Recently in Cross Country Category

By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's cross country teams started their season off right today, with their first home invitational of the season.


The Nittany Lions host the Spiked Shoe Invitational ever year, and each year it serves as their first test running against some tough competitors on their hard home course.


The women's team won its sixth-straight Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational at Penn State's very own Blue and White Golf Courses.


The Nittany Lions had their top three runners finish in the top ten overall in the 6k (3.7 mile) race. Jillian Hunsberger took first with a time of 21:07, sophomore Kathryn Munks took fourth at 21:17, and freshman Allison Willingmyre placed eighth at 21:34. And not far behind, junior Greta Lindsley took 11th overall running a time of 21:44.


The girls felt that this race was a great early start to their upcoming cross season.


"I think it's really exciting. It's just a really good way to start off a season and kind of get everybody on the team excited for the rest of the season and to show them 'hey, we can win, we can do things, we can accomplish everything we need to accomplish,'" said Hunsberger.


"It feels great, especially because it's our home course, we want to defend it. The girls team went Jill, Kathryn, Allison to me to Julia, so a solid top five," said Lindsley. "We're just gonna keep grinding from here and get our girls back and just keep pushing the rest of the season. It's the start of something special I think."


"We are hoping that people can step up especially younger people," said Munks on the early season race. "We got talented people on the team and we are just hoping to make an impact and do great."


On the men's side, the team came out strong, placing second behind Syracuse. Junior Colin Abert won the Invitational with a time of 25:46 over the course's 5.2 miles. Senior Tim McGowan followed closely behind, placing third overall and running a time of 25:53 and senior Bobby Hill placed seventh overall (26:15).


The men's team is also really excited for where this early success will take them the rest of the season.


"I'm pretty stoked about it. I knew coming into this, it was still really early, it was September so I didn't really have an individual goal. I just kinda wanted the team to do well," said McGowan. "We got pretty kicked in the stomach last year with how we did. It was sick to see Colin do so well. He's got a lot better foot speed than I do, which makes him a great training partner. I think we all finished real strong and everyone's happy."


"It's pretty awesome. This summer we put in so much work. Me, Tim, all the guys, we even took a trip out to Colorado, so seeing it work out for us and having a great finish today was definitely awesome," said Abert.


The men and women both showed a solid, early effort in their first home meet of the season. The coaches were excited about their performances, and look forward to what lies ahead in the season.


"We're really pleased with their efforts. It's still really early in the season, but we made a lot of big steps in the right direction, especially compared to last year," said assistant coach Angela Reckart. "Both on our men and women side, a lot of PR's for each of the teams and the biggest thing is that they worked really well together. They packed up very well and they fought through the end."


The team has three weeks until they compete again, so the next few weeks will be a solid training period for them to prepare for the rest of their cross country season.


"We'll recover off this meet and then use the next two weeks to get in some good, solid, hard efforts and gearing up for more championship part of the season," said Reckart.


Abert is ready to take these next few weeks of training alongside his teammate, Tim.


"Well, one of the big things for me is just having my teammate Tim to run with, race with, hang out with. He's a really identical runner to me, and I think having him out there right next to me really helps me to push myself to the best that I can be, so we're just gonna look to keep the low stick going for the next few races," said Abert.


The team will next be action on September 30th, when they travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma to compete in the Cowboy Jamboree.


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although running is the basic concept behind cross country and track, the two sports couldn't be any more different. This fall, sophomore Danae Rivers is experiencing this difference first hand as she competes in her first cross country season at the collegiate level.


Rivers had a stellar track season last year as a freshman. She was named the Big Ten Women's Freshman of the Year of both the indoor and outdoor seasons, which was the first time a Penn State runner has ever earned both honors. She also has set the school record in the indoor 600-meters, 800-meters, mile and DMR and the outdoor 800-meters, DMR and 4x800-meters.


"Dane obviously had a breakout track season last year and improved all the way to placing third at the national championships in the mile and setting multiple school records. That was all off of doing cross country type training but just kind of a beginning level of it last fall," said head coach John Gondak. "Now that she has another year of experience under her belt, she's going to be able to be much stronger and potentially help contribute in cross country and add some more depth into that part of the program as we get to championship time."


Although it is clear that Rivers is trained well for track, the training for cross country is a whole different world. Rivers is mainly adjusting to the mental aspect of the sport.


"The major difference I have to say is the mentality and pushing myself to run with these ladies because it is completely different to run with a group. From Dolan Duals (the team's first meet of the season), I learned that you have to stay mentality strong and if you with a pack just run with them because that's who you run with all the time. That was the big difference from track," said Rivers.


