UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A pair of Nittany Lion track and field standouts earned Big Ten recognition on Tuesday (May 15), as senior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) was named "Field Athlete of the Year," while freshman Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) copped "Freshman of the Year" honors. Kovacs took top honors in the shot put in record-setting fashion at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Wisconsin last weekend, with Creese also making the medal stand via a third-place finish in the 1500-meters.
The senior launched a sensational toss of 68-5 (20.85) – setting new Penn State and McClimon Track records – en route to his second-career conference crown. Not only did Kovacs’ record toss better the previous Nittany Lion best of 65-5 (19.94), it extended his NCAA lead to nearly two feet over the next-best collegian. The senior also continued an impressive streak by the Nittany Lions, as Kovacs is the third-straight Penn State athlete to ascend the Big Ten podium in the outdoor shot, following former teammate Blake Eaton, who won in 2010 and 2011.
Kovacs, who bettered the Olympic "A" standard in the effort, also ranks as the eighth-best shot putter in the world this season, according to the IAAF.
The Nazareth, Pa., native, who has been named Big Ten Athlete of the Week on four occasions this spring, has had a stellar outdoor season overall, remaining undefeated among collegian competitors, including victories at the Arizona Jim Click Shootout, LSU Battle on the Bayou, and the Penn Relays.
Creese, who also earned the conference Freshman of the Year nod during the indoor season, kicked down the Big Ten homestretch to earn bronze-medal honors with a season-best 3:42.87. Creese’s effort, which was good for his second-career Big Ten bronze, is the best time by a freshman in the NCAA East Region, and also ranks eighth in the world among juniors (19 and under).
Creese has had one of the more impressive freshman campaigns in Nittany Lion history, with two sub-4:00 mile performances to his credit during the indoor season, as well as a collegiate-record effort in the 1,000-meters (2:19.53), and an appearance in the NCAA mile final. The freshman has remained at the top of his game throughout the outdoor season, including a memorable performance on the anchor leg of the Nittany Lions’ winning 4×800-meter relay at the Penn Relays Carnival.
Kovacs was also an All-Big Ten First Team honoree thanks to his gold-medal performance, as were Aaron Nadolsky (Altoona, Pa.), Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.), Brady Gehret (Altoona, Pa.) and Brandon Bennett-Green (Elkins Park, Pa.), who combined to win the Nittany Lions’ first-ever Big Ten title in the 4×400-meter relay. Loxsom and Gehret were also winners individually, with Loxsom taking his third-straight 800-meter crown, and Gehret topping the podium in the 400-meters.
On the women’s side, senior Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) earned First Team recognition following her second-straight victory in the 10,000-meters, while sophomore Laura Loht (McClure, Pa.) made the First Team via a victory in the javelin. Freshman Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.), who was the runner up in the javelin, earned Second Team All-Conference honors, along with the Nittany Lions’ silver-medal 4×400 – Doris Anyanwu (Beltsville, Md.), Dynasty McGee (Ypsilanti, Mich.), Ijeoma Iheoma (Holland, Pa.) , and Kirsten Nieuwendam (Parimaribo, Suriname). Sophomore Melissa Kurzdorfer (Lancaster, N.Y.) also garnered a Second-Team nod after placing second in the hammer.
A pair of Nittany Lions were also honored with the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, including Anyanwu, and senior Logan Caldwell (Ebensburg, Pa.). Anyanwu placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles, while Caldwell notched a four-place standing in the shot put.