By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions cross country teams will be traveling to Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, Sept. 24th to compete in the 31st annual Roy Griak Invitational. The invitational will be held at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, MN.
The men's race is set to start at 12:20 p.m. CT, and the women's race is set for a 1:35 p.m. CT start.
The invitational was named after Roy Griak, a legendary cross country and track & field coach at the University of Minnesota. Griak coached the Minnesota Gophers for more than three decades, starting his coaching career in 1963.
Griak had coached three national champions, 47 All-Americans, 60 Big Ten champions and won three Big Ten titles as head coach.
Griak served on coaching staffs for more than 10 U.S. international teams, one being a head manager of the 1984 U.S. Olympic track & field team. He was also inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame, the University of Minnesota 'M' Club Hall of Fame and was later inducted in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001.
After Griak retired as head coach in 1996, the University of Minnesota honored him by naming their annual cross country meet after him. Griak passed away in July of 2015 at the age of 91. This will be the 31st annual meet in his honor.
This will be the first time Penn State will be competing in the Roy Griak Invitational since 2011. Penn State has never taken a first place team win.
With six collegiate races and over 4,000 runners, the Roy Griak Invitational is one of the largest meets in the country. Along with Penn State and host team Minnesota, other Big Ten teams that will be attending are: Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, Iowa, Ohio State and Northwestern.
The Penn State women's team is nationally ranked No.13, but there will be other nationally ranked teams attending the invitational as well. Other nationally ranked teams include: Boise State (No.6), Michigan State (No.9), Michigan (No.10), Iowa State (No.17) and San Francisco (No.20).
"I am really excited," said senior caption, Julie Kocjancic about the upcoming invitational. "It's another opportunity to race against great competition."
As well as being one of the largest meets in the country, the course is the same course that the Big Ten Championships will be held at later in October this year.
"This course will be one that will really make people grind it out, which is what this sport is all about," said Kocjancic. "I'm excited to get to preview it, but Big Tens is still awhile away, and I just try to treat every race individually."
Kocjancic was a part of the 2015 Big Ten champion team, where the women's team took first place in Chicago, IL. She got 22nd place as a junior.
The 2016 Big Ten Cross Country championships are set to take place on Sunday, Oct. 30th at 10:45 a.m. CT in Minneapolis, MN.
Penn State's next meet will be their very own Penn State Open back home on Friday, Oct. 14th at the Blue and White Golf Courses.