Track and field poised for NCAA Championships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion track and field squads will take on the nation's best this weekend, competing at the NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Arkansas on Friday and Saturday (March 8-9). The No. 10 ranked Nittany Lion men's program will field a healthy contingent of competitors, including senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) in the 800 meters, sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) in the mile, and redshirt-junior Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio) in the weight throw, along with the top-seeded distance medley relay, which clocked a collegiate-leading 9:26.60 at the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame last weekend.

The Nittany Lions will also have a pair of representatives in the women's field, including redshirt-junior Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio) in the 200 meters, and junior Marlene Ricketts (Westbury, N.Y.) in the triple jump. Action in Fayetteville is set to begin on Friday morning.

Penn State is one of three Big Ten programs slated for a top 10 finish at the championships, including Wisconsin at No. 4, and Nebraska at No. 7. Host Arkansas is currently the national leader on the men's side, while stalwart LSU is the current No. 1 in the women's rankings.

About the NCAA Indoor Championships ...
When:
Friday-Saturday, March 8-9
Where: Randal Tyson Track Center (University of Arkansas)
Meet Information: www.NCAA.com
Live Coverage: www.ESPN3.com

The Nittany Lion quartet of freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), junior Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), freshman Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.) and Creese proved to be one of the nation's top contenders in the distance medley, clocking a sizzling school-record time of 9:26.60, which also stands as the second-fastest performance ever run by a collegiate squad. Kidder has proved to one of the Lions' most reliable relay legs over the past several weeks, also leading off Penn State's winning DMR at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. The rookie was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year following victories in the DMR, as well as the 800, last month.

Loxsom, and Creese will take on the NCAA field as individuals, with both Nittany Lions entering the competition with top five performances nationally in their respective events. Loxsom, who is already a four-time USTFCCCA All-American, has been on a tear this indoor season, running 1:46.98 for the 800, which also stands as a Penn State record. The senior and recently named USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Track Athlete of the Year was also an individual winner at the Big Ten Championships, taking the 600 meters in a blistering 1:15.42. The time stands as the fastest performance ever run by an American or a collegiate athlete.

Creese enters the mile in fine standing, coming into the weekend with a season-best 3:57.11 - the fourth-fastest performance among this weekend's field.

Barr also stands to make a splash in his first-career NCAA Indoor appearance, as the junior goes in as the 10th-rated participant in the men's weight, thanks to a PR and school-record attempt of 69-10.75 (21.29), at the VT Final Qualifier last weekend.

Jones and Ricketts will also be making their first-career NCAA appearance, with Jones coming into the competition with personal-best seed time of 23.47. The redshirt junior has had an outstanding indoor season overall, recently finishing second in the 60-meters at the Big Ten Championships, to go along with a fourth-place standing in the 200.

Ricketts, who also garnered silver medal honors at the conference meet, boasts a career-best 42-4.75 (12.92) in the triple jump this season, which stands 16th nationally. The junior also affirmed her position as one of Penn State's all-time greats in the event this season, as she currently ranks No. 2 in the Nittany Lion record books.

Nittany Lion Notes ...

USTFCCCA Award Winners:
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.

Record-Setting DMR:
The Nittany Lion quartet of freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), junior Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), freshman Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.) and Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) set facility and school records, on their way to an NCAA-leading performance in the distance medley relay, Friday at the Alex Wilson Invitational at the University of Notre Dame. The Nittany Lions posted the best effort of three stacked sections of the event, going 9:26.60 - the second-faster performance ever run by a collegiate program indoors. The Lions' mark was also enough to better the previous Penn State best of 9:32.94, set by Sam Borchers, Mike Cadau, Ryan Foster, and Tim Johnson in 2009.

Conference Accolades:
Senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) has been named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Championship, and Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year, while rookie Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) was voted conference Freshman of the Year, announced by conference offices on Tuesday. Loxsom earned conference laurels, thanks to his record-setting victory in the 600-meters at the Big Ten Indoor Championships last weekend. Kidder led off the Nittany Lions' winning distance medley relay, and came back to win an individual crown in the 800 meters.

Men's Big Ten Wrap Up:
Paced by individual victories by sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), and senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) the Nittany Lion men's squad placed third overall in a hotly contested race for the team title on the final day of the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships at the SPIRE Institute. Creese, Kidder, and Loxsom led a bevy of outstanding performances by the Nittany Lions, who scored 87 points - just off team champion Wisconsin with 90 points, and Illinois in second with 87.50.

Women Fare Well at Conference Meet:
Juniors Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio), and Marlene Ricketts (Westbury, N.Y.) each earned silver medals, leading the Nittany Lions to a fourth-place finish in the team standings at the Big Ten Indoor Championships at SPIRE Institute. With the fourth-place finish, the Nittany Lions achieved their 11th-straight top four finish in the women's standings, thanks to a total of 73 points.

Millrose Record Breakers:
The Nittany Lions made good on an appearance at one of track and field's greatest stages on February 16, taking top honors in the 4x800-meter relay at the prestigious Millrose Games at the Armory Track and Field Center. Bettering the rest of the field by over five seconds, the Nittany Lions zipped to a finishing time of 7:21.37 - good for new Millrose Games, and Armory Track records, also tying the Penn State record in the process.

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Last Updated March 08, 2013