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Senior XC Send-Off

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Mid-Atlantic Regional happening this past weekend, the Nittany Lion cross country teams are officially winding down the season and the senior runners are feeling a bit sentimental as they go into their last NCAA Cross Country Championships this weekend.

 

"I'm excited. I'm sad, obviously. I'm gonna miss this place and miss running cross country with these girls. We obviously still have track seasons, but we've been working hard and we have so much fun together," senior Greta Lindsley said. "I'm very proud and I believe in them so much and I believe in myself, so I think we're gonna have fun and hopefully we can prove how hard we've been working."

"I think I'll just miss the team the most and the comradery and preseason and just I don't know I'll miss everything," senior Tim McGowan added.

Aside from missing the people and the memories, the seniors will also miss the different aspects that cross country had to offer. Although there are still indoor and outdoor track seasons left, they say that cross country has a way different dynamic than track.

"It's just like this grind you know. It's just like you don't really get it on the track and it's a completely different atmosphere. It has more to do with the team," senior Jillian Hunsberger said. "It's kinda like yeah, we're all just going to go out there and have a good time and race and see what happens at the end of the day."

The senior runners who have been traveling with the team have made a huge impact on the Penn State cross country program and will be missed by more than just their teammates, but their coaches too.

"I think the sacrifices that they've made the four years and seeing the progress that all of them have made has really been enjoyable over the years. Jillian Hunsberger, for instance, coming in being All-American and really just making a big contribution this year and being a great team leader," assistant coach Angela Reckart said.

"Greta (Lindsley) has been an impact and Victoria (Crawford), you know, they all bring something unique to the table. Aside from their physical talents I think just their personalities just so unique. On the guy's side, Tim McGowan has really been an important factor to this team. Great team captain this year. Yeah, we have a great group. It's gonna be really sad to see them go," Reckart said.

Although it is sad to see the season come to an end, the memories that Penn State cross country has brought them will stay with them forever. The senior runners reflected on some of their favorite moments with the team.

"Definitely when we won Big Tens. That was by far the best experience of my life. I think that's just something that everyone should strive to achieve at least once in their career because it was just, I don't know, the atmosphere everything was so amazing," Hunsberger said.

"It had to be winning Big Tens my sophomore year in Chicago, just being the underdogs and coming after number two Michigan and we beat them. It was the best cross country memory ever," Lindsley said.

Even with all this reflecting, the season isn't over quite yet for the Nittany Lions. The women will be racing as a team at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this weekend in Louisville, KY. Tim McGowan and Colin Albert will also be representing Penn State for the men as individuals at the meet. 

"I'm feeling pretty excited. It is a little sad going into my last cross race, but we're just trying to put together a good last one," McGowan said.


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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Greta Lindsley has certainly made her mark on the cross country course since she started four years ago as a freshman, but more importantly, she's made her mark off the course as well, pursuing a future career in broadcast journalism.

 

From Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Lindsley is a senior cross country and track & field runner here at Penn State. She first got her start in running when she was young and was inspired to continue from her father's collegiate running career. 

 

"I was always trying new sports, playing outside, and wildly energetic, so the only logical solution was put that energy into something productive. I did a couple fun runs in elementary school and loved it, but I didn't really focus on it as my main sport until junior year in high school. Plus, my dad ran in college, so he inspired me to lace up the spikes," Lindsley said.

 

The decision to run in college was a big one for Lindsley, but so was deciding what to major in. She always knew that journalism was the direction she wanted to go in, but had trouble picking the area to focus on.

 

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"I have always enjoyed writing, plus I'm a big talker, so it didn't take long for me to realize that journalism was the way to go. I originally started as a print journalism major, but really started to like the broadcast side of things better around my spring semester sophomore year," Lindsley said.

 

Although the journey to deciding a future career path wasn't easy, the decision to come to Penn State was an easy one for Lindsley. She says that Penn State felt like home right away.

