NEW ORLEANS -- Eight members of the Nittany Lion men's and women's track and field squad have been honored for their academic prowess, receiving All-Academic recognition from the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Assocation (USTFCCCA). Receiving All-Academic status were men's team members Robby Creese (Mt. Airy, Md.), and Chris Cipro (Harmony, Pa.), as well Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.), Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.), Lindsey Graybill (Macungie, Pa.), Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.), Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) and Jocelyn Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.). In addition, the women's track and field contingent has earned All-Academic honors for the 13th-straight year under Director and Head Coach of men's and women's track and field/cross country Beth Alford-Sullivan.
To qualify for the USTFCCCA All-Academic Track and Field Team, the student-athlete must have compiled a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 and have met either of the following athletic standards: for the indoor season, a student-athlete must have finished the regular season ranked in the national top 96 in an individual event on the official NCAA POP list provided by TFRRS.org; for the outdoor season, a student-athlete must have participated in any round of the NCAA Division I Championships (including preliminary rounds).
Eligible teams must have maintained at least a 3.00-cumulative GPA following the 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons. A total of 171 institutions earned the distinction this year. The Nittany Lions finished out the spring semester with a cumulative GPA of 3.15.
Creese and Cipro both had stellar campaign in the distances for the Nittany Lion men, with Creese making the NCAA Indoor Championships in the mile run, and Cipro qualifying for the NCAA First Round in the 10,000-meters.
Creese - just a freshman - had a sensational season overall, setting the Collegiate, American Junior, and Penn State records at 1000-meters, going 2:19.53. The rookie, who was the lone freshman in the NCAA indoor mile field, would go on to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors during the indoor and outdoor seasons, following third-place efforts in the mile indoors and the 1500-meters at the outdoor conference meet. Creese would also anchor the Nittany Lions to victory in the distance medley relay at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, clinching Penn State's first-ever victory in the event. Known for his strong finishing kick, the freshman also anchored the Nittany Lions' winning 4x800 at Penn Relays, clinching the program's first victory in the event since 1987.
Cipro clocked a PR 29:53.07 for the 10,000 during the outdoor season - good for a spot at the NCAA First Round. A multiple-year team captain in cross country, Cipro recently graduated with his degree in Elementary Education.
Bower has stood out on the track, the cross country course, and the classroom over her first three years in the Blue and White, making three-straight appearances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, as well as a trio of appearances at the NCAA First Round. Bower excelled in her signature event - the 3,000-meter steeplechase - this spring, placing sixth at the Big Ten Championships and running a PR 10:14.27 at Penn Relays. Her lifetime best ranks third on the all-time Penn State top 10 list. She is majoring in Kinesiology.
Graybill - an Elementary Education major - was also a standout in the steeplechase this spring, clocking a personal-best 10:20.33 to place 21st at the NCAA First Round. The Macungie, Pa., native was also a member of the Nittany Lions' 13th-place team at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this fall.
Giannotti - another top athlete in the steeplechase - earns USTFCCCA honors for the first time, qualifying for the NCAA First Round via a career-best 10:28.82 at Penn Relays. The sophomore was also an All-Big Ten Second Team selection in cross country, following a 14th-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.
Kenney was one of the Lions' top finishers at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, turning in a fourth-place finish in the women's javelin. The freshman, who was the Penn Relays Champion, also excelled at the conference level, placing second overall behind teammate Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.), who took home gold-medal honors. Kenney is currently enrolled in the Division of Undergraduate Studies.
Millhouse, who will wrap up her degree in Kinesiology this fall, proved to be one of the top distance athletes in Nittany Lion history over her career, capping her days in the Blue and White with a school-record 32:57.33 in the 10,000-meters. Millhouse ended her career with a pair of Big Ten titles in 2012, with a win in the 5,000-meters at the indoor conference meet, and a repeat victory in the 10,000 outdoors. The Boiling Springs, Pa., native was also a member of school-record runs in the indoor (11:05.16) distance medley relay, as well as the outdoor DMR (11:08.41).
Witmer, who recently graduated with a degree in English, was a standout in the pole vault over her Nittany Lion career, making three-straight appearances in the event at the NCAA First Round competition. Witmer advanced to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the event, where she was a member of the Nittany Lions' fourth-place "trophy team."