Track and field enters outdoor season in top 25

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Both the Nittany Lion men's and women's track and field squads will begin the 2013 outdoor campaign with Top 25 rankings to their credit, as the Penn State women's team appears at No. 20, and the men's contingent comes in at No. 21, according the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) preseason rankings, released Tuesday (March 19).

The Nittany Lion men's squad is coming off a stellar finish to the 2013 indoor campaign, which was highlighted by a ninth-place standing at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The Nittany Lions' Top 10 standing was bolstered by a pair of runner-up finishes, including senior Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) in the 800 meters, as well as the distance medley quartet of freshman Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), junior Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), freshman Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.), and sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.). Along with a sixth-place finish by redshirt-junior Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio) in the men's weight, the Nittany Lions brought home six First Team All-America citations in total.

Loxsom is the No. 2 returner in the half mile for the outdoor season, having clocked 1:46.12 a year ago. Senior Ricky West (Toronto, Ontario) isn't far behind, entering the season with an outdoor PR of 1:46.41 - the fourth-fastest effort among returners. Loxsom and Bennett-Green were also members of the Nittany Lions' No. 4 ranked 4x400-meter relay, which clocked a sizzling school-record 3:01.52 in 2012.

The women's squad will welcome back a pair of NCAA finalists in the javelin, as junior Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.), and sophomore Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.) will don the uniform for the first time in 2013 this spring. The pair turned in an impressive three-four finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago to go along with a one-two punch at the 2012 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Both are ranked among the top 10 returners nationally, as Loht's 169-4 (51.62) ranks fifth nationally, and Kenney's 167-10 (51.17) is the seventh-best returning performance from 2012.

Also coming back with a Top 10 touting is junior Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, Ohio) in the hammer. Kurzdorfer, who was second in the Big Ten in 2012, is the ninth-best returner nationally, thanks to a PR toss of 207-10 (63.35) a year ago.

Rejoining the troops in 2013 is standout hurdler Evonne Britton (El Paso, Texas), who redshirted the 2012 outdoor campaign. Britton owns PRs of 13.11 in the 100-meter hurdles, and 57.41 in the 400-meter hurdles - both top 15 marks nationally in the preseason rankings. Britton was an NCAA qualifier in both the 100 and 400 hurdles as sophomore in 2011.

Also back for the outdoor campaign are distance standouts senior Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.), and junior Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio). Lane is a multiple-time NCAA qualifier and Big Ten Champion - from the mile to cross country - while Simko set a school-record 2:03.09 for the 800 to earn herself a slot at the US Olympic Trials last summer.

The Nittany Lions will open the outdoor season at the Stanford Invitational, which is slated for March 29-30 in Palo Alto, Calif. The outdoor season will march on with the Crimson Tide Invitational at Alabama on April 6.

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Last Updated March 22, 2013