By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming to college is a huge transition for anyone, but for a cross country athlete, it comes with a lot of different challenges in the sport.
For freshman Alison Willingmyre, these challenges of higher mileage, more intense workouts, and competition, were easily overcome with her positive impact on the team so early on in the season.
Willingmyre is a freshman biomedical engineering major from Wernersville, Pa., where she went to Wilson High School. During her time there, she earned multiple accolades along with the 1600m record, so it's no wonder how she is already showing a big impact here at Penn State.
"My parents were always athletes, so I grew up in a family that liked raw sports. So, when I got the opportunity to run in seventh grade, I went for it. My transition from high school to college cross country was actually really good. I was used to the mileage and stuff, so I think that helped a lot," said Willingmyre. "I wasn't necessarily used to the intensity of the workouts or running with girls that were as fast as me, which honestly I think both of that helped just because it challenged me and it's made me better so far."
With running workouts that are more intense than what Willingmyre is used to, she has learned more than she expected she would've, which she knows is the main reason why she's had such a huge impact so early on the cross country season.
"The older girls definitely give me pointers and stuff on my mileage, and my intensity. Just seeing them and seeing what they've accomplished and being able to run with them," said Willingmyre. "I think that in itself pushes me, not necessarily the things that they say, although they are very helpful."
At the first two races of the season, Willingmyre finished fourth on the team at the Dolans Duals and third at the Spiked Shoe Invitational with a debut home course 6k time of 21:33.4.
Her early point scoring on the team is unusual for a freshman, so her impact is felt from the coaches and her teammates.
"Alison has made a great impact on the team. She's come in with a purpose and she executes that purpose at practice and doing so, even as a freshman, shows some great leadership. She's having a lot of fun, so when you combine all of those it makes for a fun start to the season. I'm really impressed with what she's done so far," said head coach John Gondak.
Alison knows that this early start to success on the team won't be the end for her. She wants to continue being a point scorer for the team, and wants to continue improving her running throughout the rest of her years here.
"Just to continue to be a big contributor on the team and to push myself and my times. I mean, it's freshman year so I just really want to improve as a person and a runner," she said mentioning her goals. "I don't really know what exactly to expect, and I think in a way that's good."
Willingmyre will be traveling with the Nittany Lions to their next meet of the season in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Saturday, September 30, 2017.
"I think the first really away meet of the season will be really cool. I've never been to Oklahoma before," said Willingmyre.
"It feels extraordinary," she added. I didn't really expect to have such an impact. I wanted to be a point scorer, and I think just the fact that I am is really special. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season."