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Dec. 21, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - John Gondak, who is in his seventh year overseeing the Nittany Lion middle distance athletes, has been promoted to Associate Head Coach for Nittany Lion Track and Field/Cross Country, announced by Director and Head Coach of the Penn State program Beth Alford-Sullivan. Since arriving in Happy Valley, Gondak has coached some of the Nittany Lions' most successful athletes, including former multiple-time Big Ten Champion and All-American Ryan Foster, as well as current standouts senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) and sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.).
"It's exciting time for John to have received this promotion," said Sullivan. "In the previous six years, he has done a tremendous job in recruiting and really helping shape the direction of our program. It is certainly well deserved and it's been a great honor to work with him over the years. I look forward to continuing to work with John in the future."
Gondak has also made an outstanding impact on the recruiting trail, bringing in top-notch talent from the high school middle distance and distance ranks. Gondak was especially successful this past recruiting cycle, signing prep sensations Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), and Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.). Both Kidder and Watkins were members of the Nittany Lions 2012 men's recruiting class, which was recently ranked No. 5 in the country, according to Track and Field News.
"I would like to thank Coach Sullivan for this promotion and the new title of Associate Head Coach of the Penn State Cross Country/Track and Field program," said Gondak. "I have been honored to work with her and at Penn State University for the last six years."
With a resume that can be matched by few middle distance mentors in the country, Gondak has coached a total of 10 USTFCCCA First Team All-Americans, and 12 Big Ten Champions since arriving on campus in 2006. Gondak has also helped Nittany Lion athletes to a total of 17 Penn State records, including a collegiate and American junior record in the 1000 meters (2:19.53) by Creese during the 2012 campaign.
"We have accomplished many great feats with the program and will continue to strive to achieve at the highest level," continued Gondak. "Penn State is one of the best Universities in the world and a premier place to be a student-athlete. I believe our success in Cross Country/Track and Field, along with the success we achieve in all of our sports in Happy Valley, demonstrates this."
Under Gondak's watch, Foster and Loxsom have become the most successful athletes in men's program history on the Big Ten stage. Loxsom now owns five Big Ten titles - the most of any male athlete in program history - while Foster ended his Penn State career with four total conference victories.
Statistically speaking, Loxsom, who owns the world junior record at 600 meters, boasts impressive PRs across the board, including career lows of 1:01.28 for 500 meters, 1:16.66 for 600, and 1:45.32 for 800. Loxsom was also a key cog on the Nittany Lions' NCAA indoor runner-up 4x400-meter relay in 2012, and went on to help the relay to a sizzling school-record 3:01.52 during the outdoor season.
Foster, who hails from Tasmania, Australia, was the first Tasmanian to break the 4:00-barrier indoors, and also holds national records in the indoor 800- (1:47.48) and 1000-meters (2:19.60). Foster also holds the Penn State record in the mile run at 3:58.49, which he set in 2011.
Gondak's charges had another fine campaign on the track during the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2012, capped by a victory in the 4x800-meter relay at the prestigious Penn Relays - the Lions' first victory in the event since 1987. Gondak also led Creese - the 4x800 anchor - to one of the more impressive freshman seasons on record, as the rookie broke the 4:00 mile barrier on two occasions, and qualified for the NCAA mile final as the only rookie in the field. Creese was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year during the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2012, and was also named USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Track Athlete of the year during the indoor season. Creese, whose 3:58.94 PR is the second-fastest mile on the PSU record books, earned three conference medals on the year, including a sensational anchor leg on the winning DMR at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
Gondak, who began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech in 1995, has also assisted in the success of the Nittany Lion cross country squads during his Penn State tenure. Most recently, the Nittany Lion women's team 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championships - it's fourth-straight appearance at the national meet, and third top 14 finish in the last four years. On the men's side, the Nittany Lions have qualified as a team for two NCAA meets since 2006, and have had a least one representative in the field in each of the last five years, as well as six of the last seven.
Consistently recognized by his peers, Gondak was voted USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year during the 2009 indoor season, and the 2010 outdoor season. Gondak is also currently serving as the men's representative for the Mid-Atlantic Region on USTFCCCA Division I Cross Country Committee.
The Nittany Lions are slated to open up the 2013 indoor campaign with the Penn State Relays on January 5, at Ashenfelter III Indoor Track.