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Nittany Lions currently ranked No. 9, nationally
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After 13 years and 106 NCAA All-Americans on the women's side, as well as six years and 32 All-America honorees with the men's squad, Beth Alford-Sullivan enters her 14th year at the helm of the Nittany Lion women's program and her seventh campaign as the Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country, overseeing both the men's and women's programs.
Sullivan's decorated resume is undoubtedly among the most impressive in the country, as it includes two NCAA "Trophy" Team finishes, six Big Ten team titles, one Big Ten "Triple Crown," as well as three individual NCAA Champions, and one NCAA Champion relay.
Since taking the reigns of both the men's and women's programs in 2006, Sullivan has remained steadfast to the vision of having two programs in the top tier of the conference and the NCAA, with both the men's and women's squads making outstanding statements during the 2011-12 campaign, highlighted by the Nittany Lions' haul of 12 USTFCCCA First Team All-America finishes on the year.
Sullivan continued to coach the Nittany Lions to countless milestones in 2011-12, including a head-turning performance of 3:01.52 by the men's 4x400-meter relay at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The relay rewrote the record books on numerous occasions in 2012, setting the indoor school record at 3:05.22 at the Alex Wilson Last Chance, and following up with a second-place standing at the NCAA Indoor Championships - the highest-ever finish by a Nittany Lion relay at NCAA Indoors. The Lions clipped off the own record little by little over the outdoor season, beginning the year at 3:07.19 - all the way down to 3:01.52, with the foursome of Aaron Nadolsky, Brandon Bennett-Green, Casimir Loxsom, and Brady Gehret on both All-America squads.
Sullivan would also oversee an outstanding effort from the Nittany Lion throws contingent at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, with underclassman duo Laura Loht, and Lauren Kenney providing a three-four finish in the women's javelin, to go along with a fourth-place showing from Joe Kovacs in the men's shot put.
Through the course of the 2011-12 campaign, Sullivan also coached a grand total of eight individual Big Ten Champions, and two conference champion relays. Kicking off the conference accolades was then-senior Caitlin Lane, who captured top individual honors at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships, and parlayed the effort into the 16th-place and All-America standing at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Lane's finish - which was the second highest in Sullivan's Penn State tenure - paced the Lions to a 13th-place finish in the team standings - the best finish from the PSU program in nearly two decades.
Penn State Track and Field/Cross Country
* 138 NCAA All-Americans
* 78 Big Ten Individual Champions
* 16 Big Ten Champion Relays
* 24 Coach of the Year Awards
* 27 USTFCCCA Regional Athletes of the Year
* 8 Big Ten Championship Records
* 4 NCAA Champions
* 5 Big Ten Athletes of the Year
* 6 Big Ten Team Titles
* 7 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
* 3 Olympians
* 2 World Championship Qualifiers
* 2 IAAF World Junior Medalists
* 2 NCAA Trophy Teams
* 4 Penn Relays Wheels
* 1 Big Ten Triple Crown
Program Success ...
Under Sullivan, the Nittany Lion women's team has become a national mainstay, scoring at the national meet in last 11 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and 10 of the last 11 NCAA Indoor Championships. The women's squad has also recorded top four "trophy team" finishes in two of the last four years, placing fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2008 and 2010.
Since taking over the women's program in the fall of 1999, Sullivan has guided the Nittany Lions to a grand total of 13 top 25 finishes at the NCAA level, including top 10 efforts from the women's team in 2003, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The men's program has followed suit, earning top 25 standings in the last six NCAA track and field competitions, including an 11th-place standing at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships - the second-highest indoor finish in men's program history.
The Nittany Lions success under Sullivan does not end on the track, however, as the Nittany Lion women's track and field and cross country teams have earned United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic honors in each of her 13 seasons at the helm of the program. Both the Nittany Lion men's and women's cross country squads earned the academic standing, via grade point averages of 3.0 or better for the 2011 fall semester, while the women's program once again achieved the feat in the spring of 2012. In fact, the 2009-10 version of the women's squad was named USTFCCCA "Scholar Team of the Year" for the outdoor season, which is awarded to the team with the highest NCAA finish with a 3.0 GPA.
