicothe, Ohio) both ran on the 4x400-meter relay that qualified for nationals last season. They know what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level, according to coach Tucker. Remarkably, Rhodes had a lot of success in the 400-meter dash last season without the use of blocks. Coach Tucker said she's been working on her block mechanics to build upon what she accomplished last year.
Sophomore Quenee Dale (Ypsilanti, Mich.) looks to improve on her freshman year in the short sprints, hurdles, and relay events. Coach Tucker is extremely excited to see what freshman Keianna Albury (Nassau, Bahamas) can do this season as she brings great size, strength, and ability to the team. Albury won the 200-meter dash at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships. "Her potential is limitless," said Tucker.
Freshman Lauren Costa looks to contribute for the relay events. She has been a great teammate by helping her teammates out at practice.
Both the men and the women sprinters are continuing to train and prepare for the first official competition of the season in less than a month. The indoor season kicks off with the annual intrasquad Blue-White Meet on Dec. 12th. Following the Blue-White Meet, is the opening home Penn State Relays on Jan. 9th.
For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.