Nittany Lions open up at Dolan Duals before returning home on September 8
Coaching Awards and Honors:
Outstanding Athletes Coached:
John Gondak begins his seventh year in Happy Valley as an assistant with the Nittany Lion cross country and distance squads. Gondak's resume while with the Blue and White - which can be matched by few middle distance mentors in the country - includes 10 USTFCCCA First Team All-Americans, 12 Big Ten Champions, 17 Penn State records, three Big Ten Freshman of the Year honorees, three Penn Relays victories, and two sub-4:00 milers.
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 Robby 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, who was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year during the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2012, ripped through the record books during the indoor season, running 2:19.53 for the 1,000-meters, setting Collegiate, American Junior, and Penn State records in the event. 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 also coached rising senior Casimir Loxsom to another banner year, as the then-junior qualified for the NCAA 800 during the indoor and outdoor seasons, while also making an appearance in the event at the US Olympic Trials. Creese and Loxsom - along with fellow Gondak protégé Wade Endress - were also members of the winning DMR at the Big Ten Indoor Championships - the Nittany Lions' first victory in the event in men's program history.
Loxsom also proved his mettle in the sprints in 2012, as a member of the Nittany Lions' runner-up 4x400-meter relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The team - with Loxsom on the third leg - would go on to finish fourth in the event at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, running a school-record 3:01.52 in the preliminary round.
A proven recruiter, Gondak has brought in another stellar class in 2012, led by 4:03-miler Brannon Kidder from Lancaster, Ohio, and highly-touted middle distance star Za'Von Watkins from Liverpool, N.Y. Gondak was also instrumental in bringing graduate students Ricky West and Sam Masters to University Park. West, who recently graduated from the University of Missouri, comes in with All-America credentials in the 800-meters, while Masters owns several All-Conference finishes as a standout at the University of Tulsa.
The 2012 women's class is equally as accomplishment, led by high school cross country standout and Foot Locker qualifier Tori Gerlach of Pennridge High School. Gerlach's accomplishments extend to the track, as the Perkasie, Pa., native took top honors in the 3200 meters at the PIAA State Championships last spring. Also adding depth to the cross country roster is freshman Anna Boyert from Medina, Ohio, who also comes to Happy Valley with outstanding credentials in the distances.
Aside from his athletes' efforts on the track, the Doylestown, Pa., native has also had a huge impact on the Nittany Lions' success on the cross country course, including a Big Ten title by the women's squad in 2009, and NCAA-qualifying efforts by the women's squad in 2009, 2010, and 2011 and by the men's team in 2008, and 2010. The Nittany Lion women's squad placed 13th at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships - the highest finish in nearly two decades.
Over his career, Gondak has coached some of the Nittany Lions' post prolific athletes, including four-time Big Ten Champion Ryan Foster. Foster capped his Penn State career in 2011, setting a school-record 3:58.49 for the indoor mile, and going on to finish third in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The former Nittany Lion excelled under Gondak's watch, ending up with a total of three All-America finishes - including two bronze-medal efforts - to go along with numerous Penn State records. In fact, Foster was at the helm of one of a banner middle distance day in Nittany Lion history, which featured three All-America finishes in the same race. Foster led the way in third, followed by Owen Dawson in eighth and Lionel Williams in 11th. In fact, Gondak's charges hold four of the top five indoor 800 marks in the Penn State record books, with Foster at 1:47.32, Loxsom at 1:47.36, Dawson at 1:47.77, and Williams in fifth at 1:48.53.
All told, Foster owns one of the more impressive PR ranges on the Nittany Lions record books, boasting career bests of 1:46.78 in the 800, all the way to his 3:58.49 mile PR. Foster also rates second in the Penn State record books in the 1000, at 2:19.60.
Loxsom - who has a year to go - has also enjoyed one of the most outstanding middle distance careers in Nittany Lion history, including a school-record run of 1:45.28 in the 800 during the 2011 season. The effort bettered Randy Moore's long-standing school best 1:45.96, which had stood since 1985. The same year, Loxsom would place fourth in a blistering 800-meter final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, running 1:45.31. Gondak would also guide a then-freshman Loxsom to a sizzling 1:16.92 for 600-meters in 2010, which is stands as World Junior (Under-19) Best. Loxsom would go on to post an impressive victory in the event at the USATF Junior title and advance to the IAAF World Junior Championships. Loxsom would post a silver-medal finish at the World Junior event, clocking 1:46.57. Loxsom's finish was the highest-ever finish by a U.S. athlete in a distance event at the world junior competition.
Gondak and the Nittany Lions also made a splash at the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival, taking top honors in the sprint medley relay for the past two seasons, in addition to a victory in the 4x800 in 2012. The first sprint medley title came in 2011, marking Penn State's first Penn Relays win since 1987. The relay would also clock a school-record 3:17.10 in the effort. The same year, Gondak led the Nittany Lions to a second-place finish in the 4x800-meter relay (Lionel Williams, Samuel Borchers, Loxsom, and Foster) in an epic battle at Penn Relays, where the team clocked 7:12.90 - the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history.
Gondak has also been widely recognized by the coaching community as he was named United States Track and Field/Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year during the indoor season in 2009, and again for his efforts during the 2010 outdoor season.
Prior to Penn State, Gondak spent nearly eight seasons at the University of Kentucky before moving to Georgia Tech in 2006. As an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Wildcat middle distance/distance runners, Gondak oversaw 25 All-America finishes in his event area, while 19 athletes earned All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors. Prior to working at Kentucky, Gondak was the cross country and assistant track and field coach at Georgia Tech from 1995-96, and Toledo from 1996-98.
Gondak started out as a walk-on athlete at Syracuse and quickly improved, qualifying for the IC4A Championships as a sophomore, junior and senior in the distance-medley relay and mile run. During his senior year, he was placed on scholarship and named captain of the cross country program. Gondak graduated summa cum laude as the valedictorian of the civil engineering program.