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Former Nits participating in summer track series

GRESHAM, Oregon—The Twitter handle was a natural for shot putter Darrell Hill. He had heard the phrase “big homie” in a couple of rap songs, and he appreciated the phrase because when he was growing up, “that was what you called a person who was looking out for the younger persons.”

Plus, there was the conference connection. If you’re competing for Penn State, you’re part of the Big Ten, and the chance to play off the logo and make his Twitter handle @B1GHomie was too good to pass up.

And after he qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Hill picked up an extra 1,000 Twitter followers, many of them kids and/or aspiring shot putters. Now they pepper him with questions: Why did you pick Penn State? What do you think about in the circle? How much sleep do you get? How can I improve my throw from 49 feet to 70?

Which is exactly why Hill chose the Twitter handle.

“That’s my way of saying I like to give back,” he said. “I like to have interactions with the people coming behind me because I understand that I’ll be in the sport for a short period of time, but I’ll have people coming behind me forever. I would like to leave a lasting imprint on the sport, so I encourage people to reach out to me.”

Darrell Hill (File photo: AP Images)

He did a little of that Sunday, as well, at the Tracktown Summer Series, a new initiative by Tracktown USA, which is bringing the IAAF world championships to the United States for the first time in 2021, that enables U.S. athletes to compete and earn prize money without going overseas, enjoy a team format and interact with fans.

Hill and another former Penn State track athlete, Casmir Loxsom, were among the competitors.

Hill, who combined to finish fourth for the San Francisco Surge in a “shot put relay” with female thrower Brittany Smith, got the fans clapping in rhythm during the event and posed for dozens of photos afterward. (His best individual throw was 68 feet, 4 1/2 inches.)

Loxsom, who finished eighth in the 800 meters in a season-best 1 minute, 47.42 for the New York Empire, also jogged the half-lap event for kids that ended the meet, and he helped to form a tunnel for the finishers, as well.

“Something like this, a team-scored competition, is awesome,” Loxsom said. “This gets me excited to run again.”

Both former Nittany Lions will compete Thursday in the Tracktown Summer Series Championship in New York City. And then they’ll head to opposite coasts.

Loxsom, who had been training in Seattle with the Brooks Beasts track club, was dismissed from the team in the spring and has been running alone, without teammates and a sponsor. He’s got two more meets after the Summer Series—both in Ireland—and then will return to Seattle, load up a U-Haul and move back to State College, where he’ll finish his degree, serve as a volunteer coach for the track team and train with junior-to-be Isaiah Harris, who will be representing the U.S. at the world championships in London in August.

Loxsom switched his major from kinesiology to communication arts and sciences, and he was six credits short of his degree when he went to train in Seattle. After a rough few months, he said he’s looking forward to returning to a “new-old environment” for a fresh start.

“I’ve got to fall in love with the sport a little more again,” he said. “My dad always says that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And that’s how track was. Right now, it’s just kind of work.”

Having friends and teammates again at the track, Loxsom said, should be a big help: “I really liked the camaraderie and the team component, and being a part of something and then losing it make me remember how that was. A really big thing for me in track and field is the people and the camaraderie.”

Hill will return to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, where he trains with fellow former Nittany Lion Joe Kovacs, and the two will prepare for the world championships in London. They qualified by finishing second and fourth, respectively, at the U.S. outdoor nationals in June.

“It can be pretty tough when you’ve got two high-level competitors,” Hill said. “Although Joe is one of my best friends, he’s also one of my biggest competitors. If I want to win, I’ve got to beat him. Our goal is always to get 1-2. It’s understood we’re trying to get gold and silver.”