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July 30, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After another record-breaking campaign at the helm of the Nittany Lion program, Director and Head Coach of Penn State Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan will take her talents overseas this summer, as the Head Women’s Coach for the United States at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia. The nine-day championship is set to begin on August 10, and conclude on August 18.
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be a phenomenal three weeks over in Europe,” said Sullivan prior to departing for training camp in Linz, Austria. “It’s a big responsibility, but it’s an exciting time. I am truly honored to representing the United States, and honored to be at Penn State while representing the United States.”
Sullivan, who begins her 15th year in Happy Valley this fall will lead a Penn State presence in Moscow, including volunteer assistant and reigning U.S. shot put champion Ryan Whiting. Also qualifying to compete on the international stage are former NCAA Champions Shana Cox and Aleesha Barber. Cox will represent Great Britain, while Barber will don the colors of Trinidad and Tobago.
Cox enjoyed an outstanding showing at the Olympic Games last summer, assisting on Great Britain’s fifth-place 4x400-meter relay, while also advancing to the 400-meter semi-finals as an individual. Cox, a two-time NCAA Champion as a Nittany Lion, has been running well as of late, clocking a season-best 51.12 in the 400 at the London Diamond League meet last weekend.
Barber – who will run the 100-meter hurdles - has also a mainstay for Trinidad and Tobago at the international level, representing her country at both the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
“It’s going to be phenomenal,” said Sullivan of the Penn State presence in Moscow. “I’m very excited to see our alumni and see them in action again in really the prime of their careers, and doing great stuff.
Whiting goes into the Championships as the No. 1 ranked shot putter in the world, coming off his first career U.S. outdoor title in June. The Harrisburg, Pa., native and Arizona State graduate currently owns the top four performances in the world this year, including a lifetime-best toss of 73-1.25 (22.28) in Doha, Qatar, in May. Whiting – the IAAF World Indoor Champion in 2012 – will be looking to improve upon a seventh-place finish at the World Championships in 2011.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say the men’s shot put, because that’s the one that’s going to pull on my heartstrings the strongest,” said Sullivan on the event she’s most looking forward to watching. “But really in total, there are a couple things as the head coach that you want to have happen. First of all you want to get that (relay) stick around, and you want to have a healthy and excited team ready to perform.”
Back in Happy Valley, Sullivan’s Nittany Lion program is coming off sensational results in 2012-13, including a Big Ten outdoor team title by the Penn State women – the program’s seventh conference crown since 2004, and the fourth outdoor victory in the past six years. Sullivan was recognized for the program’s accomplishments throughout the year, as she was named USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Men’s Coach of the Year during the indoor season, and USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Women’s Coach of the Year for the outdoor campaign. She was also voted Big Ten Women’s Coach of the Year for the outdoor season.
The Penn State mentor guided the Nittany Lions to record-setting finishes at the NCAA level in 2013, including a ninth-place finish by the men’s squad at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The Nittany Lion men were just as successful during the outdoor season as the top finisher among Big Ten programs at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, thanks to a 14th-place effort. Both Penn State’s indoor and outdoor finishes were the highest NCAA standings since the mid-1970s.
Sullivan’s charges would also earn 11 USTFCCCA First Team All-America citations over the course of the indoor and outdoor seasons, to go along with seven gold-medal performances at the conference level.
“I have a great staff,” said Sullivan on daily workings of the track and field office during her time away from State College. “They are picking up a lot of slack for me, and taking care of the details over the summer. I really am appreciative of a great program and to be working at a great institution. Penn State has always been supportive of these endeavors and they recognize the value that it brings back – everywhere from recruiting - to experience - to just making things better here at Penn State.
Sullivan will work alongside many of the top collegiate and professional coaches from around the country during the event, including head men’s coach Mike Holloway – the current head coach at the University of Florida - as well as Big Ten compatriots Sandy Fowler of Michigan (U.S. women’s throws coach), and Andrew Valmon (U.S. men’s relays coach) from future Big Ten member Maryland.
Sullivan and company will be looking to follow up on a very successful effort from the United States at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Team USA captured a total of 25 medals in Daegu – the most of any competing country – including 12 gold-medal performances. The most medals ever earned by the US at a World Championship event is 26, which was achieved in both 1991, and 2007.
Sullivan is stranger to coaching at the international level, having coached at most major international championships, including the Olympic Games, World Championships, IAAF Continental Cup and World Cross Country Championships. In her last international outing prior to the 2013 World Championships, Sullivan was the Head Women’s Coach at the 2011 Pan-Am Junior Championships in Miramar, Fla., where she helped the U.S. squads to a total of 26 gold-, 21 silver- and 12 bronze medals throughout the course of the competition.
There will be no rest for the weary, however, as Sullivan is set to return to State College on August 20 – the first day of preseason cross country practice. The Nittany Lions will open the 2013 campaign at the annual Dolan Duals at Lock Haven, set for Friday, September 6.
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