Most would think that the more mileage would be the hardest adjustment, but Rivers isn't phased by the distance that cross country training adds.


"The most challenging part... I wouldn't say it's the mileage because coach and I have a plan where I'm content with what I'm doing right now, so I have to say it'd be doing something that's completely new for me. I'm actually running cross country races, so that's going to be a challenge."


Although the adjustment to running cross country is a challenge, the addition of Rivers to the team has the rest of her teammates and coaches excited.


Especially sophomore teammate and close friend, Kathryn Munks. Munks believes that Rivers is a strong asset to the cross country team and to her personally.


"I think Danae is a great contribution. I think she can definitely crack into our top seven. She's really strong, even though she says she's not, she has a great endurance base and she's got great speed," said Munks. "Me and Danae are really close, so it's awesome having that person there that's going to support you no matter what and she'll definitely help motivate me."


One of the benefits of running cross country this season for Rivers is that it will help her be that much more prepared for the track season.


"It's also going to help her be even that much stronger when it comes to track season. She was a little tired by the end of the year last year and that's typical for freshman, but the strength of just another year especially of cross country training is going to help her finish the season that much stronger when it comes to track," said Gondak.


Rivers is excited to have this extra bit of training and is ready to see how it all comes together during the rest of the cross season and for the upcoming indoor and outdoor track seasons.


"I am actually looking forward to how this benefits me in the track season. Being able to run longer distances, and like I said going back to the mentality, I think that's definitely going to help be stronger, especially when it comes down to running the mile," said Rivers. "I just want to be stronger and more confident."


That strength and confidence will help Rivers this year, whether she is running in the woods or on the track, and that can only be a good thing for the Nittany Lions.  


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Preseason is officially winding down, as the Penn State Nittany Lions cross country teams travel the short distance to Lock Haven University on September 1st for the annual Dolan Duals to open up the 2017 season.


The Dolan Duals provide the men's and women's teams the opportunity to ease into the season. The competition is only a dual between Penn State and Lock Haven, instead of going into a huge invitational right off the bat.


"I've been very pleased with how our team's been training over the last three weeks. Lock Haven has always provided us with a good start to the season," said head cross country coach John Gondak. "As we kinda get the rust off the legs, it's a nice, flat 4k course and suits us well as we prepare to open at home next weekend with the Spiked Shoe Invitational."


"I love that we get to start with a little bit of a smaller meet, we're not exactly getting thrown right into the wolves like some teams do. I'm hoping that everyone gets a confidence booster and everyone has fun tomorrow," said senior captain Tim McGowan.


This meet is also a great way for the freshman and new members of the team to get accustomed to the new college cross country season.


"I think this race is really good for the newcomers and the freshman to really get their first college race out of the way. It's a really nice way to do a rust buster and be like, 'hey it's cross country season, get into it, it's grass and it's a lot harder than track,'" said senior captain Jillian Hunsberger.


One of the main ways for cross country teams to score the most points is to run as close to a pack as possible. All preseason the men and women have been running this way, and they are hoping this strategy follows them into the race tomorrow to get the most points as possible.


"I hope everyone just likes running together. We kinda use each other during the race, not trying to one-up each other or beat each other, McGowan said.  "I just want everyone to finish the race feeling like they had a really good day, and wasn't really using too much."


The best way for the team to run as pack is to stay together for the first part of the race, then start to challenge themselves as the race winds to an end.


"As we told our team today, our goal tomorrow is to run together as a pack the first half of the race and test themselves after that. They've been doing really well with that in practice, so hopefully they can continue this at the competition tomorrow night," said Gondak.


"I'd really just like us to keep it together for the first mile, be a little more conservative, then just see what everybody has the second half of the race or the last 2400 (meters) left of the race," said Hunsberger.


This race is the only tune-up before the Nittany Lions host their first home meet of the season, the Spiked Shoe Invitational, so it is a chance for them to ease into the season before the larger invitational starts.


"Tomorrow we're not trying to do anything too crazy, just kinda have a good effort, but still keep in mind that it is really early. I think I just want everyone to have fun running together and hopefully learn some things for the end of the season," said McGowan.


It is still early in the season, but it's never too early to set some goals. Both sides of the team have some high aspirations this year.


"I'm looking forward to Big Tens the most this season. I'm really looking forward to seeing how we do there. I think we have a really good team, so I want to see what happens," said Hunsberger.


"I want the team to do better. This is my last year so personally, I want to be able to leave Penn State pretty happy," added McGowan.


By Alyssa Palfey, 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.


Preseason Prep

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."


Weather Effects

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.


Accomplishing Accountability

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.



