By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the summer season quickly turning into the fall, and the preseason quickly turning into the season, the Penn State cross country team is going into this upcoming year with heavy goals in mind.
There's less than two weeks until the Nittany Lions will be away at Lock Haven University at the Dolan Duals and head coach John Gondak feels that their preseason has prepared them fully for their upcoming fall. In case you missed the Fall Sports Media Day with Gondak and two captains, Jillian Hunsberger and Tim McGowan, here are five things you need to know in order to be caught up on everything cross country.
Gondak is happy with the training of the athletes as they enter their second week of preseason and is glad to have the beginning heat and humidity of preseason mainly out of the way.
"Preseason's going to go a lot better now that we got that heat and humidity out of here that was here for the first few days of practice, but it's been a very exciting fall so far, Gondak said. "We've only been out on the woods and running on the trails for about a week now, but I've been really, really pleased with the groups that we have and the kids that we have, especially our young athletes who have come in and are really running well as a group."
Running even with a little heat and humidity can be a hard adjustment and difficult challenge for any runner, but with cross country always being outside, runners need to adapt to any type of weather situation.
"The heat effects people in a different way, especially the humidity. As much as you want to learn things from it, it can also be a little bit dangerous," said Gondak.
Gondak does believe training in all types of weather is beneficial for potential races that may occur in that same weather, but also knows that it can be dangerous and sometimes not so beneficial for the athletes. He recently pushed a workout back a day because of weather in order to receive a better effort in regards to the athlete's workout ability.
Gondak looks for accountability when selecting captains for the team, and he believes seniors Jillian Hunsberger and Tim McGowan bring that aspect and much more to the table.
"One of the things that you really count on captains to do is to have accountability and when the team is out training, as much as I would love to run with them, I think those days are well past me and so you need to have the strong leaders out there who are able to hold the team together and hold the group together and encourage the young athletes," said Gondak.
Running as a Pack
"We're a pretty close team. We just came off a training trip at Colorado, where six of us went out there. We all got really close," said McGowan.
One of the main goals for a cross country team is to become close and to use that closeness to run as a pack. The closer you can finish as a team, the better the team score is going to be. Gondak is excited to see that mentality already occurring from both sides. That mentality will ultimately determine the success of their seasons.
"My goal from the beginning, coming in from high school, has just been every year, to get better, to place higher at the meets that we had previously gone to," said Hunsberger. "Last year, I was All-American. I obviously hope to do that again. I just take every season and see what I can do."
Coach Gondak wants different things from the women's side and the men's side. The women's side has been extremely successful the past few years, and he hopes to not only to continue that, but to do even better. For the men, he has been pleased with their current training and expects them to start making a name for themselves in the conference race.
"I really think you're gonna see them move up in the conference and that's their goal: to get back in the upper half of the conference where they belong."