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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State cross country and track & field head coach John Gondak has announced the signing of 11 future Nittany Lions who have all submitted a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period.
“We are thrilled to welcome our newest class of Nittany Lions,” said Gondak. “Our coaches spent countless hours the past many months in recruiting and it has paid off with a fantastic group of newcomers.”
“Our 11 signees show that we continue to be committed to having a broad based cross country and track & field program at Penn State. We have athletes ranked in the top-10 in the country in a variety of different events which will help us continue to maintain our success during all three seasons we represent.”
“Our recruiting continues to have a national and international approach as we look for student athletes who would be a great fit at Penn State academically and athletically. I believe this class is one of our all-time best and that they will have a great career in the blue and white. We have athletes ranked in the top-10 in the country in a variety of different events coming to Penn State which will help us to continue to maintain our success during all three seasons we represent.”
The 2016 recruiting class includes three student-athletes from New Jersey, two from Pennsylvania, two from Ohio, and one athlete from Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, New York.
Rachel Banks | Hometown: Chardon, Ohio | High School: Chardon High School
Event: 800m, 1600m, 5K
Personal Best(s): 2:07.27 (800m), 5:00.57 (1600m), 18:32.10 (5K XC)
Highlights: Banks is the 2015 800m Ohio State Champion, is the State Meet record holder in the 800m, and is a two-time Ohio State Cross Country qualifier.
Coach Gondak on Rachel: “We are thrilled Rachel will be joining our middle distance squad at Penn State. Her range from the 800m up to Cross Country predicts a great future for her in the Big Ten and NCAA.”
Julia Guerra | Hometown: Oakland, N.J. | High School: Indian Hills High School
Event: 1600m, 3200m, 5K
Personal Best(s): 4:51.56 (1600m), 10:44.34 (3200m), 17.46.80 (5K XC)
Highlights: Guerra was runner-up at the 2014 New Jersey Meet of Champions in the 1600m, is a three-time New Jersey Meet of Champions finalist in the 1600, was runner-up at the 2015 NJSIAA Cross Country Group 3 Championships, and fourth in the 2015 Meet of Champions.
Coach Gondak on Julia: “Julia has been a very consistent performer both in cross country and the 1600m and 3200m on the track. She brings outstanding personal bests to the program and is going to contribute both in cross country and on the oval.”
Kiara Lester | Hometown: Wenonah, N.J. | High School: Deptford High School
Personal Best: 11.98 (100m), 24.32 (200m), 55.72 (400m)
Highlights: Lester is a 2014 and 2015 Four-time indoor sectional and state champion 55m, 400m, 4x200m relay, 4x400m relay. She was an eighth-place finisher at world youth trails (200m), 2014-2015- Athlete of the Year, and the New Jersey high school state record holder in the outdoor 200m (24.32).
Coach Tucker on Kiara: “Kiara is a young lady I've watched grow since she was in the 10th-grade and I am excited about the opportunity to work with her next year and beyond. She will shock a lot of people this year and will be a major player for us in the future.”
Kathryn Munks | Hometown: Central Valley, NY | High School: Monroe-Woodbury High School
Event: 1500m, 3K, 5K
Personal Best(s): 4:40.13 (1500m), 9:53.54 (3K), 17.39.59 (5K XC)
Highlights: Munks finished fourth in the 3K at the 2015 New York state meet, and is a three-time New York State cross country qualifier.
Coach Gondak on Kathryn: “Kathryn had an outstanding junior year which was capped by a great performance in the 3k at the State Meet running 9:53. She has the tools to be a great distance runner for us at Penn State.”
Danae Rivers | Hometown: New Haven, CT | High School: Wilbur Cross High School
Event: 800m, 1600m
Personal Best(s): 2:05.86 (800m), 2:49.86 (1000m), 4:47.45 (1600m)
Highlights: Rivers captured 2014 and 2015 800m and 1600m Connecticut State Outdoor Track Championships, was the 2015 New England Champion in the 800m, is a two-time Connecticut State 1600m indoor State Champion, finished third at New Balance Outdoor Nationals in the 800m, and is a two-time Connecticut Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Coach Gondak on Danae: “Danae will bring an incredible range to Happy Valley having had success from the 4x400m relay up to the 1600m. She is a great competitor, a great person and someone we are really looking forward to having in our program as she has the ability to help at the Big Ten and NCAA level right away.”
