Hill finishes second in shot put at NCAAs

June 12, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. -- Senior Darrell Hill (Philadelphia, Pa.) capped off his career as a Nittany Lion Wednesday at Historic Hayward Field with a second-place finish in the men's shot put on day one of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Hill's runner-up finish is tied for the highest finish in school history in the men's shot put (C.J. Hunter -- 1990).

"I have never seen a national title come down to the second-best mark," head coach and director of Penn State track & field and cross country John Gondak said. "If you think about how hard it is for two people to throw a 16-pound ball in the same metric distance, the odds of that happening are probably astronomical."

"It is an awesome feeling representing Penn State and to come out in my final time in a Penn State uniform and be able to compete at a high level," Hill said.

In his final meet as a Nittany Lion, Hill battled with longtime friend Jon Jones of Buffalo in the men's shot put.

Following the first round of throws, Jones held the lead with his toss of 66 feet, 7.75 inches, while Hill was in second with a mark of 64-10.5.

On the second attempt, both Jones and Hill improved their marks to increase their lead on the field. In round two, Jones recorded a throw of 68-2.25, while Hill hit 66-3.25. In the third round, Jones fouled, while Hill posted a distance of 68-2.25.

His mark tied Jones, but Jones maintained his first-place finish by holding a tie-breaking second-best throw over Hill. Hill was unable to top Jones in the final three throws cementing his second-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

"It has been an amazing ride to compete for Penn State, my coaches have been patience for me," Hill said. "Coach Ebel and I have been through some tough times, especially when I missed the NCAA Championships during my sophomore year."

During his senior year, Hill was a two-time Big Ten champion, Penn Relays champion, two-time All-American, two-time United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year and a recipient of the Big Ten Outstanding Sportsmanship award.

"It was bittersweet for Darrell to finish second," Gondak said. "I am very proud of him and he has come so far during his time as a Nittany Lion."

"The best part of seeing Darrell compete this year is his maturity as a student-athlete," Gondak said. "When he has bumps in the road, he comes right back and it doesn't shake him, unlike in the past it might impact him."

"I was excited to compete here today and with a shot to win, I was going after the title," Hill said. "I felt like I competed very well today and to come out with a second-place finish isn't the best feeling, but I know I have a lot more competitions in my life."

On the track for the Nittany Lion men, Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) competed in semifinal action.

Creese began the day for the Nittany Lions with a 13th-place finish in the 1,500-meter run with his time of 3 minutes, 42.09 seconds.

With the top five times from each heat advancing plus the next two times, he needed to finish in the top five of heat two or post one of two next best times.

In the second and final heat of the 1,500-meter run, Creese finished eighth and missed out on a trip to the finals by little more than half a second.

"It is very tough to be the first person out," Gondak said. "Robby was in the faster of the two heats and in a good position to qualify, but came up a little short in the 100-meters."

"Robby has had a phenomenal year and I am very proud of him," Gondak said. "He has a mark for the USA Championships, so we will get back to work and get ready for USA meet in two weeks."

The Nittany Lions had another chance for a qualifying performance with Kidder competing in the semifinals of the 800-meter run.

Heading into the meet, Kidder had the NCAA-leading time of 1:45.58, but he had a tough task ahead of him with Shaquille Walker of BYU and 2015 NCAA Indoor 800-meter run champion Edward Kemboi of Iowa State in the first heat.

"It was a stacked heat and I was hoping it would go out honest just to give a little bit of a cushion for the times," Kidder said. "I wanted to position myself in the front and give myself a shot to finish in the top-two."

In heat one, Kemboi finished first (1:45.58) followed by a second-place finish from Kidder (1:45.95). Also in the first heat, Walker and Collins Kibet (Arizona) qualified based on their times.

Kidder's time of 1:45.95 is the second-fastest of his career and the second time he has broken the 1:46 in the 800-meter run. Earlier this season at the Payton Jordan Invite, Kidder set the No. 2 time in school history (1:45.58).

"It really was a stacked heat when you look at all the accomplishments of everyone," Gondak said. "Compared to the other two heats it was going to be a challenge, but Brannon was up for the challenge today."

"My overall time kind of came as a surprise, I mean we went out fast and I wasn't thinking about a time, I was thinking about place," Kidder said. "It was all about getting to the finals and I didn't want to look past this round, because you can't take anything for granted at this level. I now can just focus on racing and giving it all I have."Two years ago at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Kidder finished third overall in the 800-meter run as a freshman.

"I feel like a different runner than I was as a freshman," Kidder said. "I've had a lot more experience at the national level and in the 800-meter run since my third-place finish in 2013. It felt like a surprise my freshman year, but this year I am working on improving that."

"Now that the pressure of qualifying is off now, Brannon can go out there and run his race." Gondak said.

Due to a foot injury, junior Glen Burkhardt (Kennett Square, Pa.) did not complete the 10,000-meter run.

For more on Nittany Lion track & field, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

Last Updated June 12, 2015