The Innovative Nicole Medvitz

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

You wouldn’t know by looking at her or hearing her speak in her soft voice, but Nicole Medvitz lives dangerously.

Well, maybe she doesn’t live dangerously, but when she’s on the balance beam, Medvitz pulls off a move so risky that it’s only performed by one other person on Earth.

It’s her move – it’s literally called the Medvitz-Jarred (you can find it at the 46-second mark of this video) – and the senior Penn State gymnast has been doing it since her sophomore year of high school.

“So I did the base of the move before the actual move,” Medvitz said. “It’s pretty much a turn with one leg in the air. I did it with my beam coach, Jen Zappa, who I’ve worked with my entire life before I came here. And she was like ‘Why don’t you just try it to a scale?’ and we looked and it hadn’t been done before. So I tried it and it worked out and then started competing it.”

What makes this so difficult is that doing a move like this on the beam gives her no margin of error. In fact, Medvitz said it’s rated at the highest degree of difficulty. This kind of expertise on the beam has made her one of the top gymnasts in the conference – Medvitz was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016.

Her success, especially on the beam, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. From 2009-13, Medvitz was a Level 10 gymnast, a classification in which the top meet is the Junior Olympics. The only level above this is Elite – the top meets for that one are World Championships and the Olympics.

She was a three-time Junior Olympic national champion on the beam. She racked up wins over U.S. Olympians like 2012 alternate Elizabeth Price and Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal at the 2012 Games in the all-around.

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

And yet when the opportunity to move up and potentially become an Elite gymnast came about, Medvitz declined.

Instead, she thought it was important to focus on things like her education. Becoming an Elite gymnast requires a strict dedication to the sport, something that Medvitz knew about and decided wasn’t for her – she cited the fact that this level of gymnastics usually requires being homeschooled.

Medvitz was, however, competing at a college level for years. Level 10 is essentially the same level of competition as college gymnastics, although there are some differences.

“Three times a week we come in at 6 a.m., I never did that in club,” Medvitz said about her collegiate training regimen. “So we’ll come back later at 1:30 and practice the rest of the events. Club we did a lot more drills and stuff because we were still learning new skills, but here it’s a lot of perfecting the skills that we already have because we don’t really need to learn too much more.”

In addition to being technically sound, Medvitz is one of the toughest athletes on Penn State’s campus. For proof, look no further than her freshman year, when she suffered a torn labrum in her shoulder. Instead of getting surgery, Medvitz decided to compete in two events: balance beam and uneven bars. She competed in every meet, all the way through NCAA Championships.

That summer, she got the surgery she needed. Medvitz did only beam as a sophomore while working her way back before feeling like she was “fully better” as a junior. Now a senior, Medvitz feels all the rust that may have built up while getting to full health is gone. With this comes the optimism that she can compete in more events during her senior year. Medvitz hopes to try her hand at the vault and the floor exercise (which she admits are not her strongest events).

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

When she’s not on the beam, Medvitz is a standout in the classroom, as she was an Academic All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore and a junior and earned the title of Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year.

She is a management major who wants to combine her love of sports and entertainment after she graduates, and this past summer, Medvitz was a global sales intern for Nike, where she worked with the organization’s integrated marketplace team. Medvitz is also the secretary and oversees the communications and media committee for Penn State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board.

Penn State women’s gymnastics team begins its 2017 campaign – one which Medvitz hopes will end with a conference championship – on Jan. 7.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 28, 2016 at 4:26 pm 1 comment

Renee Frohnert Squats Wayne Brady and Makes a Deal

Photo via Renee Frohnert

Photo via Renee Frohnert

It’s safe to say that Renee Frohnert will never forget her appearance on Let’s Make a Deal. Frohnert ’16, who graduated last week and was a member of the Penn State weightlifting team, went on the show and squatted its host, Wayne Brady.

Frohnert wore her weightlifting singlet, which fascinated Brady. So he did what anyone would do: asked how much she could lift. Once he found out that Frohnert squatted 325 pounds at nationals, he asked if she would squat him. Frohnert did it fairly easily before going on to play a game.

Fortunately, video of the entire segment is online. It starts at the 13:20 mark, and we recommend watching it as soon as possible. We won’t give away what Frohnert won, but seeing as how she just bought a home, she definitely made a wise decision.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 21, 2016 at 11:56 am 1 comment

Inside Our January/February 2017 Issue

jf17_cover_blogLook for a welcome pop of color inside your mailboxes soon: You won’t be able to miss the striking aracari named Beatrice gracing the cover of our Jan./Feb. issue. This toucan is just one of the magnificent models featured in “Critter Close-Ups.” Michael Faix, a wildlife photographer and staffer at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, shares his pictures and the stories behind them starting on p. 42.

In “Learning in the Dirt” (p. 24), Dana DiFilippo ’92 discovers the Penn State students who are managing their own working farm on campus. (It turns out that they’re learning as much about themselves as they are about growing food.) Also in the issue, we take a look at the profound legacy of the Craighead family, which includes two leading conservationists and a bestselling author, in “Three of a Kind.”

