Track and Field Bayou Bound
Nittany Lions send small contingent of distance runners to Stanford
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.: April 5, 2012 – The Nittany Lions will hit the road for the second straight competition this weekend, traveling to Baton Rouge, La., for the Battle on the Bayou at Louisiana State University. Penn State is coming off a stellar opening effort at the Jim Click Shootout at Arizona last weekend, which yielded Big Ten leading performances from senior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) in the men’s shot put, sophomore Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.) in the women’s hammer, and sophomore Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) in the women’s javelin.
The weekend will also feature season-opening efforts from a trio of distance runners, as senior Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.), junior Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio), and redshirt-freshman Matt Fischer (Kennett Square, Pa.) will head west for the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. All three Nittany Lions are slated to race on Friday evening.
The scored competition is schedule to include a stacked field, featuring LSU squads which are ranked No. 2 on both the men’s and women’s sides in the latest United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) rankings. Also slated to compete is Texas Tech’s seventh-ranked men’s squad, as well as No. 9 Mississippi State. Headlining the women’s field along with the Tigers, is 10th-ranked Texas Tech. After teaming up with the Ohio State Buckeyes at the conference-scored Jim Click last weekend, the Lions will get another look at some Big Ten foes this weekend, with both Iowa and Illinois on the entry list.
About the Battle on the Bayou …
When: Saturday, April 7
Where: Bernie Moore Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.)
Host Website: www.lsusports.net
About the Stanford Invitational …
When: Friday and Saturday, April 6-7
Where: Cobb Track and Angell Field
Host Website: www.GoStanford.com
Meet Coverage: www.flotrack.org
Follow the Nittany Lions …
On Twitter: @PennStTFXC (link – www.twitter.com/pennsttfxc)
Conference Recognition …
Senior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) and sophomore Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.) were named Big Ten Field Athletes of the Week on Tuesday, following conference-leading performances at the Jim Click Shootout at the University of Arizona last weekend. Kovacs took the shot put with a season-best 62-5 (19.02), over two feet ahead of the second-place competitor. The performance is also the best in the Big Ten, as well as the seventh in Division I and fourth in the NCAA East Region. The senior, who placed third in the shot at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago, is the defending Big Ten silver medalist in the event. Kurzdorfer enjoyed a stellar opening weekend in Tucson, beginning the competition with a PR 206-7 (62.97) in the hammer throw to finish as the top collegian and second overall. The toss leads the conference by more than 10 feet, and is also tops in the East Region standings. Kurzdorfer's performance, which rates eighth in the NCAA, is also second best in Penn State history, as she becomes just the second woman in program history to better the 200-foot barrier.
Success at Stanford …
The Nittany Lions have enjoyed outstanding success at the Stanford Invitational over the past several seasons, including a school-record run from Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) a year ago. The then-junior bettered the previous Penn State 10,000-meter record by nearly 30 seconds, clipping off a PR of 33:31.93 for 10,000-meters, besting Natalie Updegrove's 34:00.00 from 1983. Millhouse not only set a school record, but was the first Penn State woman to dip under the 34-minute barrier.
Back in Baton Rouge …
This weekend will mark the Lions’ first trip to LSU in a decade, with the last appearance being the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Penn State contingent brought home five All-America finishes for the competition in 2002, with Connie Moore earning All-America status in the 100- and 200-meters, and Ryan Olkowski earning a top eight finish in the 200. In the field, Deshaya Williams placed sixth in the discus, and Brianne Johnson took eighth in the javelin.
Combined Efforts …
The recent Jim Click competition featured "conference" event scoring with the Pac-12 duo of Arizona and California coming out on top with a total score of 460, ahead of the Big Ten contingent (Penn State and Ohio State) with 422.33. The ACC (Clemson and Miami) rounded out the scoring in third with a total of 266. The meet was also capped off with a special "combined" men's 4x400-meter relay, which saw the Big Ten squad of Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.) and Brandon Bennett-Green(Elkins Park, Pa.) and Buckeye teammates Marvel Brooks and Antonio Blanks coming away with the victory in 3:10.69.
