Barr, Kenney, Loht advance to NCAA Finals

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Redshirt sophomore William Barr (Urbana, Ohio), freshman Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.), and sophomore Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) each extended their seasons in their respective events on Thursday (May 24), advancing to the NCAA Outdoor Championships via qualifying performances at the NCAA Eastern First Round at the University of North Florida. The Nittany Lions enjoyed an outstanding afternoon overall, with numerous athletes advancing to later rounds in the track events.

Barr got things started with a bang, launching a personal-best 183-6 (55.93) in the discus on his first attempt of the competition. The effort, which is a personal-best by over four feet, held up for fifth overall on the afternoon, and was good for one of the 12 coveted qualifying positions for the NCAA Finals, set for June 6-9, in Des Moines, Iowa. Barr's attempt was also notable in the Nittany Lion record books, as it stands sixth on the all-time Penn State top 10 list. The trip to the NCAA Finals will be the first for the redshirt sophomore, who is also slated to compete in the hammer throw on Friday morning.

The success in the throws continued in the women's javelin, with Kenney leading the field with a personal-best toss of 162-10 (49.65). The freshman, who bettered her own career record by more than two feet, enjoyed an outstanding series overall, with four of her six throws measuring at 154-feet or better. Loht, who has guaranteed her second-consecutive trip to Des Moines, recorded an effort of 154-4 (47.04) on the afternoon, which held up for the seventh-best performance of the competition. The underclassman duo have been on fire all season, coming off of a one-two finish at the Big Ten Championships earlier this month, where Loht won her first-career conference crown, with Kenney following in second.

The Nittany Lions also impressed in the track events, with Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.), Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins' Park, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), Robby Creese (Mt. Airy, Md.), Doris Anyanwu (Beltsville, Md.), and Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio) all advancing towards further competition, this weekend in Jacksonville.

Simko had a stellar afternoon in the middle distances, earning quarterfinal bids in both the 800- and 1500-meters. The sophomore began the afternoon running 4:24.59 in the 1500, finishing fifth in her heat to earn one of the five automatic-advancing positions. But her afternoon wasn't complete, as Simko returned to the track two hours later to qualify for the next round of the 800, via a finishing time of 2:07.07, to advance on time. Simko will be back tomorrow to run the 800 quarterfinal, and run again on Saturday in the 1500, with spots to the NCAA Finals on the line in both events.

Gehret cruised to a quarterfinal bid in the 400-meters, blitzing to a heat victory and automatic-advancing position in 46.34. Bennett-Green also advanced to the next round of the quarter mile, running 46.82. Loxsom would also move on via a heat win, taking his section of the 800 with a finishing time of 1:50.01. Quarterfinals of both the 400 and 800 are slated for Friday evening.

Creese continued his whirlwind freshman campaign, earning an advancing position in the 1500. The rookie clocked 3:48.32 to capture a spot in Saturday's quarterfinal.

On the women's side, Anyanwu nabbed a spot in the quarterfinal of the 400-meter hurdles, running 59.38 to place third in her heat.

Action in Jacksonville continues on Friday morning, beginning with the men's hammer throw at 10 a.m., and the women's pole vault at 11 a.m.

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Last Updated May 25, 2012