Kelsey Vieira | Hometown: Hillsborough, N.J. | High School: Hillsborough High School
Event: Long Jump, Triple Jump
Personal Best(s): Long Jump 19’-01.25”, Triple Jump 39’-3.75”
Highlights: Vieira is a NJSIAA Sectionals - Central - Groups one and four 2015 champion in Long Jump, NJSIAA State Meet of Champions 2015 runner-up in the Long Jump, NJSIAA Groups one and four 2015 and NP B champion in Triple Jump.
Coach Spence on Kelsey: “Kelsey will bring a high level of athleticism to add to our already outstanding jumps and Multi event group. Her versatility as an athlete will help our team become even more successful. Kelsey is an exceptionally talented athlete that will do well in our program. The combination of her toughness, talent, and natural ability will be a good receipt for success.”
Austin Campbell | Hometown: Centennial, Colo. | High School: Regis Jesuit High School
Event: Long Jump, High Jump
Personal Best(s): 6’-11” High Jump, 22’-3” Long Jump
Highlights: Campbell was the Colorado class 5A silver medalist at the 2015 state meet. Campbell’s mark is U.S. No. 8 in the high jump.
Coach Kelly on Austin: “We are extremely excited for Austin to be a Nittany Lion. Austin embodies what we are looking for in a Penn State student-athlete. He is an exceptional athlete, great student, and most importantly a wonderful person. He will join a very young and talented jumps group. Austin will immediately make his presence known at the Big Ten and NCAA level.”
Jaxson Hoey | Hometown: Downington, Pa. | High School: Downington West High School
Event: 800m, 1500m, 1600m, 2-mile, 5K
Personal Best(s): 1:53.36 (800m), 3:53.94 (1500m), 4:11.47 (1600m), 9:09.01 (2-mile), 15:13 (5K XC)
Highlights: Hoey led his team to victory at the 2015 Pennsylvania State Championships while earning runner-up honors, qualified for 1500m final at the 2014 USATF Junior National Championships, and is the 2015 1600m Pennsylvania State Champion.
Coach Gondak on Jaxson: “Jaxson has fantastic range as an athlete – from the 800m all the way to Cross Country. One of the many things I like about Jaxson is he is a fierce competitor. He is going to have a great career in the Blue and White.”
Domenic Perretta | Hometown: Beaver Falls, Pa. | High School: Beaver Falls High School
Event: 800m, 1-mile, 5K
Personal Best(s): 1:51.27 (800m), 4:11.53 (1-mile), 16:05.60 (5K XC)
Highlights: Perretta captured 2014 and 2015 800m and 1600m Pennsylvania State Championships.
Coach Gondak on Domenic: “Domenic is an amazing competitor. He is undefeated at the Pennsylvania State Championships in the 800m and 1600m the last two years, and he can run cross country. He is another fantastic addition to our middle distance crew.”
Ben Peterson | Hometown: Solon, Ohio | High School: Solon High School
Event: Shot Put
Personal Best: 63’-5”
Highlights: Peterson was a runner-up at the 2014 Ohio State Championships with a throw of 62’-9”. Peterson’s mark is U.S. No. 7 in the shot put.
Coach Ebel on Ben: “We are very excited to add Ben Peterson to an already talented throws group at Penn State. Ben is an excellent competitor that gets better with each throw and will be an immediate impact for our team at the BIG 10 and NCAA level.”
Michael Slagowski | Hometown: Meridian, ID | High School: Rocky Mountain High School
Event: 800m, 1-mile, 3200m, 5K
Personal Best(s): 1:51.85 (800m), 4:08.28 (1-mile), 9:14.59 (3200m), 15:21.35 (5K XC)
Highlights: Slagowski is the 2015 800m Champion at the Arcadia Invitational, 2015 800m and 1600m Idaho State Champion, finished third in mile at the Brooks PR Invitational, was the 2015 Idaho State Cross Country Champion.
Coach Gondak on Michael: “Michael is another athlete joining our program that has amazing range. From running 49.05 for an open 400m to being the State Champion in Cross Country – not a combination you see often. He is going to help continue the great success we have in middle-distance running at Penn State.”
For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.