The Nittany Lions also been consistently recognized as one of the most successful programs in the NCAA, with the men's team earning 11th place in the 2010-11 "John McDonnell Program of the Year" standings. The award honors the institution that has achieved the most success in each academic year (spanning the cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field seasons) based on the institution's finish at the NCAA Division I Championships. Sullivan's women's squad has also been heavily recognized nationally, placing 17th in the "Terry Crawford Program of the Year" rankings for the 2010-11 seasons.
In 2010, the Nittany Lion women placed third in the Program of the Year standings, following only perennial stalwarts Oregon and Florida. The men have also been consistently mentioned in the rankings, as Sullivan's men's squad was recognized for the honor in 2009, finishing 14th.
A Record-Breaking 2012 ...
Led by the 4x400's sizzling NCAA performance, the Nittany Lions once again laid claim to numerous Penn State records. In fact, Sullivan-coached athletes now hold all but six school records on the women's side, with then-sophomore Bekka Simko taking down the Nittany Lions' long-standing record in the women's 800-meters this past spring, running 2:03.09. The women's squad would also reset several additional school bests during the 2012 campaign, with Lane running 2:44.24 to better her own indoor 1000 record, and the women's DMR of Lane, Ije Iheoma, Simko, and Kara Millhouse going 11:05.16.
Sullivan and the Nittany Lions continued to excel outdoors, thanks to Simko's effort, as well as a school-record 32:57.33 from Millhouse in the 10,000. Simko and Millhouse were also the bookends on the record-setting DMR during the outdoor season, along with teammates Iheoma, and Marta Klebe. The squad ran 11:08.41 on their way to the top of the charts.
The records continued to roll in on the men's side in 2012, with Creese leading the charge indoors with his Collegiate, American Junior, and Penn State record 2:19.53 for the 1,000-meters. Casimir Loxsom also took hold of the men's 600-meter school standard at 1:16.66. The men's 4x400 (Nadolsky, Bennett-Green, Loxsom, and Gehret) would end the season at 3:05.22 - also an all-time Penn State best.
Kovacs, who tore through the competition during the 2012 outdoor campaign, launched a lifetime-best 69-2 (21.08) at the most opportune time, finishing fourth in the shot put at the US Olympic Trials - finishing as the top collegiate in the field, and just inches shy of a spot on the US Olympic Team.
A Banner 2010 ...
In 2010 Sullivan's men's and women's squads experienced unparalleled success, highlighted by a fourth-place finish from the women's team at the NCAA Outdoor Championships - the squad's second "Trophy Team" finish in the last four years. The NCAA effort also included a national-title victory from then-senior Bridget Franek in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The Nittany Lion women were just as successful on the Big Ten stage, capturing team titles in cross country, and indoor and outdoor track and field to earn the coveted conference "Triple Crown." The cross country victory was the first in program history, led by an individual victory from Franek. Meanwhile, the women's outdoor victory not only completed the 2009-10 "Triple Crown," but was the program's third-straight outdoor conference victory.
Along with the women's fourth-place effort at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Sullivan's men's squad also made a splash nationally, claiming a pair of top 25 standings, including a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships - the program's highest finish in nearly two decades. The men would go on to tie for 23rd outdoors, which was also the first top 25 finish since 1993. Individually, the Nittany Lion men earned a trio of bronze-medal finishes at the NCAA Championships, with Ryan Foster (800-meters) and Joe Kovacs (shot put) each earning third-place standings indoors, and Blake Eaton taking third in the shot put at the outdoor championships. The women were also consistent members of the nation's upper echelon a year ago, placing 14th in cross country, and 13th indoors.
International Acclaim ...
Internationally speaking, Sullivan added a pair of IAAF World medalists to her coaching resume in 2010 as Casimir Loxsom earned silver-medal honors while representing the United States at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada. Loxsom's second-place standing was the highest-ever finish by a U.S. athlete in the distance event since the meet's inception. Meanwhile, rising sophomore Evonne Britton claimed second-place status in the 400-meter hurdles.