Higher Goals

"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."

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 


Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team is headed to Terre Haute, IN for the 2016 Division I Cross Country Championships, being held this Saturday, Nov. 19th.


After taking first at the Mid-Atlantic Regional at their home course last Friday, the Nittany Lions are ready to take on national competition.


"After winning regionals, I think the momentum shifted significantly. After getting 2nd at Big Tens, we were extremely upset so the negative momentum from Big Tens made us angry and that pushed us to fight at regionals," said redshirt sophomore Greta Lindsley. "So for nationals, I think coming in with a win beforehand, it's a much healthier approach and it'll be fueled straight from confidence instead of wanting redemption."


"Winning the regional meet did give us confidence moving forward and I think we will use that confidence going into the NCAA meet. We are all ready and doing well at nationals would be a great way to end the season," said freshman Kathryn Munks. "There are many talented teams at the NCAA Championship and it would be awesome to show them what Penn State's made of." 


The women's team is currently ranked 8th in the nation according to latest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) poll. The team has performed well all throughout the season and are hoping to continue this at the upcoming championships.


"Our team has had a steady progression this season, with regionals being our best team performance yet," said junior Elizabeth Chikotas. "We are excited to see how we can do against national competition and improve upon our 16th place finish last year.


Going into nationals last year, the women's team was ranked 10th in the nation. They ended up getting 16th overall and are hoping to improve and place even higher this year.


"Last year we came in ranked 10th," said Lindsley. "This year, I think since we've had a year to mature and grow, we aren't going to be happy just to be there, we want to execute and show how good of a team we are. If we can all click on Saturday together, it could be a really awesome day."


"We all want to place higher, I think we can definitely shoot for top 10 if everyone continues to run consistently, maybe we are capable of a higher place finish. Penn State's best team showing was 6th back in 1982, it would be awesome to top that and make 2016 a year for the record books," said Chikotas. "Either way, I am confident in myself and my teammates based on our work ethic and ability to race hard and compete."


For some of the women's team, this will be their first national level competition. That group includes Munks, who has consistently run in the top 5 runners on the team, is feeling confident going into this Saturday.


"I'm feeling excited about going to my first NCAA meet, I've put in a lot of work starting in the summer and throughout the whole season. It's very rewarding being able to go to a national meet and to show myself, the coaches, and the rest of the NCAA what I can do," said Munks. "Also I feel that we have a strong team and are ready to do well and have fun at nationals."


The women's race is set to 11 a.m. ET at Indiana State's LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, IN. 


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team has advanced to the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championship after defending their Mid-Atlantic Regional title today at their home course.


Redshirt sophomore, Tessa Barrett placed first overall, running her career fastest time of 20 minutes flat, finishing in 20:00. Following Barrett were juniors Elizabeth Chikotas (20:17) and Jillian Hunsberger (20:23) who placed third and fourth place, respectively. Next for the Nittany Lions were freshman Kathryn Munks (21:57) in 12th place and redshirt sophomore Greta Lindsley (21:06) in 16th place.


The top five runners on the team, Barrett, Chikotas, Hunsberger, Munks and Lindsley all received Mid-Atlantic Region honors. For the rest of the team, junior Victoria Crawford ran 22:03 and finished 60th while senior Julie Kocjancic ran 22:19 placing 80th.


This top place finish will automatically send the women's team to Terre Haute, IN for the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. After today's win on the home course, the team has high hopes going into this big meet.


"It feels great, best race all year I think on this course. We were really controlled and I think everyone on the team did what they wanted to do and then some," said Chikotas. "Just knowing that we all still have a little left in the tank, for what it matters next week. We did what we needed to do today, defended our title on our home course and moving forward I think we are all going to be really ready for a great NCAA meet."


"I feel really great. I feel confident, it was a great boost coming in and being able to kill it on our home course," said Munks right after her race. "I don't know what my time was, but I felt better. I feel like I ran more strategically and was able to surge up the hill, which is where I love making my moves. It's great being able to come in and sprint that finish. It's awesome." 


Going into regionals, the team knew that winning the meet meant an automatic bid to nationals. The race pace was pushed with this end goal in mind.


"Regionals is how to get to NCAA finals in Terre Haute, IN, so to get there as a team you automatically go in you get top two. We were ranked coming in first and wanted to execute," said Lindsley. "The race got off to a really, really fast start, we went through at like 5:14, which I usually feel comfortable going through 5:30-5:35, so 5:15 was definitely a wakeup call."


