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Emily Frederick Forged Her Own Path to Rio

Photo via Cardoni

If it wasn’t for an error on a GPS, it’s possible that Emily Frederick wouldn’t have found herself in Rio for the Paralympics last fall.

No, so she didn’t drive all the way down to Brazil on accident or anything like that. Frederick, an Alabama native who was born with dwarfism and stands 4-foot-1, needs special pedals to drive. When she was in high school and eager to get her license, her mother drove alone to a facility in Birmingham, Ala., called Lakeshore.

There are two Lakeshores in Birmingham. The one they needed was a rehabilitation center that had those pedal extensions; the other was a training facility for athletes with disabilities. They’re right next door to one another. The GPS brought Frederick’s mom—an assistant high school track coach—to the training facility. She got a tour and realized it was the perfect place for her daughter, who grew up playing sports but had stopped because she struggled to keep up with her teammates.

Initially, Emily wasn’t on board with her mother’s idea. (more…)

April 26, 2017 at 9:25 am Leave a comment

For Stephen Nedoroscik, A Moment of Perfection

Penn State gymnastics entered Saturday afternoon with 53 individual National Championships. Thanks to Stephen Nedoroscik’s performance on the pommel horse, the program ended the day with 54.

Nedoroscik, a freshman from Massachusetts, won the NCAA title on the horse with a score of 14.900. He became the fourth freshman in program history to take home an individual title, and is the first Nittany Lion to win a title in this event since 2005.

As Nedoroscik told GoPSUSports, winning a championship is “the best feeling in the world.”

You can watch his performance at the top of this post. Pay special attention to his teammates in the stands over the final 10 seconds or so—they all start standing up because they know Nedoroscik nailed his routine.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

April 25, 2017 at 9:35 am Leave a comment

It Takes Two

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

When you talk to Ben and Zach Lieb, one word pops up more than anything: We.

Ask them what happens when they play tennis against each other. You’ll get an answer that anyone with siblings can relate to.

“We fight,” Ben said.

Almost immediately after Ben finished his sentence, Zach chimed in: “We always, whenever we play any sport, we always somehow get into an argument.”

The sophomore twin brothers from Newtown Square, Pa.—featured in our March/April issue—are really good at this. Sometimes, one will start a sentence, the other will jump in and continue the thought, and the one who kicked things off will interject one last time to finish what the two of them said.

As you can guess, the pair have a bond that is impossible to replicate. This goes beyond tennis: In addition to playing on the same team, they live together and are both business majors (Ben is majoring in supply chain management, Zach plans on majoring in finance). Even the decision to attend Penn State stemmed from the fact that the two wanted to be together. Ask them if they planned on attending the same university, and “we” pops up immediately.

“We were always a package deal,” Ben said. “We’re so used to being together, we live with each other, here and at home, obviously. We always wanted to go to school together.”

Schools like Louisville, Richmond, Boston, and Penn all tried to acquire the services of the Liebs. Eventually, the desire to play a Division I sport, get a degree from the Smeal College of Business, and represent their state school meant Penn State checked all the boxes.

It helped that they were given the opportunity to come to Happy Valley as a package deal. It’s not a huge surprise—according to tennisrecruiting.net, both were five-star recruits after wildly successful high school careers at The Haverford School. Over the Liebs’ four years at the school, Haverford accrued an absurd 94-1-1 record.

“We won a few league titles in a row,” Ben recalled. “Then we got to our senior year, we got invited to play at the National High School All-American tournament in California where we finished sixth, we were on the all-tournament team there.”

“It’s team oriented, but it’s singles and doubles, so you play six singles and three doubles,” Zach continued. “We could play both, same as college. Ben and I were selected as All-Tournament team, I think there were 10 of us…”

“And then eventually All-Americans after that,” Ben interjected.

“High school All-Americans,” Zach quickly clarified.

Thanks to their chemistry, success, and time they’ve spent playing with one another—they first picked up rackets when they were around 4 and played in their first tournaments before they turned 10—the pair know each other on the court better than anyone. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that Zach “hates” playing Ben, because “we’ve played so many times it’s boring.”

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

Still, they rely on each other. Despite being different players—the hallmark of Ben’s game is consistency, while Zach’s style of play is based around power—they would always make it a point to prepare and warm up with one another growing up while attending tournaments. This has helped them on the court in a few ways. Getting coaching from someone who knows their game so well is a benefit, but being teammates with your brother also forces you to step up your level of competition on and off the court.

“You don’t wanna be left behind,” Zach said. “If I see Ben doing well in school or tennis, I’m gonna try and catch up.”

After their freshman years, Zach admitted he had a little bit of catching up to do—he accrued a 5-4 singles record and a 6-5 doubles mark as a freshman (Ben went 20-10 in singles and 9-3 in doubles). While Ben thought the two adjusted pretty easily, Zach disagreed, at least when it came to tennis.

