Track and field nets regional coach, athlete of the year honors

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan was named United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic Region Men's Coach of the Year on Monday, while Associate Head Coach John Gondak, and Assistant Coach Randy Bungard also received recognition for their coaching accomplishments. Senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) also garnered one of the regional honors, as the middle distance standout was named USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Men's Track Athlete of the Year.

Sullivan will lead a healthy contingent of Nittany Lions into the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend, including the NCAA-leading men's distance medley, which clocked a school-record 9:26.60 at the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame last weekend. The No. 10 ranked Nittany Lion squad is also slated to feature standout senior Loxsom, who currently ranks fourth in the NCAA in the 800-meters, thanks to personal-best effort 1:46.98 in January. Coming into the weekend with the fifth-best effort in Division I is sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), who will head to Fayetteville with a PR performance of 3:57.11 in the mile run.

The Nittany Lions will be represented on the track and in the field at the championships, as redshirt-junior Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio) also excelled at the competition with a Top 10 seed performance, thanks to a school-record toss of 69-10.25 (21.29) in the men's weight throw.

Under Sullivan's watch, the Nittany Lions recently finished third at the Big Ten Indoor Championships — just three points away from the program's first-ever conference title. The Lions' accomplishments were well recognized following the competition, as Loxsom was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Championship and Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year, while rookie Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) copped Big Ten Freshman of the Year status.

The award is the 26th "Coach of the Year" distinction for Sullivan, who is in her 14th year at the helm of the Penn State women's track and field/cross country squads, and seventh as the director of the combined men's and women's programs.

Gondak, who earned Mid-Atlantic Men's Assistant Coach of the Year accolades, has guided the Nittany Lion middle distance crew to a record-setting season in 2013, as the primary coach of Loxsom, Creese and Kidder, as well as fellow 800-meter standouts Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.), Ricky West (Toronto, Ontario) and Ryan Brennan (Chester, N.Y.). Gondak's charges totaled 52 points at the Big Ten Championships, including victories by Loxsom in the 600-meters, Kidder in the 800 and Creese in the mile. Gondak also would guide the men's distance medley — including team members Kidder, Matt Gilmore (Philadelphia, Pa.), Brennan, and Creese — to the program's second-straight conference DMR title at the championships.

This past weekend, Gondak coached the DMR to even greater heights as the squad of Kidder, Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), Watkins and Creese blitzed to a sizzling 9:26.60 at Notre Dame, which stands as the second-fastest performance in collegiate history, as well as the top seed going into this weekend's NCAA Championships.

All told, Gondak's athletes have claimed five Penn State records this season, including the 600, 800, mile, DMR and 4x800-meter relay. The men's 4x800 also captured top honors in the event at the historic Millrose Games in New York City last month, setting facility and meet records via an NCAA-leading performance of 7:21.37.

The honor marks the third "Assistant Coach of the Year" citation for Gondak since joining the Nittany Lion coaching staff in 2006.

Bungard was named Mid-Atlantic Women's Assistant Coach of the Year in his first year overseeing the Nittany Lion's sprints, hurdles and relays. Under Bungard's watch, the Nittany Lions scored 29 points in the sprints and hurdles at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, including silver-medal finish in the 60 meters by junior Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio). Penn State would advance three athletes to the Big Ten women's 200 final — the most of any school in the competition. Also turning in top five performances were sophomore Dynasty McGee (Flint, Mich.), who placed fourth in the 400 meters, and sophomore Shelley Black (Laflin, Pa.), who took fifth in the 60-meter hurdles.

Jones likely will advance to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 200, having run a career-best 23.47 in 2013, which currently stands as the 17th-fastest performance in the country this season. Bungard also oversaw a school-record effort in the women's 4x200-meter relay this indoor season, as the Nittany Lion foursome clocked 1:37.25, which is also the NCAA leader for 2013.

Loxsom has had one of the more sizzling seasons in the collegiate ranks this year, coming off Big Ten Athlete of the Championship and Athlete of the Year honors. Loxsom claimed top honors at the conference meet, clocking a blistering 1:15.42 in the 600 — the all-time, all-conditions best by both an American and a collegian, as well as the third-fastest time ever run in the event indoors worldwide.

The senior, who is already a four-time All-American, currently ranks fourth in the collegiate standings in the 800, and will take on the half-mile field at the NCAA Championships this weekend. During the course of the season, Loxsom has been twice named Big Ten Athlete of the Week, and also garnered USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week honors in January.

The New Haven, Conn., native has set a trio of school records this year, resetting Penn State standings in the 600 (1:15.42), 800 (1:46.98) and the 4x800 (7:21.37). He also ran the anchor leg on the Nittany Lions' winning 4x800 at the Millrose Games, as well as a member of the bronze-medal 4x400-meter relay at the conference meet.

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Last Updated March 06, 2013