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Sept. 17, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
John Gondak has been named the Head Coach and Director of Penn State's Cross Country and Track and Field programs after serving as the interim head coach since July. Gondak has been with the program for eight years and served as the Associate Head Coach for the past two years.
"We are ecstatic today to name Coach Gondak as the leader of our men's and women's cross country and track and field programs," said Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour. "This position requires a great deal of vision, leadership and experience, and I believe strongly that Coach Gondak brings that and more. Based on his time as an Assistant Coach and Associate Head Coach at Penn State, helping to elevate both the men's and women's programs on the national stage, the committee and I felt John was uniquely positioned to take the program to the next level. That's the goal and I believe John's leadership and expertise will take us there."
"I am extremely honored to have been selected as next Director of Cross Country/Track and Field at Penn State," said Gondak, a native of Doylestown, Pa. "I have been coming to Happy Valley supporting Penn State athletics as long as I can remember, both of my parents are alumni, and to have the opportunity to lead this program is the pinnacle of my career to this point. We have had incredible success academically and athletically with both the men's and women's programs over the last eight years and I look forward to continuing to push this program to new heights in the years to come.
"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Sandy Barbour, Jan Bortner, the search committee and everyone involved with the hiring process who had the belief in my ability to lead Penn State Cross Country/Track and Field. I look forward to working with our student-athletes, administration, alumni, coaches, support staff and all of those associated with our program to continue to make Penn State a premier program in the NCAA. I also want to thank Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan who provided me the opportunity to come to Penn State eight years ago and who helped make this program what it is today. Furthermore I would like to thank Coach Harry Groves and Teri Jordan, and all of the coaches of this program before them who helped to lay the foundation of excellence in Penn State Cross Country/Track and Field."
Prior to being elevated to the program's lead role, Gondak's focus has been the Nittany Lion cross country and distance squads. During his tenure as an Assistant and Associate Head Coach, Gondak's student-athletes have accumulated numerous accolades, including 19 USTFCCCA First Team All-Americans, 22 Big Ten Champions, 20 Penn State records, four Big Ten Freshman of the Year honorees, five Penn Relays victories and three sub-4:00 milers.
This summer, Gondak was named the distance coach of the U.S. for the North American, Central America, and Caribbean (NACAC) Athletic Association Under-23 Championships. The U.S. claimed a pair of first-place finishes under his direction.
Aside from his athletes' efforts on the track, Gondak has also had a huge impact in the Nittany Lions' success on the cross country course, including a Big Ten title by the women's squad in 2009 and an NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional title in 2012. Over the years, Gondak has assisted in NCAA-qualifying efforts by the women's squad in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 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. The Nittany Lion women have enjoyed five-straight NCAA-qualifying performances in cross country, capturing top 15 standings on three out of five occasions.
"For the last eight years I have had the best job in the country - being a coach at Penn State University," said Gondak. "Our core values and emphasis on both the academic and athletic side of being a student-athlete is something I believe strongly in. We will continue to emphasize both aspects of being a student-athlete along with pushing this program to new heights. With the academic reputation of Penn State, the support from our administration, the amazing facilities we have and our outstanding coaching staff, Penn State will continue to be a magnet to attract the finest cross country/track and field student-athletes from around the nation and the world."
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. Gondak swept the Mid-Atlantic awards in 2013, winning the USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Men's Assistant Coach of the Year award during the indoor and outdoor seasons. This past season, he was again named Mid-Atlantic Region Men's Assistant Coach of the Year.
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.