By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - As her teams continued to prepare for their home opener, Penn State cross country head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan couldn't contain her excitement for not only the upcoming meet, but also for the entire season as a whole.
"In general, I'm really excited about the season," said Sullivan.
"The kids are really fit and prepared for a challenge."
Both the men's and women's squads will get their next challenge on Saturday when they open up their home schedule with the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. The meet will begin at 10 a.m. at the Blue and White Golf Course.
"This weekend will be fun," said Sullivan. "Our course is a great spectator course and it's a really fun place to see our sport."
Sullivan hopes her runners can find the same success on Saturday that they had this past weekend, when both her squads were victorious against Lock Haven University at the Dolan Duals.
Although Sullivan was very pleased with the performance of both squads against Lock Haven, she was particularly impressed with the men's team.
"We felt were going to be strong on the women's side and handle them pretty well, but on the men's side we didn't run three or four of our top guys," said Sullivan. "We took some chances but we held onto it really well."
One thing that Sullivan attributes her team's fast start too is the dedication they displayed during the offseason.
"Their summer training has really paid off," said Sullivan. "They have to do a lot of independent training and log a lot of miles and they did that."
Senior captain Brooklyne Ridder shared her coach's sentiment regarding how much the team has benefited from their hard work.
"Coming in and racing the way that we did at Lock Haven definitely showed that everyone did their summer training and is in really good shape," said Ridder.
Another reason that Sullivan feels has gotten both teams off to a hot start is the leadership being displayed by senior captains Ridder, Natalie Bower, and Lindsey Graybill for the women's team, as well as Tyler Corkedale and Thomas Luff for the men's team.
"They've stepped up their game big time," said Sullivan. "They're physically very fit but they're also great chemistry people good at bringing the best out of the group."
While Sullivan has been thrilled with the performance of her captains, they themselves have been impressed with the hard work being displayed by the new freshmen.
"The new guys have been great," said Corkedale. "Sometimes freshmen come in without having done the training but these guys have done everything that they were supposed to and are in great shape."
Ridder agreed that the freshmen on the women's team have been equally strong.
"The freshmen have been keeping up with us and have definitely come in trained," said Ridder. "They fit in great with the team and we're really glad to have them."
If their hard work continues, Sullivan thinks both squads have the potential to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
"The women will be in contention to win the Big Ten Title and they'll want to qualify for the National Championships," said Sullivan. "Our men's team will look to crack the top five of the conference and try and get to the National Championships as well."
Sullivan acknowledged that these goals are a challenge, but maintained that she is looking forward to it.
"The whole season is going to be challenging," said Sullivan. "That's something that I love that about this sport."