We also asked readers for memories of getting mail at college and received dozens of great responses. Whether it was a sweet surprise, like mom’s baked-from-scratch cookies, or a love letter in a long-distance relationship—we learned that, years after opening these envelopes and packages, they still remain some of your most special deliveries. Start reading the letters on p. 32.

More from the issue: a profile on Kaia, the adorable golden retriever puppy who is making her mark as a full-time employee at Hershey; a story about Nike CEO Mark Parker ’77; and a recap of the amazing season for the 2016 Nittany Lion football team.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at heypennstater@psu.edu.

Amy Downey, senior editor

December 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm 4 comments

A Historic Honor for Jeff Ballou

Photo via Penn State College of Communications

Photo via Penn State College of Communications

Jeff Ballou ’90 was elected the National Press Club‘s new president, making the Al Jazeera Media Network news editor the first African-American man to hold this title. With his election, Ballou is the 110th president of the organization and the first to represent a TV news outlet from outside of the United States.

As Ballou told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “When people think about Pittsburgh, they think about football, they think about huddles, they think about teamwork, and they think about winning. The National Press Club is a winner, and I want to create an environment where people say to themselves, ‘Being a member is a winning thing.’”

We spoke with Ballou back in 2011 about the work he did covering the Egyptian Revolution. You can read it here.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 19, 2016 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ Updated

dsc_0814-maria-viola-fabiana-medWhen I heard that Penn State Centre Stage would be presenting the Shakespeare classic Twelfth Night this season, I pictured a production and costumes that would be—well, Shakespearean.

But it turns out that director Steve Snyder wanted to offer a more contemporary take on the tale. He set it in 1953, and studded it with a few musical numbers from the 1940s and 1950s—songs like “As Time Goes By,” “Unforgettable,” “Beyond the Sea,” and “C’est Si Bon.”

After all, Snyder says, the themes of the 17th century play are still relevant: “We still fall in love with the wrong people,” he writes in the show’s notes. “We still try to disengage from life, or alter how we engage with life, when it gets hard. We still desire to rise or somehow get more. We still have that one relative who is insufferable, but is still family. We still deal with bullies, then sometimes become the bully ourselves. We still have to learn and re-learn the need for forgiveness, kindness and mercy.”

Snyder is an Equity actor and faculty member in Penn State’s School of Theatre, and virtually everyone else involved in the play—from the cast members to the set designer to the costume designer—is either an undergrad or grad student in the school. It’s an impressive ensemble.

Twelfth Night had a preview performance on Monday and and will have another tonight, with the official opening tomorrow night. The show goes dark next week, but resumes Nov. 29. It closes Dec. 3. More information here.

Below are a few photos I took at a dress rehearsal last weekend. Click on them if you’d like to scroll through them individually.

Tina Hay, editor

November 16, 2016 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Just a Few Things Going on This Weekend…

StraightNoChaser

Straight No Chaser. Photo by Tina Hay

Anyone looking for something to do at University Park this weekend has plenty of choices. Between sports and music, you could pretty much spend your whole weekend on campus.

Last night a friend and I took in the Straight No Chaser concert (photo above) in Eisenhower Auditorium. The 10-member group does entirely a cappella versions of pop hits and Christmas tunes, including a hilarious version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” that you can find on YouTube. The ensemble got its start 20 years ago as a student singing group at Indiana University, which made for some good-natured banter on the eve of today’s Penn State football game with the Hoosiers: Group members tried to make the case that it was about time for Indiana to beat Penn State, and audience members responded with a spontaneous “We Are…” cheer.

Eisenhower will host another concert tonight: the Penn State Glee Club’s annual fall concert. Meanwhile, over at the Bryce Jordan Center, there’s a concert tonight by Brand New.

And then there’s all of the sports on campus this weekend:

—The men’s ice hockey team beat Alaska-Anchorage 7-3 last night in the Pegula Arena. And, because it doesn’t make much sense for a team to travel all the way from Alaska to play just one game, the two teams will square off again tonight at 7.

—The women’s ice hockey team skated to a 1-1 tie with Lindenwood this afternoon at Pegula.

—The women’s field hockey team, fresh off winning the Big Ten championship, was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament today, losing to Princeton, 2-1. A tough end to the season, but an impressive 17-3 record.

—The women’s soccer team—defending NCAA champs—beat Bucknell 6-0 last night at Jeffrey Field in the first round of the NCAAs.

—The men’s basketball team lost to Albany, 87-81, last night in the Jordan Center. The Lions return to the BJC Sunday evening at 6 to host Duquesne.

—The women’s basketball team hosts St. Peter’s in the BJC tomorrow afternoon at 1.

—The wrestling team has its first home meet of the season tomorrow, hosting Stanford at 2 pm in sold-out Rec Hall. The Lions are coming off a 45-0 shutout of Army last night at West Point.

Other than that, it’s pretty quiet around here this weekend.

Tina Hay, editor

 

 

 

November 12, 2016 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

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