Loht, Bower capture Penn Relays titles

PHILADELPHIA -- Junior Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) and senior Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.) claimed coveted Penn Relays watches, thanks to individual victories Thursday at the Penn Relays Carnival at Franklin Field.

Highlighting an outstanding opening day for the Nittany Lions, Loht picked top honors in the women's javelin, while Bower bested the field in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Nittany Lions have now claimed three event titles at the 2013 Relays, as Brittney Howell (Wyncote, Pa.) wrapped up her first-career heptathlon victory on Wednesday afternoon.

Loht took the lead on his first attempt and never looked back, posting an effort of 154-6 (47.10) on her first attempt of the competition. The victory is the second of Loht's Penn Relays career, having won a Relays title as a high school senior in 2010. The junior is the fourth-straight Nittany Lion to win the event at Penn, following former Nittany Lion Karlee McQuillen, who won in 2010 and 2011, and teammate and 2012 Champion Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.). The Nittany Lions have dominated the event over the years, with a total of seven titles in the books - the most by any program in Relays history.

Bower bided her time within a stellar field - gapping her competitors with just over 400 meters remaining - to finish with a personal-best clocking of 10:13.58. Bower's performance - which is the eighth-fastest ever run at the Relays - ranks third in the Penn State record books, and improves on her conference-leading mark. The senior, who finished second in the event at Penn a year ago, is just the second Nittany Lion to post a gold-medal effort in the event, following Bridget Franek's victory in 2007.

Along with Bower, the entire Nittany Lion contingent mounted a sensational effort during the "Distance Night" events, including a 5,000-meter victory by former Nittany Lion Karaleigh (Millhouse) Foster. Foster, who represents Oiselle, clocked a sizzling career-best 15:54.66 to better the rest of the field by nearly 15 seconds.

Also running well over 5000 meters was sophomore Katie Rodden (Ardmore, Pa.), who dipped under the 17:00 minute barrier via a lifetime-best performance of 16:56.26 - good for 17th in the "Championship" section. Classmate Lauren Mills (Kennett Square, Pa.) wasn't far behind, taking 21st in the same section with a PR 17:05.91. Sophomore Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.) and senior Tom Luff (Emmaus, Pa.) were the top finishers in the men's 5K, placing 12th and 13th in the "College" section, finishing in 14:37.66, and 14:37.90, respectively.

Posting solid performances in the women's 3000 meters were freshman Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) and junior Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.). The duo turned in ninth and 10th place finishes on the evening, stopping the clock at 9:37.72, and 9:38.36 - outdoor PRs for both athletes.

Junior Evonne Britton (El Paso, Texas) enjoyed her top performance of the outdoor season in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking 58.56 - good for third place overall in a stellar field. A total of three Nittany Lions turned in Top 15 finishes in the event, with freshman Kiah Seymour (Washington, D.C.) taking 11th overall in 1:00.08, and redshirt-freshman Shelley Black (Laflin, Pa.) running a season-best 1:00.44 for 15th.

Picking up an "Eastern" section victory was freshman Ahmenah Richardson (Philadelphia, Pa.), who came away with a gold-medal effort in the high jump. Richardson cleared a lifetime-best 5-7.75 (1.72) on the day, picking up her second victory in as many weeks, having also taken top honors at the Bucknell Team Challenge last weekend.

The Nittany Lions also fared well in Thursday's relay sections, as both the women's 4x100- and 4x400-meter qualified for event finals. The 4x400 quartet of Seymour, Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio), Black and Dynasty McGee (Flint, Mich.) posted the eighth-fastest effort in qualifying, finishing in 3:39.53 - the Nittany Lions' second-fastest performance of the outdoor season. The effort guarantees the Lions a slot in Saturday's "Championship of America" final. Meanwhile, the 4x100 foursome of Britton, Jones, Seymour and McGee turned in an clocking of 45.87 - good for a lane in Friday's ECAC final.

Also holding their own in relay action was the women's distance medley relay, including Marta Klebe (Chesterbrook, Pa.), Marlene Ricketts (Westbury, N.Y.), Sarah Jane Underwood (Alexandria, Va.) and Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.). The squad took sixth in the "Championship of America" section, combining to run 11:17.53.

Action at the Penn Relays continues on Friday, and concludes on Saturday evening.

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Last Updated April 25, 2013