Indoor track important at PSU

While snow flurries are flying, Penn State’s spring sports teams are practicing indoors: batting cages, turf fields and weight rooms standing in for infield dirt and golf courses.

While the outstanding facilities make it possible for the varsity teams to work out year-round, it’s difficult to duplicate the natural elements like sun and wind, which teams may not see until they head south or west for spring break competition.

But for the Nittany Lion track and field teams, being inside can be every bit as competitive as the spring season proper.

The Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track, part of Penn State’s multi-sport facility provides a world-class venue for training as well as competitions that draw athletes with admirable aspirations, from NCAA Championships to Olympic gold.

The facility, which first opened its doors in 1999 features a polyurethane-surfaced track, with hydraulically banked turns; for field events, athletes find multiple jumpers, pole vault runways and artificial grass. The facility holds bleachers for crowds of 800, and the versatile building can allow for even larger crowds when needed.

This past weekend, the Nittany Lions welcomed some of the best athletes in the country to one of the most prestigious indoor meets of the winter: the Penn State National Open, their third meet of the indoor season.

Highlighting the performances during the meet, Penn State grad Casimir Loxsom posted a world record in the 600 meters, with Nittany Lion sophomore Isaiah Harris crossing the finish line just .08 seconds off the world record mark; Harris’s time was a new collegiate record set by Loxsom during his senior season in 2013.

The meet brought out the best in many of the Penn State competitors as school records and personal bests were posted throughout the weekend, highlighted by Danae Rivers’ mile, which stands as the top performance in the NCAA this season, in addition to a PSU women’s record.

Local athletes on the Penn State roster also competed in the premier meet, including Altoona graduate Hannah Mulhern, who cleared 13-0.75 in the pole vault. Mulhern’s 2016 sophomore mark of 13-6.50 is second among the Nittany Lions’ all-time women’s indoor performances. Huntingdon’s Kobren Frederick competed in the triple-jump.

Through three indoor meets this semester, the Penn State track and field team boasts two NCAA-leading performances, with athletes in 17 events ranked among the NCAA’s top-25; sixty-two Nittany Lions rank among the best in the Big Ten.

The collegiate indoor season continues through mid-March, with the Penn State teams traveling as far as Seattle, Washington and College Station, Texas. But local fans can catch competitions at University Park during the Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup this weekend, or at the Penn State Tune-Up on Feb. 18th.

The Nittany Lions’ track, field, and athletes shine on the national stage.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.