"As I ran through 5:15 in the top 40, I knew all these girls were going to come back to me later. I stayed patient and picked people off and then closed on the last half of the hill and the final straightaway," she added.  "Ended up getting top 18th, all five of the Penn State girls got top 18. Tessa won and we are so proud of her. Now, next weekend is nationals and we are really excited for it."


Upping the course to a 10-kilometer race, the men's Penn State team claimed fifth place as a team and finished higher than what they were ranked.


Junior Tim McGowan was first for the Nittany Lions (31:13), placing 16th overall, which earned him All Mid-Atlantic Region honors.


For the rest of the team, sophomore Colin Abert (31:24) and Jon McGowan (31:29) placed 27th and 32nd, respectively. While freshmen Brandon Tubby (31:47) and Billy McDevitt (32:08) finished 49th and 67th.


The Penn State women's team will be traveling to Terre Haute, IN for the 2016 Division I Cross Country Championships next Saturday, Nov. 19th


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's cross county teams will host the 2016 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Cross Country Championship this coming Friday, Nov. 11th, at their very own Blue and White Golf Courses. 


The Blue and White courses will serve as the site for both the women's 6-kilometer and the men's 10-kilometer championship races.


2014 was the last time Penn State hosted the Mid-Atlantic Regional, where Villanova won as a team on the men's side and Georgetown won on the women's.


Last year, when the race was held in Princeton, N.J.  That time, the Penn State women's team came out victorious with Tessa Barrett, Tori Gerlach and Elizabeth Chikotas in the top ten finishers.


Having the race at their home course this year, the women think they will have even more of a chance to win this championship meet again.


"Being on our course for the third time this year, and not just that but it's our home course, we definitely have a little edge because we train there a lot and we know how to run it," said junior Elizabeth Chikotas.


"We've had experience on it, and since we get to do workouts on it I think that's beneficial. Some of teams coming maybe have never seen it," said junior Greta Lindsley. "The first part of the race is all downhill but we know that you have to save something for that last half, so I think it's definitely beneficial."


"We are mentally preparing too because we know what to expect and some of the other teams might not know," she added.


Coming off a second place finish at the Big Ten Championships, the women hope to use that meet to drive them to win this regional championship.


"We took down some strong teams at Big Tens, so I think that momentum will help us. We didn't lose by a large margin so just the momentum of knowing that we can hang with the top teams is definitely helpful with preparing for this upcoming race," said Lindsley.


On the men's side, even though the race moves from a usual 8-kilometer race to a 10-kilometer race, they still believe that their home course will serve as an advantage.


"I think it'll be an advantage because we aren't on some other course where we have to know about it for only one day. The fact that we've known this course for many years will be an advantage for us," said junior John McGowan.


"I think that the Penn State National meet proved that this is a tough course. It's probably one of the hardest courses around or I would even say in the NCAA. The fact that we train on it every day just gives us that advantage and that knowledge over everyone," said John's twin brother, junior Tim McGowan.


Although they are racing on their home course, this 2-kilometer change in race length will cause the men to approach the way they race a little different than usual.


"We'll definitely try to handle it a little differently since it's a 10k, whether we start off in the back or start off in the middle of the pack. We're all going to try to stay together as a group and try to move up at the same time," said John McGowan.


"Obviously, it's a smaller field, the competition is a lot better so we're just going to try to do what we usually do. Me and Colin are going to find each other up at the front but not be too aggressive. The guys in the back are going to find each other and see whenever it turns over," added Tim McGowan.


The championship meet will take place this Friday, Nov. 11th at Penn State's home Blue and White course, where the women's race is set to start at 12 p.m. and the men following at 1 p.m. 


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are putting a little fun into this week's practice with the Big Ten Cross Country Championships right around the corner.


Around championship season every year, the Penn State women's cross team always participates in what they call 'Spirit Week.'


This fun-filled week is always the week before the Big Ten Championships and includes daily themes that the girls dress to before their usual practice starts.


"Spirit week is something you look forward to every year around this time just because it takes the edge off getting too in the zone too soon, so it's fun to just see people dress up and let that side out of them because usually practice can get pretty serious," said senior captain, Julie Kocjancic.


"I think it kind of gets us motivated in a lighthearted way," said assistant coach Angela Reckart. "Obviously, we've been really focused all season. We want to have as much energy and team comradery as possible going into it (Big Tens). It's a great way to emulate the team culture and where we are mentality moving into Big Tens."


On Monday, it was nerd day, where some of the girls dressed wearing big glasses, pigtails and even suspenders. Tuesday was animal print day, where they dressed as animal they wanted. Wednesday was 'Little Tens', which is an intersquad meet they run at the Blue-White courses. Thursday was costume day- a very appropriate theme with Halloween coming up.  


