Perri and Fischer Lead Lions, as Women Take Top Spot, Men Finish Third

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - As rain poured down at the Blue and White Golf Course Saturday morning, the Penn State women's cross country team surged to a first place finish in team standings at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, while the men's team took third place.

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Competing against a selection of schools that featured Princeton, Navy, West Virginia, Ohio, Delaware, Georgetown, Rutgers, Geneseo State, St. Joseph's, and St. Francis, the women's team placed five runners in the top ten to edge out Princeton 25-52 in points, while the men's squad finished behind Princeton and Georgetown in points at 25-57-78.

Afterward, head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan remained very positive about not only the winning performance of the women, but also the grittiness displayed by the men.

"The women really showed up today and had a great day," said Sullivan. "On the men's side we weren't perfect by any means, but we held our own."

Junior Tori Perri and Sophomore Matt Fischer led their respective squads with second place finishes, while the women's team also got top ten finishes from Senior Natalie Bower (third), Junior Rebekka Simko (fourth), Senior Brooklyne Ridder (sixth), and Sophomore Leigha Anderson (10th).

"Matt Fischer really had a breakout day," said Sullivan. "On the other side just great racing from Tori, Bekka, Natalie, and Brooklyne with Leigha really stepping up."

Perri, who finished second overall to Ohio's Julie Accurso with a time of 21:20, seemed to think her high finish was somewhat unexpected.

"I was pretty surprised," said Perri. "Everyone's in really good shape this year, so I wasn't sure which one of us was going to be up front."

One thing that Perri did attribute her strong showing to was the amount of dedication she showed in the offseason.

"I trained better this summer than I had before," said Perri. "The training is finally catching up with me."

Fischer, who made his season debut and finished second to Princeton's Alejandro Yamin with a 26:07, seemed confident in his ability to place high.

"I felt like I could do pretty well and give a good performance today," said Fischer.

After opening the season with a pair of victories against Lock Haven last Saturday, both squads knew they'd be in for a different kind of challenge competing against an assortment of schools instead of just one.

"In a race like this you really need to be able to run your team strategy and compete together," said Sullivan.

Although the meet was different from the one they had run a week ago, runners such as Perri felt as though the larger scale environment was a good experience for the team to encounter.

"This is more of what college racing is all about," said Perri.  "I like that we can get used to it early in the season and see what we can do."

Another prospect that both squads had to face was the rain, which began shortly after the women's race began, and ended midway through the men's race.

While the rain certainly didn't make anything easier, both teams maintained that it did not affect their performance.

"I honestly didn't even notice it," said Perri. "I was so in the mind set of racing that it wasn't a factor at all."

Fischer agreed that the weather was not a hindrance to the team.

"Rain really doesn't matter," said Fischer. "We workout in this rain and mud all the time so its kind of fun."

Not only were the squads unfazed by the weather, but they also enjoyed being back on their home course.

"Our knowledge of the course really paid off," said Sullivan.  "We had a nice home opener and I was very pleased."

The Nittany Lions do not race again until Sept. 29, when they travel to Louisville for the Greater Louisville Classic.

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