Hunter, Cox, 4X400 team earn top five national finishes

Fayetteville, Ark. — Behind personal bests in four of five events, junior Gayle Hunter (Riverside, Calif.) recorded an outstanding fifth-place finish in the pentathlon, Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Indoor Championships at Randal Tyson Track Center. Also providing a top five finish was senior Shana Cox (Westbury, N.Y.), who captured fourth in the 400-meters - her fourth-straight All-America effort in the event and highest indoor finish of her record-breaking career. The women's 4x400-meter relay also placed in the top five for the second-straight year, posting a fifth-place finish.

All told, Penn State hauled in nine All-America certificates - the most in school history - including Hunter, Cox, all four members of the 4x400, Aleesha Barber (Decatur, Ga.) in the 60-meter hurdles, and Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio), who earned an All-America finish in both the 3,000- and 5,000-meters. Overall, the Nittany Lion women managed 16 total points, good for 15th place in the team standings.

Blake led off the relay, charging to the pole at the break and opening up a gap on the Arkansas and the rest of the field with a 53.33 split and never looking back as she handed off the Cox on the second leg. Cox would keep the Nittany Lions out in front with a 52.85 readout, turning the stick to Aleesha Barber (Decatur, Ga.), last night's eighth-place finisher in the 60-meter hurdles. Barber would fend off a hard charge from Razorback Shelise Williams, splitting 53.60, before handing off to Fawn Dorr (Akron, N.Y.), who again held off the Razorbacks, recording a 54.24 split and finishing off the Lions' season-best 3:34.00.

Cox, who captured her eighth career NCAA citation, ran to a season-best tying 52.57 in the first heat of the two-section quarter mile final, cruising to the heat victory. After three athletes narrowly bettered Cox's mark in the second section, Cox's time was good for fourth overall.

Hunter's career-record performance of 4141 was good for her second-career All-America certificate, and also bettered her own school record in the event by nearly 70 points. Hunter is the 58th All-American in the history of the Penn State women's indoor program, as well as the Nittany Lion's first-ever top-eight finisher in the pentathlon.

Hunter's career day included a gigantic leap of 20-07.25 (6.28m) in the long jump, which bettered the rest of the field by over two inches and put another 937 points on the board. Her performance was also a mere two centimeters off the Penn State long jump record of 20-8 (6.30m), which is held by Nittany Lion All-Americans Chi-Chi Aduba and Shakeema Walker. In 10th place going into the final event, the junior ended the afternoon with a tenacious 2:18.86 PR in the 800-meters, good for 839 points, and enough to vault her to fifth in the final standings.

Earlier in the day, Hunter got off on the right foot in the 60-meter hurdles, matching her lifetime best 8.53 - the fourth-fastest performance in the field - for an impressive 1010 points. After clearing 5-03 (1.60m) in the high jump, Hunter bounced back with a PR 37-03.75 (11.37m) in the shot put, adding another 619 points to her total.

Turning in her second top 10 finish in as many days was sophomore Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio), who managed a 10th-place effort in the 3,000-meters after posting a seventh-place finish in the 5,000-meters less than 24 hours prior. Franek finished in a time of 9:20.28 - less than two seconds of her personal best - in an impressive double.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009