"I like that it settles the nerves, even yesterday we had a workout but we're all going into like 'oh, but today's this type of spirit day'," said junior, Greta Lindsley. "It relaxes us because I know get really in my mind and in my head before meets, so it definitely puts it in perspective that it's still something fun. It's just running- it's important but it's still just running, and you're with your girls that you love and work hard with every day."


Freshman Kathryn Munks of Chester, N.Y. is experiencing Spirit Week and the Big Ten Championships for the first time.


"I think Spirit Week is really fun. It was great to have that comradery with the team, but also kind of chill out before this big meet, so I think it all ties together. I'm excited," said Munks.


Even though this week had a lot fun and entertainment, the girls know what the ultimate end goal is.


"We are most definitely ready. This is what we've been working for all year long, starting back since we won it last year, our goal is to always come back at reclaim the title," said Reckart. "We've been really focused all season long. It's a business trip for us, at the same time, I think everyone is in a good spot, and we have a lot of fun. Yes, we work hard but we have a lot of balance. I think we're all just really excited to go in and compete."


"I think our team looks solid. I'm having so much fun, which is the important part. We're also working hard together and we're all aiming for one goal, so I think that if we can all come together on the same day, it can be something magical," added Greta Lindsley.


For senior captain Kocjancic, this Big Ten Championship is a special one.


"Going into my last Big Ten Cross Country Championship, this is the best feeling I've had going into a championship season yet," she said.  "It's my last one, but I'm so excited about where our team is at and how strong we are and that a lot of us have experienced what it takes to win Big Ten Championship, so mentality we are prepared and just know how to race. I'm really confident in all our abilities, so it's going to be awesome."


The Nittany Lions will use this spirit and excitement to defend their Big Ten Cross Country Champion title this Sunday, Oct. 30th in Minneapolis, MN.  


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior twin cross country and track & field runners, Tim and John (Jack) McGowan, have been by each other's sides through it all.


The McGowan twins are from Northport, N.Y., and started their running careers around middle school after feeling slightly defeated trying out for other sports.


"I started running at 12 or 13. I only really cared about playing sports and music at the time," said Tim. "I walked into my lacrosse coach's office and he told me that I was "too small" to be on the team. I kept going out for other teams, but I was always the skinny guy."


When other sports didn't work out of the twins, they start running casually, and eventually found their place on the track team.


"My mom started encouraging me to run around the block to keep me occupied and out of trouble. My best friend told me to go for the track team, and by high school I just felt like I belonged," Tim added.


Tim ran all throughout high school and ended up being a 3,200-meter run state champion, a Long Island mile record holder, nine-time indoor county record holder, and five-time all-state. Nationally, he got third in the two-mile run at the 2014 New Balance Outdoor Nationals and was a six-time All-American.


John was a nine-time letter-winner in track and cross country, all-state and a three-time All-American. He finished 11th at the 2013 Nike Cross Country Championships and was a member of the 4xmile relay that broke the national record in 2014.


The twin brothers both ended up starting their collegiate running careers at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, but Tim quickly felt like he didn't belong there.


"There were some really nice people there, but pretty soon it was clear that it wasn't for me. I wanted a serious environment with teammates that will push me," said Tim. "Things aren't always what you think they will be and pretty soon I was training alone or just with Jack."


The first year running at Roger Williams was a huge wake up call for Tim and made him question his future in the sport.


"I felt pretty lost and disconnected from the sport. It wasn't an easy year, but I learned a lot about myself outside of running and it keeps me really grateful for everything the program has to offer here (at Penn State) and the teammates I have on both sides."


After running for a year at Roger Williams University, both Tim and Jack transferred to run for the Penn State cross country and track & field teams.


"Having Jack on the team feels normal to me. I was pretty scared to transfer, but having him here made it feel like less of a drastic move. Our friends, family and hometown on Long Island were so good to us in high school that it makes me feel like were both representing New York and bringing that pride with us wherever we go," said Tim.


Although competition would seem to be a natural thing between twins, they don't see each other as anything more than just another member on the team. 


"Jack and I have a good training thing going but at practice I don't think of him as much different than any of the other guys on the team," said Tim. "While he may be my brother and look kind of similar to me, we're a pretty close team and looking at him in a workout feels the same to me as looking at anyone else on the team. We're all going in the same direction and for the same goal." 


Tim is now one of the men's 2016 cross country captains and the top-finisher on the team. Jack is top-five runner for the team, and finished third on the team at the team's last meet (the Penn State National Open).


The McGowan twins and the rest of the Nittany Lions will be in action next at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis, MN, on Sunday, Oct. 30th.



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