“I didn’t really play as well as I wanted to last year, but I’ve been playing a lot better this year,” Zach said. “Our courts are really fast … It’s all power tennis—big serves, big forehand, points are really fast, just not something I was used to coming in. I think I’ve caught on now.”

Ben, on the other hand, wasn’t as high on how he played in the fall, admitting to losing some matches he thought he should have won. Two things he wanted to focus on heading into the spring were his mental toughness and consistency over the course of an entire match.

They’re different off the court, too.

“We’re different, but we like to do the same things,” Ben said. “Growing up, we were always active, we weren’t huge into video games…”

“…I think people would say you’re more serious than I am,” Zach interjected. “I have kind of a goofy personality. I might have read a little bit more. I’m a bit smarter, that’s why.”

“I don’t know about that,” Ben quickly replied.

Like Ben said—they’re brothers. They fight.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

March 2, 2017 at 12:01 pm Leave a comment

Intern By Week, THON Dancer By Weekend

KendallFor 15 hours every week, I am a Penn State student who is reluctantly wrapping up my senior year majoring in public relations, looking for ways to sneak in an extra semester without my parents noticing.

For 13 hours every week, I am an intern with the Penn State Alumni Association’s strategic communications team, where I help create content for AlumnInsider and the association’s social media accounts.

And for 46 hours during THON Weekend 2017, I’ll represent my THON organization, FOTO, on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center.

When I think about why I want to dance, I realize there is no one answer—but that really, I owe a lot to THON. It has changed not only how I see the world, but also how I see my role within it, and that is because of the children and families who have shared their stories and their lives with me. My aspiration to do work that betters the lives of children has, through my time with THON, transformed into a desire, into a need, into a promise I’ve made with myself.

Standing for 46 hours is a really, really long time—my dad still doesn’t understand how it is “a thing,” he says—but it’s something I feel I can give back. And even when my feet start hurting, and I’m so delirious that I start imagining I’m having conversations with band members from One Direction, I’ll stand strong, because that is what these kids have taught me.

I expect my 46 hours dancing in THON to reflect my four years with FOTO. There will be lots of laughs and some tears. There will be hard work, random food cravings at random times, and an overwhelming supply of support and love. And most importantly, there will be kids who, for an entire weekend, have the opportunity to just be kids.

Kendall Brodie, strategic communications intern

February 17, 2017 at 3:16 pm Leave a comment

A Bear-y Scary Encounter for the Craighead Brothers

craigheads bears

Photo via The Craighead Institute

Our Jan./Feb. 2017 issue features a story on the Craighead siblings, a trio of Penn Staters whose lives’ work stemmed from a dedication to nature. One project of the two Craighead brothers—Frank ’39 and John ’39—was a 12-year study of grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park. According to the official Craighead Institute website, the duo “developed field techniques to attach the collars and track the movements of the bears.”

During one encounter, the mix of drugs they used to sedate the bear wore off before they could collect all of their data, which led to an especially scary run-in with the animal. There is video of the incident, which you can watch here. It illustrates both the dangers of their research and how close they got to the animals they studied.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

February 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

Chris Hogan’s Journey From Penn State Lacrosse to Super Bowl LI

There’s only one Penn Stater left in the 2017 NFL Playoffs, and he never took a snap for the Nittany Lions on the gridiron. Chris Hogan ’10, who totaled nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s 36-17 win over Pittsburgh, played lacrosse for four years in Happy Valley.

An all-conference selection, Hogan scored 57 goals for the Nittany Lions, a run that former Penn State coach Glenn Thiel described as “dominant” when discussing him last year. While he played football in high school, Hogan never suited up for Penn State.

Due to an injury suffered during his sophomore year, Hogan had one year of athletic eligibility remaining after he graduated from Penn State. He wanted to try football, and ended up at Monmouth University in his home state of New Jersey. A two-way player, Hogan accrued 12 catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns as a wide receiver and 28 tackles with three interceptions as a defensive back.

Undrafted in 2011, he bounced around for two seasons, earning stints with the 49ers, Giants, and Dolphins. He was signed to the Bills’ practice squad late in 2012, promoted to the team’s active roster a month later, and spent the next three years playing in every game for Buffalo.

This past offseason, Hogan—aka “7-Eleven,” a nickname he earned in Miami because “he’s always open“—joined the Patriots. He set a career high in receiving yards (680) and starts (14) this year, while also bringing in 38 receptions and four touchdowns.

Hogan broke out in a huge way during Sunday’s conference title game. His 180 receiving yards were a career best and the most in the team’s postseason history. The two touchdowns and nine receptions were also career highs.

During his time with the Bills, Hogan said, “I still feel I have hurdles to clear and ways for me to become a really good slot receiver.” He proved that he is indeed a really good slot receiver on Sunday night, and now, he’s going to play in the Super Bowl. Not bad for a former lacrosse player.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

January 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm Leave a comment

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