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A Spirited Group of Lions

Former women’s soccer All-American midfielder Christine Nairn ’12 posted a very cool shot on her Instagram account Thursday: a pride of Nittany Lions who are now teammates on the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Penn State Appreciation Day! Biggest divas on @pennstatewsoc then and now the @washingtonspirit ☝🏼️👑

A photo posted by Christine Nairn (@nairnchristine) on

From left, that’s forward Tiffany Weimer ’06, Nairn, midfielder Joanna Lohman ’04, defender Ali Krieger ’07 (fresh off helping the U.S. to World Cup glory), and rookie defender Whitney Church ’15. The Spirit, who play their home games in Boyds, Md., are back in action Saturday when they host the Houston Dash—whose starting goalkeeper is none other Erin McLeod ’06.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

July 31, 2015 at 10:59 am 1 comment

There’s a Reason We Called Them a “Dynasty”

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When Catie Benson stopped by the Hintz Family Alumni Center a couple of weeks ago to pick up a box of our May/June issue, I asked her about preparations for her final collegiate rugby game. The fifth-year senior played up the quality of the opposition, a Central Washington University team in its first year of varsity status but loaded with experienced transfer players. On paper, it looked pretty evenly matched, like the Lions would have their hands full.

So much for that.

On Saturday, the Penn State women’s rugby team won its fourth straight national championship in typically dominant fashion, dispatching CWU 61-7. Katie Mueller (that’s her at rear left on our cover) was named MVP of the title game, while Hope Rogers (front and center, cradling the ball) scored a pair of tries in the romp. It’s the 10th overall championship for the Lady Ruggers, a run of dominance we had in mind when we used the word “dynasty” on that cover.

MJ_Cover_Final.inddKate Daley ’09, the former All-American who took over as the Lions’ interim coach last fall, flinched when she heard that word. Perhaps, like Catie and the rest of the team, she really thought Penn State might struggle against CWU. Or maybe she didn’t want to be seen taking an opponent lightly. Our guess? She just didn’t want to ruin the suspense.

Regardless: Congrats to Kate, Catie, Hope, and the rest of this terrific team, and thanks for making us smart.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 11, 2015 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

Ali Krieger on the Mend

Krieger during her playing days at Penn State.

Krieger during her playing days at Penn State.

There’s a great piece in Friday’s Washington Post on Ali Krieger ’07, a member of the 2011 and 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer teams. Krieger, also a star for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, suffered a concussion in a league match three weeks ago, a health scare that also put a dent in her hopes of starting at the World Cup this summer. But at a time when head injuries in sports are in the news more than ever, Krieger is benefiting from heightened caution about just how much care—and time—these athletes need before they can safely retake the field. Here’s wishing Ali luck in her continued recovery. Can’t wait to see her back in red, white, and blue this summer.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 1, 2015 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Leaping Toward Greatness

Look for more of Steve Waithe in our May/June 2015 issue.

A few short years ago, Steve Waithe couldn’t have imagined his future. If anything, his future wasn’t something he thought much about.

“I didn’t have much of a mentality to do well in school—I didn’t really think I had anything to work for,” Waithe says. He’s thinking back to his high school days in Maryland, when by his own admission, he didn’t take his academics or athletics seriously. “Honestly,” he says, “I was just kind of playing around.”

Waithe Jump

Photo by Cardoni

Waithe is hardly the only 15- or 16-year-old kid who lacked motivation, but when he finally found it, it was almost too late. In his final two years of high school, Waithe realized he had the potential to be good—maybe even great—in the long and triple jumps. He quickly became one of the best prep jumpers in the nation, but having dug himself into a hole academically, he couldn’t get his grades up in time to qualify for a Division I college. When he landed at Shippensburg University, it was with a very different mindset. And a plan.

“Before I even started to compete at Shippensburg, I told my coach, ‘I believe I’m a Division I-caliber athlete,’” Waithe recalls. “He was just happy to have me there in the first place, and he was really supportive. We came up with a program to make sure my academics were where they needed to be. There was no hostility. It was a good experience.”

Waithe spent a year and a half at Ship, where he set school records in the triple jump and earned DII All-America honors. While there, he also competed in the Junior World Championships for Trinidad & Tobago, where his parents and two older brothers were born. Both experiences were launch pads to bigger dreams: A transfer to Penn State, with its world-class facilities and coaches, and a chance to represent the nation of his roots at the Olympics.

