Nittany Lions shine on final day of NCAA track and field first round

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Paced by tremendous performances across all event areas, the Nittany Lion track and field squads qualified another dozen athletes for the NCAA Outdoor Championships on Saturday (May 25), wrapping up a sensational three days of competition at the NCAA First Round at North Carolina A&T University. In total, the Nittany Lions will travel 20 athletes - in 15 different events - to the NCAA Finals, set for June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore.

"The Nittany Lions rose to the occasion and had a phenomenal three day competition," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "We had a team meeting on Wednesday night and agreed that our goal was to advance 20 athletes to the NCAA Finals, and it's so exciting to have achieved that. We saw some of the best competitive and gutsy performances of the entire year from our athletes this weekend, proving that we've really timed things up for the postseason."

Finishing off a stellar weekend of competition was redshirt-junior Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio), who added another event to her dance card in Eugene, advancing to the NCAA Finals in the 200 meters - to go along with a qualifying bid in the 100 meters. Jones clocked a lifetime-best 23.19, which was good for third in her heat and an automatic-advancing spot. Jones would also cover a sensational carry on the women's 4x400-meter relay - along with teammates Kiah Seymour (Washington, D.C.), Shelley Black (Laflin, Pa.), and Dynasty McGee (Flint, Mich.). McGee anchored the Nittany Lion squad in an impressive 52.79, bringing the Lions home in first in 3:34.98. The performance also marks the Nittany Lions' eighth-straight trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the event, beginning in 2006.

Redshirt-junior Evonne Britton (El Paso, Texas) fills out a solid roster for the Nittany Lions in the sprints and hurdles, qualifying through in the 100-meter hurdles thanks to an effort of 13.20 - the sixth-best performance of the round.

The men's 4x400 was just as successful, running away from the field with a heat-winning time of 3:06.87, thanks to the efforts of the quartet of Bernard Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), Matt Gilmore (Philadelphia, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.) and Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.). The effort - which was the fourth fastest in qualifying - including splits of 46.29 and 46.39 from Loxsom, and Bennett-Green.

Senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.) provided one of the most inspiring performances of the weekend, laying down a 57-second last 400 meters to earn an NCAA berth in the 5000 meters. Masters clocked 14:00.84 - the third-fastest time in qualifying, as well as the second-best effort of his career - to finish second in his heat and book his ticket to Eugene. Sophomore Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) will also represent the Nittany Lions in the distances at the NCAA Championships, qualifying through in the 1500 meters. Creese held on to a furious pace in his 1500 quarterfinal, clocking a lifetime-best 3:41.03 to place fourth in his section.

Sophomore>Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.) and junior Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) highlighted the Nittany Lion efforts in the field events, both advancing to the NCAA Finals in the javelin. Kenney wasted no time in punching her ticket, launching a lifetime-best 177-3 (54.02) on her first attempt - the best effort of the competition by nearly seven feet. Loht, who was in danger of not making the final after two attempts, saved her best for last, turning in a PR 169-06 (51.66) on her third and final throw of the preliminary round. Statistically speaking, the Nittany Lions have had at least one women's javelin thrower in 15 of the last 16 NCAA Outdoor Championships - dating back to 1998. Missing out in only 2006, Penn State is currently on a seven-year streak in the event, with Loht making her third-straight trip, and Kenney in her second-consecutive appearance in 2013.

Senior Sean Reilly (Lagrangeville, N.Y.) advanced in another nail-biting scenario in the field events, advancing as the 12th and final qualifier in the men's high jump. Reilly cleared 7-0.25 (2.14) on the afternoon - and finished 12th via countback on misses - for his first-career NCAA Championship appearance.

"It is exciting to see things like - Sean Reilly, Ricky West, Sam Masters, Natalie Bower, Melissa Kurzdorfer - earning their trip by upsetting some higher seeded competition, and advancing to the finals. The momentum from a Big Ten title and outstanding indoor and outdoor seasons for the men has brought both teams together. Thanks to my coaching staff, support staff and all the student athletes who really gave their all this weekend. I'm excited to see what we can do in Eugene."

Action at the NCAA Outdoor Championships will get underway at Wednesday, June 5, at Historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log on to www.GoPSUsports.com.   

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Last Updated May 30, 2013