UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State track and field program has been increasingly competitive in recent years, and the work of its head coach has not gone unnoticed.
Beth Alford-Sullivan has received a major honor as a reward for the work she has put together with the Nittany Lion track and field program.
Alford-Sullivan, the director and head coach for Penn State, has been named head coach for the U.S. women’s team for this summer’s World Championships.
“This is as good as it gets,” Alford-Sullivan said Tuesday. “We had a tremendous Olympic run this past summer, so the World Champs will be quite an experience.”
Penn State made the announcement during the athletic department’s spring sports media day.
Alford-Sullivan has been associated with the U.S. program for years. She was an assistant coach at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, has been on the staff multiple times at World Championships and also at lower age level events.
The IAAF World Championships will be held in Moscow from Aug. 10-18.
As Alford-Sullivan pointed out, being the head coach for the most part does not involve actual coaching, but more organizing and managing a team of about 70 competitors.
All the athletes have their own coaches, so her job will mostly entail scheduling and lineup decisions like who will run legs of relays.
She is hoping to have a few familiar faces on the team this summer. Penn State assistant coach for throws Ryan Whiting and former Nittany Lion distance runner Bridget Franek competed for the U.S. and were among about a half-dozen Penn State athletes who were in last summer’s Olympics in London. Whiting has already informed Alford-Sullivan he plans to be throwing in Moscow.
“Bridget will definitely be planning to be on the team again,” Alford-Sullivan said, pausing for a few seconds before adding, “she better be.”
Hitting the city
This coming weekend, Alford-Sullivan will be leading a much smaller contingent to an event that has its own rich history. Penn State will be sending its 4x800-meter relay team to the Millrose Games in New York.
The team was invited to the event, which will be held for the 105th time and second at The Armory after a long history at Madison Square Garden, and has a sizable goal in mind.
“We’re on a mission to try and set another collegiate record,” Alford-Sullivan said. “The 4x8 collegiate record’s been on the books for a while now, it’s (7:17), we feel we’ve got four, if not more, legs that can easily set up a good race to set that collegiate record.”
The record is 7:17.45 set by a foursome from Clemson in 1989.
The 4x800 relay is not an official NCAA indoor event, though it is for outdoors, and the Nittany Lions have four of the top 16 times in the nation in the 800. Leading that group is the nation’s leader at 1:46.98, Casimir Loxsom, who is eager to be close to home.
“Millrose is always something I’ve wanted to do since high school,” said Loxsom, who is a native of New Haven, Conn., which is about 70 miles away. “It’s the closest major track to where I live in Connecticut. I’m really excited to be going close to home to race. My family’s going to get to come down. It’s a really short train ride. It’s such a prestigious meet. There are so many high-level athletes there that I’ve raced against, raced with, seen compete and looked up so it’s a really exciting experience.”
Loxsom will be joined by Ricky West, Ryan Brennan, Brandon Kidder and Za’von Watkins, who also will not be far from his hometown of Liverpool, near Syracuse. Alford-Sullivan has not decided which four of those five, or their order, will actually run in the race.
Despite also having major success in the mile – Kidder and Robby Creese have broken 4 minutes in that event this year – the Nittany Lions will not have anyone run that event, saving the athletes for next week’s Big Ten Championships.
The Nittany Lion men’s lacrosse team will get to enjoy a little warmer conditions this weekend. Penn State will meet No. 9 Denver in the Moe’s Southwest Grill Lacrosse Classic at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The 67,164-seat stadium is home to the NFL’s Jaguars and the Gator Bowl.
While they are not expecting a full house, the No. 15 Nittany Lions are hoping for a good turnout in an effort to promote lacrosse in general to the region and Penn State lacrosse in particular.
They also are eager to experience a game in a big venue.
“I’m just real excited to play on a big stage like this,” said senior attacker Jack Forster. “I’ve actually never been, in past years, in a big stage like this so me, myself and the team are very excited to get down there and actually compete against a top-five team.”
Head coach Jeff Tambroni wants his team to approach the event in a business-like manner, even if it is something different and on live national television (NBC Sports Network).
While taking the field in an NFL stadium may be new for the Nittany Lions, it’s not for Tambroni. Before taking over at Penn State, he guided three Cornell teams to national semifinals, including twice at M&T Stadium in Baltimore and the 2009 national championship game at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium.
“I’m not sure what to expect down there but I’m sure it’s going to be a valuable experience for our guys,” Tambroni said. “If we’re ever going to get to that point … the stage in and of itself can overwhelm you if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it, so we as a coaching staff wanted to put our guys in a couple of positions … where the stage is just a little bit bigger than a home or away site.”