With his academics in order, Waithe adapted to the higher DI competition in no time, winning the Big Ten outdoor title last spring in the triple jump, his top event, and placing fourth in long jump for good measure. He posted top-six finishes in the triple at the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships, earning All-America status in both events. He’s aiming for more of the same this spring.

As for the Olympics? Waithe says he’s already earned a slot on T&T’s 2016 team; assuming he hits the standard distance, he expects to be in Rio next summer. “It’s becoming less of a goal and more of a reality,” he says. “I just need to keep progressing the way I’ve been progressing. I know I have so much more potential.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

April 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

Signs of Spring at the Alumni Center

Spring Hintz

I have no idea what’s going on here. I only know it means that spring has sprung.

Working in University House, our favorite reminder of the end of winter is the sign of newly hatched ducklings appearing suddenly, right outside our windows, around the Hintz Family Alumni Center pond. But a close second is the sign of students taking over the alumni center lawn. Once the weather’s warm enough—and we’re looking at perfect blue skies and a high of 68 today—the grounds surrounding Hintz become the setting for small study groups, lounging clusters of friends, and even entire classes relocated from nearby Willard or Sackett buildings.

And then, sometimes, we get students who we’re not quite sure what they’re doing.

This was the scene outside my office window earlier this morning. Experimental theater performance? Political statement? Caped calisthenics? Not a clue, but I do know that any sign of life emerging from another long, cold Happy Valley winter is a welcome one.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

 

April 6, 2015 at 12:06 pm 21 comments

Ryan McGarry Cracks the “Code” for CBS

RyanMcGarry

You might remember a feature in our July/August 2014 issue on Ryan McGarry ’05, a doctor-turned-documentary filmmaker whose debut, Code Black, was a festival hit. In our interviews with him, McGarry mentioned his hope of turning the documentary—focused on young doctors in a legendary Los Angeles emergency room—into a TV drama. Well, that hope is now awfully close to reality.

Last month, industry outlets reported that CBS had ordered a pilot for an hour-long scripted medical adaptation of Code Black, and that McGarry—who remains on faculty at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College—will be one of the show’s producers. On Tuesday, it was reported that veteran actress Marcia Gay Harden will be one of the show’s leads. Per Deadline, the show, “like the documentary it was inspired by, are set in the busiest and most notorious ER in the nation—L.A. County Hospital—where the extraordinary staff confronts a broken system in order to protect their ideals and the patients who need them the most.”

Doctor, med-school instructor, and now a full-fledged Hollywood producer? Here’s hoping McGarry finds a hobby to keep himself occupied in his free time.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

February 18, 2015 at 12:39 pm Leave a comment

Brace Yourself for Meya Bizer

If we were really going to do Meya Bizer justice, we would have found someone for her to tackle.

IMG_3387Alumni Association members will find Bizer on page 23 of our Jan/Feb 2015 issue, where she’s the lead story in our sports section. She’s a senior and star on Penn State’s powerhouse women’s rugby team, winners of the last three national collegiate championships and nine titles overall. The consensus college player of the year in each of the past two seasons, she’s also the youngest member of the U.S. women’s national rugby team.

But about that photo on page 23: There’s Bizer in full stride, pitching a perfect pass at (or, hopefully, just above) our photographer’s camera. Bizer is an all-around talent, so we might accurately have shown her displaying all sorts of rugby skills. But if we’d really wanted to capture what sets her apart, we would have convinced some poor, unwitting soul to let Bizer use them as a tackling dummy.

We could have volunteered ourselves, of course. But we know better.

The hit against West Chester, around the :55 mark? You can feel that one through your screen.

With form that Nittany Lion linebackers might envy, Bizer has become the biggest hitter in her sport. The gridiron comparison is intentional: Bizer went out for football in middle school, was the placekicker on her high school team and even earned a scholarship to play for the University of St. Mary, a tiny college in Kansas. But along the way she fell in love with rugby, ultimately transferring to Penn State for a chance to be a part of the Lions’ burgeoning dynasty.

Bizer was her typically dominant self last month as Penn State hammered rival Norwich to win the USA Rugby Division I fall championship. The Lions are heavy favorites for a 10th national title this spring, and while Bizer isn’t the only reason—the Penn State roster is loaded with talent—she’s probably the biggest. Certainly, she’s the most impactful.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

December 31, 2014 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

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