Track and field hosts Penn State Relays to open 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State track and field squads are set to open the 2014 season on Saturday, hosting the Penn State Relays at the Ashenfelter III Indoor Track. Competition is slated to begin at 10 a.m. with the women's weight throw and mixed 1 mile run.

The season's first competition will feature several regional opponents, including Albany, Lock Haven, Maryland, Maryland-Baltimore County, Norfolk State, Pitt, Robert Morris, Saint Joseph's, St. Francis (Pa.) and West Virginia.

The Nittany Lions unofficially kicked off their indoor campaign with the Blue-White Intrasquad scrimmage last month, yielding promising results. Freshman Byron Robinson (Chespeake, Va.) set a facility record in the 300-meter, clocking in at 33.17. Robinson's mark fell just shy of the program record time of 33.01, which was set by Michael Timpson in 1986.

Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.) was the top finisher for the women, earning victories in both of her events. The senior took top honors in the shot put with a heave of 49-8.5 (15.15m) and won the 20-lb. weight throw with a mark of 65-3.25 (19.89m).

Director and head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan has high expectations for redshirt seniors Mahagony Jones (Cleveland, Ohio) and Evonne Britton (El Paso, Texas) and junior Shelley Black (Wilkes-Barr, Pa.) on the women's side as each turned in outstanding efforts in 2013.

"Definitely keep your eye on Mahagony Jones," said Alford-Sullivan. "She will be running in the 60 in addition to running on some relays. She looks very sharp. She had a phenomenal breakout year last year and is very motivated to start this one up.

"I'm also excited to see Evonne Britton. We redshirted her indoor last year and she had a tremendous outdoor season. This will be the first time she's run the 60 hurdles in two years and she's looking extremely sharp as well. Her teammate Shelley Black in the hurdles had a great end of the fall semester and raced very competitively, too, so I think those two events on the women's side."

For the men, Alford-Sullivan will look to All-Americans Za'Von Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.), Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio), Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), Bernard Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.), Brandon Bennett-Green (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Will Barr (Urbana, Ohio).

"We are very excited to see Watkins and the rest of the All-Americans from last year," said Alford-Sullivan. "We are going to have them open up their season with a DMR and then you turn around and see our sprint squad, the Bennett-Green brothers in the relays and really kind of across the board. Another one to watch is Will Barr, a returning All-American in the weight throw. He's ready to really punch it open, too."

Overall, Alford-Sullivan feels confident each area on the men's and women's squads and believes that Saturday's meet will serve as an indicator of what's to come.

"We are all in," said Alford-Sullivan. "We set a goal at the start of the school year to finish off the fall semester in a position that we felt confident going into the indoor season to aim at two Big Ten titles. This is the first time I'm really confident putting that out there. Our team is not intimidated by the pressure of that.

"We came close on the men's side indoors last year, I think we were beat by three points, so there's no way around it - they want to win a title and they are going for it. The women are outdoor Big Ten champs and they are on fire right now. We're looking to be Big Ten contenders and everything in leading up to the Big Ten Championships is just going to prepare us for that weekend."

The Blue and White continue their home slate next weekend, hosting the Nittany Lion Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 18.

 
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Last Updated January 13, 2014