More recently, Loxsom and teammate Gehret represented the United States in international competition, competing at the NACAC Under-23 Championships. Both Loxsom and Gehret qualified for the final in their respective events, with Loxsom leading the way with a fourth-place finish in the 800.
Current junior Kirsten Nieuwendam also represented the Nittany Lions as well as her home country of Suriname this summer, competing in the 200-meters at the Olympic Games in London.
Sullivan also boasts a tremendous amount of international experience in her own right. Most notably in 2004, Sullivan was named a member of the Olympic coaching staff for the Athens Games, where she helped the United States squad to nearly 25 medals in the sport of track and field. More recently, Sullivan served as the Head Coach for the United States women's team at the 2011 Pan Am Junior Championships.
She was also selected to represent the United States as an assistant coach at the 2003 World Championships in Paris where she guided the middle distance runners for the world's top ranked track and field team. She also has served as an assistant on the 2001 U.S. World Championships Team, guiding middle-distance and distance team members throughout the trials and the championships held in Edmonton, Canada. Prior to that appointment, Sullivan guided the U.S. Junior Team to the 1997 World Cross Country Championships in Turin, Italy. She was also the coach for the 1994 U.S. team that competed in the Beijing International Ekiden and was an assistant coach for the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival staff in Colorado Springs.
NCAA Accolades ...Throughout her tenure in Happy Valley, Sullivan has overseen the successes of four of the most-prolific NCAA careers in program history in Connie Moore, Shana Cox, Aleesha Barber, and Bridget Franek. All sensational sprinters, Moore, Cox, and Barber each totaled 11 All-America finishes throughout their Nittany Lion careers, with Cox claiming the 2008 NCAA Outdoor title at 400-meters - the first victory by a Nittany Lion woman in the track event in the NCAA era - and Cox and Barber, running as members of the 2008 NCAA Champion 4x400-meter relay. Sullivan coached Franek, who totaled 10 All-America finishes over her career, to top honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships - marking the fourth NCAA victory by a Nittany Lion under Sullivan's watch. Franek also achieved a rarely matched feat over her Penn State tenure, qualifying for every NCAA opportunity in cross country, and indoor and outdoor track and field over her career - a perfect 12-for-12 appearances.
Sullivan's first NCAA title at Penn State came in 2003, when Deshaya Williams claimed national gold in the discus. The Lions have had quite a presence in both the 4x400 and the steeplechase on the NCAA stage under Sullivan's watch, with a Penn State mile relay making the NCAA field during both the indoor and outdoor seasons over the past five years, and earning All-America standing on six of those occasions. Sullivan has also coached at least one NCAA qualifier in the steeplechase in seven NCAA meets since the event was added to the women's program in 2001.
In her six years with the men's program, Sullivan has coached at least one entrant in the NCAA track and field meet on the men's side in 11 of 12 opportunities, including graduate Ryan Fritz, who earned a grand total of four All-America certificates during his Penn State career. Sullivan also coached Tyler McCandless to an All-America finish in the 10,000-meters in 2010, becoming the first Nittany Lion to earn the honor in the event since 1994. The Nittany Lion men have also achieved six bronze-medal finishes under Sullivan, including two from Kovacs in the shot put in 2010 and 2011, and third-place efforts from Foster in the 800 in 2010, and the mile in 2011. The 4x400 added to the haul this past academic year, placing second indoors and fourth during the outdoor season.
Sullivan has also overseen multiple recipients of USTFCCCA regional awards on a yearly basis. Most recently, freshman sensation Robby Creese was named Mid-Atlantic Men's Track Athlete of the Year during the 2012 indoor season, while Joe Kovacs garnered the "Field Athlete of the Year" nod and former sprints, hurdles and relays coach Chris Johnson earned Men's "Assistant Coach of the Year" nomination during the outdoor campaign. Sullivan has been recognized by USTFCCCA on numerous occasions, and was named Mid-Atlantic Men's Coach of the Year in 2009, becoming the first woman to win the award at the helm of a men's program.
