Desmond Palmer sets school record in 600m at Nittany Lion Challenge


Barry Shenck

Pitt senior Desmond Palmer rounds the track during his record-setting 600-meter victory Jan. 14 at the Nittany Lion Challenge. Courtesy of Barry Schenk / Pitt Athletics

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

Pitt senior Desmond Palmer is already a two-time NCAA All-American hurdler. Competing in the 600-meter race for the first time on Saturday, he proved he’s capable of making history as a traditional sprinter, too.

Palmer broke the Pitt track and field program record in the 600m at the Nittany Lion Challenge in University Park, Pennsylvania, posting a blistering time of 1:18.26. In the process, he broke the school record time of 1:19.06, set by Brycen Spratling in January 2014 at the same event.

“[Palmer] won the final after running in the third-fastest heat, which is impressive. You don’t see that very often,” Pitt head coach Alonzo Webb said in a press release. “It shows where his fitness is and where his development is so far this season … I’m excited to see what this season brings for him.”

Palmer claiming first place while posting a record-breaking time in his first attempt at the event may sound surprising to some. His head coach, though, said that was the plan all along.

“We had talked about Desmond running the 600 this weekend, and our goal was for him to break the school record, so he completed his mission,” Webb said in the release. “At first I was going to have him run the 400, but then I thought the 600 would be better because he doesn’t have the opportunity to run it very often.”

As a sophomore, Palmer became a first-team All-American by placing eighth in the finals of the 400-meter hurdles at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor National Championships. He slipped to second-team All-American status last year after failing to qualify for the 400-meter hurdles finals, something that motivates him to put together his best season yet as a senior.

Palmer also competed in the 60-meter hurdles Saturday, taking home first place with a time of 7.98, but he wasn’t the only Panther to cross the finish line first.

On the women’s team, sophomore Gillian Schriever — a Pitt cross-country star who became the first Panther to reach the NCAA Cross-Country Championships since 2004 — carried over her success to the track and field circuit with a victory in the 3,000-meter race. Schriever posted a personal-best time of 9:41.58 in the event, while junior Andin Fosam also took first place in the weight throw with a personal-best 19.31-meter toss.

“This was a nice opener for us,” Webb said in the release. “I was pleased with performance in many areas, especially after most event groups had a heavy training load this past week — especially the long sprinters and distance runners. We’re trying to get ready for Penn State Nationals here in a few weeks.”

The Panthers’ next competition is the YSU College Invitational Friday, Jan. 20, in Youngstown, Ohio.