Track and field is a sport on the rise at IUP. In his first full season as head coach, Ralph White led the IUP women to a fourth-place finish at the PSAC indoor championships, a six-spot improvement from 2008, and the men’s team had its highest finish ever by taking fifth place. On a very young team that features several freshmen who rank among the PSAC and national elite, it was a veteran who led the way at the conference meet.
Maddy Outman followed White from Williams College and is a graduate student at IUP. Outman won the 400 meters and 55-meter hurdles, placed third in the 200 meters and long jump, and was eighth in the 55-meter dash. Outman was the leading individual scorer with 33 points and was named the Most Outstanding Overall Athlete of the Meet. She qualified for nationals in five events, including a No. 1 national ranking in the pentathlon, and was scheduled to compete in that event as well as the hurdles at nationals, which took place March 11-14 in Houston.
Joining Outman as a conference champion were Brianna Liebold and Nafee Harris in the long jump and Tamika Taylor in the 55-meter dash. The five individual champions were the most ever at one indoor meet for IUP in the eight-year history of the event. Harris also earned a spot at nationals in the long jump, as did triple jumper Ceasar Westbrook.
Also competing at nationals in Houston was a quintet of IUP swimmers, including senior Pawel Glowiak, who made the trip for the fourth time in as many seasons while winning his third consecutive PSAC title in the 100 backstroke. The women’s 800 freestyle relay team of Jen Price, Brittany Watkins, Melissa Kucharczuk, and Bethany Johnston qualified for nationals on the last day of the conference meet. Price also had an outstanding individual meet. She finished second and set school records in the 500 and 1000 freestyles and was third in the 200 freestyle while establishing yet another IUP record. Price qualified for nationals as an individual in all three events, including an NCAA A cut in the 1000 freestyle.
At press time, the IUP women’s basketball team was still in the hunt for a third straight PSAC tournament championship under first-year head coach Jeff Dow. The Crimson Hawks defeated Gannon in the quarterfinals on March 3 to advance to the Final Four at West Chester and improve their record to 23-5. The team was led by Jahzinga Tracey, who became the ninth player in PSAC history with 2,000 career points while also moving into fourth place in conference history in field goals made and steals and ninth in rebounding.
The men’s basketball team continued its ascension up the PSAC and regional ladders. Although the Crimson Hawks were eliminated in the conference quarterfinals by Slippery Rock, the team won twenty-one games, an eight-game improvement from 2007-08 and a fifteen-game leap from head coach Joe Lombardi’s first season.
Several former IUP football players and coaches were in the news during the fall and winter. Frank Cignetti Jr. ’89 returned to his Western Pennsylvania roots with his appointment as the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh. Cignetti was an all-conference safety at IUP and served on his father’s coaching staff from 1990 to 1998 before embarking on a tour of the country as an assistant on the college and NFL level. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at the University of California and served in the same capacity at Fresno State and North Carolina and was quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. Attempting to follow in Cignetti’s footsteps is Nick Sirianni, who parlayed the past two seasons as wide receivers coach at IUP into a position as an offensive quality control coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Carmen Felus was named the head coach at Juniata College after three seasons at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Felus spent six seasons as the offensive coordinator at IUP from 2000 to 2005. Joining the local coaching ranks was former IUP and NFL standout Chris Villarrial ’95, who became the offensive coordinator at St. Francis University in January. Villarrial was a two-time All-America offensive lineman at IUP and spent eleven seasons in the NFL, including eight with the Chicago Bears and three with the Buffalo Bills. He is one of only three players in IUP history to have his uniform number retired.
In the high school ranks, Troy Wilson ’97 was named the head coach at Kiski Area High School, his alma mater, after eight seasons as an assistant coach at the school. Wilson was a linebacker on the powerful IUP teams of the early 1990s and played on the 1993 squad that reached the national championship game.
Al Thomas ’64 announced his retirement after coaching on the high school and college levels for forty-five years. Thomas won eight state championships at three different Maryland high schools— Seneca Valley, Damascus, and Sherwood—and directed his teams to the state playoffs in sixteen of twenty-three seasons. As defensive coordinator at McDaniel (Md.) College, Thomas was named the Division III Coordinator of the Year by American Football Quarterly.
Recently retired Derry Area School District superintendent Joe Bellissimo ’65, M’70 was honored by the Westmoreland/ Fayette Boy Scouts with a Good Citizen Award for his dedication to public education. Bellissimo was a star football player at IUP in 1962-64. Another former IUP football player, Trent Jones ’06 returned to the Reading Express of the American Indoor Football Association for the 2009 season. Jones had ten interceptions for the Express a year ago.
On the basketball front, Garry Lupek ’69 won his 500th career game as a high school coach when his Conemaugh Valley team posted a 56-49 win over Ferndale in early January. Lupek played at IUP in 1966-69 and is the team’s all-time leading rebounder with 881 while ranking ninth in scoring with 1,358 points.
One of Lupek’s teammates during the late 1960s was Mont Mattocks ’70, who was inducted into the Mercer County Hall of Fame on January 23. Mattocks has more assists than anyone in IUP history with 450, including a school-record fourteen versus Bloomsburg in 1968, and was enshrined in the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
Keith Grubbs ’01 accepted the position of head athletic trainer for the newly established Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League.
Jonathan Faikish ’05 has been named the boys’ and girls’ swimming coach at George School in Newtown, Pa. Faikish was a captain his junior and senior seasons as a member of the IUP swimming team and qualified for the PSAC championships all four years.
After a standout career on the IUP track and field team, Rob Conrad ’08 is a member of the Crimson Hawk coaching staff while continuing his athletic pursuits. Conrad will compete at the State Games of America July 30 through August 2 in Colorado Springs. He was a two-time All-America in the javelin at IUP.
Walt Carmo ’61, M’66 passed away in December. Carmo was on the IUP football and wrestling teams and later taught and coached wrestling at Blairsville High School. From 1970 until his retirement, he served as the assistant director of legislation for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.