Big Ten Success ...
The Nittany Lions have also been highly successful in Big Ten competition under Sullivan's guidance, with the Penn State women totaling 50 individual victories, as well as 13 relay wins over the past 11 years. Conversely, the Nittany Lion men have earned 21 individual titles, and two relay wins in Sullivan's tenure. Under Sullivan, the Nittany Lion women have been at the top of the heap at the conference level for nearly a decade, having finishing no worse than fourth at any Big Ten track and field championship since 2003.
Cox, a 2008 graduate, remains at the top of the charts, with an outstanding total of 15 victories, while 2011 graduate Shavon Greaves stands with 14 total titles, including sweeps of the short sprints during both the indoor and outdoor championships in 2009 and 2010. Sullivan has also overseen a pair of wins in the men's javelin throw, including a Big Ten record 239-9 (73.09) effort by Allen Pettner in 2007. 2012 graduate Kara Millhouse also rose to prominence in the Big Ten record books under Sullivan, capturing two-straight conference victories in the 10,000.
The Lion have been recognized throughout the years for their conference success, including a pair of Big Ten "Freshman of the Year" citations for Creese in 2012. Also earning conference accolades last year was Lane, who won Big Ten "Athlete of the Year" honors on the heels of her victory at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships. Kovacs rounded out the year with a conference "Field Athlete of the Year" nod during the outdoor season.
The conference honors rolled in in 2009-12, with Franek earning Athlete of the Year honors in cross country, along with a Freshman of the Year citation for Nicole Lord. Sullivan would also be voted Big Ten Coach of the Year, thanks to the Lions' cross country success. Sullivan would earn another conference Coach of the Year award indoors, while Franek was named Athlete of the Meet, and then-junior Shavon Greaves took Athlete of the Year status. Outside, Fawn Dorr was declared Athlete of the Meet, while Sullivan earned yet another Coach of the Year citation. On the men's side, Loxsom would earn Freshman of the Year status outdoors.
On the Big Ten stage, Sullivan's Nittany Lions claimed a combined total of 14 individual victories, to go along with three relay wins. Franek got the ball rolling in cross country, taking top honors at the conference meet - becoming the first Nittany Lion to win the conference cross country title since Kim McGreevy in 1994.
The Nittany Lions had a banner afternoon at the conference meet in 2009, highlighted by an individual victory from then-senior Franek. The Nittany Lions would put all five scoring finishers in the top 25 for a winning total of 71 points, with Franek in first, Lord in ninth - good for second-team all-conference honors - freshman Brooklyne Ridder in 16th, sophomore Caitlin Lane in 22nd, and sophomore Kara Millhouse in 23rd.
On the Cross Country Course ...
Penn State squads have enjoyed outstanding success in cross country under Sullivan's watch. Last season was no different, highlighted by a 13th-place standing by the women's team at the NCAA Championships - the highest finish in nearly two decades. Caitlin Lane paved the way, finishing 16th overall to earn her first-career All-America citation. Lane's hot streak started at the Big Ten Championships, where she took top honors, becoming the second Nittany Lion to win the Big Ten crown in the last three years.
Also running well at the conference meet was then-senior Kara Millhouse,
Regionally, speaking Sullivan's Nittany Lions more than held their own in a field of national-caliber teams at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, with the women's team scoring a third-place standing, to go along with the men's fourth-place effort. Individually, the Nittany Lions garnered a grand total of seven all-region citations, led by a two-three finish from then-juniors Kyle Dawson and Vince McNally on the men's side. Then-junior Caitlin Lane was tops for the women in 12th place, followed by a quartet of Nittany Lions in the top 25, including Kara Millhouse, Natalie Bower, Maura Ryan, and Brooklyne Ridder.
Sullivan's charges were just as successful on the conference level, as the Nittany Lions turned in fourth-place finishes in both the men's and women's races. Dawson, who Sullivan coached to Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2008, was the top finisher, earning all-conference second team honors via an eighth-place effort individually. McNally was on his heals in 13th, earning his second-career all-conference citation. Another duo of Nittany Lions mounted all-conference efforts in the women's race, led by then-sophomores Ridder, and Bower, who placed ninth and 14th, respectively.
