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From Club XC to the Big Ten Championships

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By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Spending most of his time in elementary and middle school playing soccer on a closely-knit team, sophomore Andrew Sell never imagined that he would run cross country in high school, let alone at a Division I school like Penn State.


But, Sell quickly realized in high school that soccer wasn't the sport for him, so he chose to run cross country and fell in love with it after his first race. From that point, he continued to work hard at the unexpected love and became one the best high school cross country runners in Minnesota.


Coming from Minnesota, Sell wasn't fully aware of everything that Penn State had to offer when he first looked into the school.


"I guess initially I applied to Penn State because my physics professor is an alumnus and the application was easy. Initially I didn't know much about Penn State, I had never been on campus, I knew nothing about THON or the 'We Are' chant," Sell said. "Up until the April of senior year I was torn between the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington, Seattle campus while Penn State I was still unsure about until my first trip to Happy Valley. I visited Penn State the week before the national decision deadline. During this trip I loved the campus, the atmosphere, and the club xc team here and ultimately chose Penn State."


When Sell first came to Penn State, he wasn't sure whether or not he would be able to walk onto the cross country team, so he decided one day to run with the club cross country team. He was amazed by how welcoming and friendly the club was to him.


"I honestly think the best part of the club team is how inclusive they are. There is a huge variety of people on the club team, people training for college distance races, half marathons, marathons and even a couple people who run ultra-marathons like the Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK. Even now I sometimes stop by the end of their practices to talk with them," Sell said. "The club team is extremely supportive of everyone on the team. Without the club team, I don't think I would have ever made the varsity team, throughout the entire process they supported me. Also, as a club athlete I became a prestigious NIRCA All-American."


Although Sell loved the club cross country team, he knew he had the talent to be on a varsity team. His dream was always to run for a Division I program to take his running to the next level. He even had an official visit at the University of Iowa. Ultimately, not choosing to go there because their engineering program wasn't what he was looking for.


So, once he was at Penn State and knew he wanted to take his running even further, Sell decided to try out for the varsity team, an almost two-year process that took a lot of dedication and hard effort.


"A tryout for cross country is unique from other sports, not only do you have to run fast enough to be competitive, you also have to show that you have room for improvement," Sell said. "This sounds straight forward but it really is not an easy process especially when you do not have a coach or the resources a D1 athlete has. I had to create my own training plan and execute it on my own. I raced many times throughout freshman year and over the summer to show I had what it took to be varsity."


Although, Sell is happy to be done trying out and running alone and he is excited to have new training partners that continue to push him to his best, there were obviously a lot of challenges along the way.

"I think the hardest aspect mentally was staying committed and believing in myself when others did not. There were many times in the past two years where I doubted I could make the varsity team, but I kept reminding myself joining the varsity team would a life changing accomplishment," Sell said. "Physically the hardest part for me was definitely this past summer, I struggled to balance running 60-plus miles a week in the brutal heat while working over 50 hours a week for CurtisLab on campus."


All this hard work paid off for Sell. He made it onto the varsity team late this season after running unattached at the Spiked Shoe Invitational early in the year. He then was able to join the varsity team for the Big Ten Championships, where he finished third on the team for the men with a time of 25:05.


"I am amazed I was able to finish top 40 in the Big Ten Championship in my debut varsity race. Personally, I think this removed any doubt I had in my abilities, I know I will only improve from here," Sell said. "I am now looking ahead to the Regional race excited to see what I can do individually in a 10k and know we can make Nationals as a team."

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