By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The rain and mud couldn't stop the Penn State men's and women's cross country teams on Friday morning at the Penn State National, as they turned in first and third place efforts, respectively.
The men's race started out at a very fast yet slippery pace as the stampede
headed down a fairway on the Blue and White Golf Course. The grueling 5.2-mile
race twisted and turned around bunkers, cart paths and trees, ultimately
bringing some runners down into the muddy mess.
As many runners cleared the halfway mark in the competition, a pack of Nittany Lions turned on their afterburners and helped propel each other to the finish. Leading the pack for Penn State was senior Kyle Dawson.
"I feel pretty good about how I ran," said Dawson. "The conditions weren't that big of a concern because they affected everyone in the same way. We ran really hard as a team."
For seniors Kyle and Owen Dawson, Chris Cipro, and Vince McNally, this was the final home meet they would run in a Nittany Lions uniform. "It's bittersweet," said Owen Dawson.
As some were bringing their Nittany Lion cross country career to an end, others were just beginning...and showing much promise for the future.
Among the promising young runners was true freshman Wade Endress, who placed 20th overall with a time of 27:05 as the Nittany Lions fifth man across the line. Endress' effort was very impressive, given the weather conditions and this meet being his first home appearance as a Nittany Lion.
"I looked up about midway through the race and saw a pack of our guys ahead of me," said Endress. "I just started to pick off as many guys as possible to help bring up the pack."
Following the men's race, the steady rain turned to an all out downpour as the Penn State women warmed up for their 6,000-meter race. Right off the starting line, seniors Caitlin Lane and Kara Millhouse led the field of nearly 270 runners.
"It was really helpful to run together," said Millhouse. "Sticking together has helped Caitlin [Lane] and I throughout most of the season and I think it can really help us heading into the Big Ten Championships."
As the ladies trekked on, the competition proved to be almost as heavy as the rain.
"We knew the field would be tough," said Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "West Virginia gave us a tough run. They are very talented and staying up with them and UCONN was one of our goals today."
Lane and Millhouse maintained their positions atop the Nittany Lion field, but were overtaken by a pair of West Virginia runners and a Connecticut sophomore before the final mile.
"Watching Kara [Millhouse] throughout the last mile gave me a lot of confidence," said Lane. "I just had to keep pushing and try and go get her."
Millhouse finished fourth overall, with a time of 21:14, and was immediately followed by Lane just three seconds later.
The Nittany Lions wrapped up their regular season on Friday morning, and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead as they enter the championship season.
"The coming weeks will be really tough," said Lane. "We have put in the work as a team, and it will really be anyone's race at the championships, so I am excited to see the outcome."
The cross country team is back in action at the Big Ten Championships, which will be held at Illinois on Oct. 30.