A year prior, Sullivan coached the women's cross country team to a 14th-place effort at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships, to go along with the program's Big Ten victory. The Nittany Lions would also receive representation on the men's side at the national level, with sophomore Vince McNally making his second-straight appearance at the NCAA meet.
Sullivan's Lions shined in the NCAA field, paced by Franek's 26th-place finish, which was also good for her second-career All-America effort in cross country. Ranked as high as 11th during the season, the Lions' 14th-place effort was the highest since the 1996 campaign. Penn State advanced to the Championships via an at-large bid, thanks to in-season wins over outstanding programs such as Florida State, Illinois, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Providence, and SMU, earning more than enough qualifying points to make the field.
A year prior, Sullivan coached Franek to a 23rd-place effort and All-America honors at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Sullivan also led the men's squad to its first appearance at the NCAA meet since 1994, thanks to a second-place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. The Nittany Lion men notched a 25th-place standing at the NCAA Championships.
The Nittany Lion men engineered an outstanding 2008 campaign, thanks to a group of seasoned veterans, two talented freshmen, and homegrown Pennsylvania work ethic, as six of the eight Nittany Lion men that traveled to the NCAA Championships are former Pennsylvania high school standouts.
The Nittany Lions continued to impress at the Big Ten Championships, posting a fourth-place effort in the team standings - the highest conference finish in nearly a decade. Dawson was also voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year following his effort at the conference championships, becoming the first athlete in Nittany Lion history to earn the honor in cross country.
The Nittany Lion cross country squads have been a strong factor at both the conference, regional, and national levels since Sullivan's arrival in 1999, as the Penn State women have made NCAA appearances in 2002, and 2003, 2009, and 2010 while earning top five finishes in the Mid-Atlantic region on eight occasions. In 2000, Sullivan led Suzanne Heyer to a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships - the highest-ever finish by a Nittany Lion woman in the NCAA era.
Before Penn State ...
Prior to her tenure at Penn State, Sullivan was the Women's Coordinator for the Stanford track and field and cross country teams from 1995-99. During those four years, Sullivan coached over 30 NCAA All-America athletes including one NCAA individual champion (Monal Chokshi in the 3,000 meters), led numerous Pac-10 team and individual championship performers and led the team into national prominence. Under her coaching, Stanford placed in the top 10 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships all four years of her tenure including winning the NCAA championship in 1996. The Cardinal also took home runner-up honors in 1997 and a strong third place finish in 1998. In return, Sullivan was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times, NCAA Regional Coach of the Year twice and NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in 1996. Before her years at Stanford, Sullivan served as the head coach at Mankato State University from 1993-95 and as the assistant coach at Southeast Missouri State University from 1991-93. She earned conference-coaching honors and produced over 20 conference champions for these schools.
In 2007, Sullivan was inducted into the Minnesota Classic Lake Conference and the Hopkins High School Hall of Fame, both in Minnetonka, Minn. As a high school athlete at Hopkins High, Sullivan competed in track and field and cross country and was a member of the state championship cross country team in 1983, and the fourth-place 4x800-meter relay at the state level.
Sullivan earned a bachelor's degree in Social Work in 1989 from the University of Minnesota. As a Golden Gopher, she ran cross-country and track and field and captained her cross-country team her sophomore through senior years. She later completed a Master of Science degree in Sports Administration at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1993. While at SIU, she began her college coaching career serving as assistant coach from 1989-91. During her time at SIU, she met and married her husband, Jim Sullivan. Jim is a full-time instructor with the Department of Kinesiology at Penn State and continues to be an important resource in developing training methodology. Dr. Sullivan volunteers his time as the Penn State pole vault coach. The couple lives in Boalsburg, Pa.
Sullivan's Coaching Awards and Honors
* 2010 Big Ten Women's Coach of the Year || Outdoor Track and Field