Javelin Back on Board ...
Back on the event slate for the outdoor season in the javelin throw, which has typically been one of the Lions' signature events. Back after a Second Team All-America finish in 2011 is sophomore Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.), who owns a personal-best 161-3 (49.14). Also in the mix in 2012 will be freshman Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.), who came to Penn State with a career-best 156-2 - the sixth-best toss among preps in 2011. 2011 Big Ten scorer Eli Skinner (Jersey Shore, Pa.) is the top returner on the men's side. Loht and Kenney would go 1-2 at Jim Click last weekend with marks of 163-7 (49.87) and 156-11 (47.83), respectively, while Skinner to second in the men’s competition.
Going the Distance ...
The outdoor season also brings the addition of the 10,000-meters - an event where the Lions excelled a year ago, thanks to a Big Ten victory by Kara Millhouse. Millhouse, who competed in the 10K at both the NCAA and USATF Championships a year ago, also ran to school record in the event, going 33:31.93 at the Stanford Invitational. This weekend will feature the Lions’ first efforts in the 10K, as senior Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) will take on the distance at Stanford.
Fast Freshman ...
Freshman Robby Creese enjoyed one of the more successful freshman campaigns in recent memory during the indoor season, becoming just the third Nittany Lion in program history to better the 4:00 mile. Creese would better the barrier on two occasions, running 3:58.94 at the Alex Wilson Invitational to clinch his spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships, where he was the only freshman in the men's mile field. Creese, who anchored the winning distance medley relay at the Big Ten Championships, was recognized throughout the season as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as well as the USTFCCCA Track Athlete of the Year. The freshman burst onto the national radar in January after setting Collegiate, American Junior, and Penn State records in the 1,000-meters at 2:19.53. Creese will open up at LSU this weekend, running the 800-meters.
Back in Uniform ...
The Nittany Lions will add a pair of seasoned veterans back into the mix outdoors, as seniors Owen Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.), and Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) will be in their final season of outdoor eligibility after sitting out the indoor season. Kovacs, who is the defending NCAA bronze medalist in the shot put and a two-time All-American, impressed at the national level while competing unattached, placing sixth in the event at the USATF Indoor Championships thanks to a PR throw of 66-1 (20.14). Dawson, who also an All-America finish on his resume, also had a productive indoor season, running a PR 4:01.37 for the mile and competing in both the 800- and 1500-meters at USATF Indoor. Both Nittany Lions excelled last weekend, with Kovacs winning the shot with a conference-leading 62-5 (19.02), and Dawson turning in a season-best 3:46.15 in the 1500.
Indoor Success ...
The men's 4x400-meter relay, with team members Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins Park, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) and Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.), helped to end the 2012 indoor campaign with a bang, earning runner-up honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships - the highest-ever finish by a Nittany Lion team in the event. The foursome hit their stride at the Big Ten Championships, where they turned in a second-place finish, and followed up with a school-record 3:05.22 at the Alex Wilson Invitational. The Lions traveled a healthy contingent of individuals to the championships, with Loxsom, Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), and Evonne Britton (El Paso, Texas) all earning Second Team All-America status.
Conference Crowns ...
A duo of Nittany Lions claimed individual titles at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in February, including Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.) in the mile, and Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) in the 5,000-meters. The pair dominated the distances, running a total of 96 laps, and scoring a total of 40 points between them at the championships, as Lane also added third-place efforts in the 3,000-meters and 5K, while Millhouse was the 3K runner up. On the men's side, the quartet of Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.), Nadolsky, Loxsom, and Creese combined to win the distance medley relay - earning the Nittany Lions' first-ever men's relay victory since joining the Big Ten in 1992.
Up Next …
Following their return to campus, the Nittany Lions will make the short trip to Lewisburg, Pa. for the Bison Outdoor Classic at Bucknell University, next weekend. Competition is set for Saturday and Sunday, April 14-15.
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