 

"During my visit, I got to go on the field at Beaver Stadium, watch a home cross country meet, and I also got to see the College of Communication's Centre County Report (CCR) newsroom during a live broadcast, which is what I'm currently a part of right now, so I was immediately in awe of all there was available here," Lindsley said.

 

A huge struggle of being a student-athlete is the time commitment that you have to put toward your sport. Lindsley found out how to time manage as soon as she got to campus her first year. She now balances practice, meets, schoolwork and the Centre County Report, which is news, weather and sports presented by Penn State's College of Communications students.

 

"Although I have a lot more on my plate with CCR and my sport this year, I have a lot of practice with prioritizing to-do lists from the past. The bright side for me is that I thoroughly enjoy my major and my sport, so even though I can get stressed out, I love what I get to do every day," Lindsley said.

 

Lindsley has experience with a news station prior to Centre County Report. She recently had an internship at WGAL, a local news station in her hometown.

 

"It was my first experience in a newsroom, and I was so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to learn from such a talented network right away. I got to sit in and watch the anchors live from the studio, but I also got to go on the road with reporters and cameramen to a scene. I observed, took notes, asked questions, and wrote everything down," Lindsley said.

 

Lindsley knows that interning at WGAL prepared her for how fast-paced things are in Centre County Report, she even still brings that same notebook to CCR today.

 

Balancing all of these things can be really tough, but Lindsley knows that being this involved is only preparing her for her next phase of her career.

 

"My favorite thing about working for the Centre County Report is how well it's preparing me for my next stage in this job field. During my internship last summer, I practiced anchoring and reporting, but this class was the first time I was actually on air," Lindsley said. "I'm learning something new every day, and it's a great program to put on a resumé. I also enjoy the people I work with. I have very helpful professors and very talented classmates to take notes from, so I'm in a really great spot there." 

By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions closed out their regular season today on their home turf as they hosted the Penn State National Open.

 

The women's team came away with a win against some tough competition including Villanova, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State. This last regular season win is a great way to head into the championship season.

 

"After this meet, we'll be going to Big Tens in two weeks I believe. I just kinda hope that momentum continues," said senior Jill Hunsberger. "I think it's really important that especially with the top five we know how to win, we know like maybe I don't feel great that day, but there's a girl from this team that I need to get ahead of, and that's what we need to do at Big Tens."

 

"Winning at home is always great. This is a great course and when we can put it all together on our home course it's awesome," sophomore Kathryn Munks added. "Looking forward, like Jill said, it kinda shows that we know how to win, we know how to get our top five mobilized and I think that going into Big Tens it gives us a confidence boost."

 

Hunsberger finished second overall with a time of 20:22, the ninth-fastest time in the Penn State National Open history.  Munks finished third overall with a time of 20:23. Following  that top two was freshman Alison Willingmyre at 20:34, senior Greta Lindsley at 20:37 and sophomore Danae Rivers at 21:05.

 

With all their runners in the top 25, the women took home the win on their tough home course. For the seniors, this was their last time racing on their turf, but winning their last home meet ever was the icing on the cake.

 

"It's definitely bittersweet. It's a really hard course, but it's my home course and it's my last one. Personally, I had my best time here ever, so it's good to go out on top with that," Lindsley said. "As a team, we did really well. We came in with targets on our back, but we didn't let that get to our head. We came out, competed, and came out with the win, so it feels really good, but definitely bittersweet."

 

"It's a bittersweet moment. I had a fun ride, and I couldn't have done it without the teammates that I got to spend the last four years with," senior Victoria Crawford added.

 

"It's super exciting. I mean, every time it's at the home course, I think the goal is to always win, you know at our home turf. Just to do it my last time ever it's super bittersweet. I'm very happy to be closing a chapter of my life, but it's also home," Hunsberger said on her final home meet.

 

Having it be their last big meet before heading into Big Tens, the women feel more confident as they prepare for the championship stretch during the next two weeks. They feel like their win will help them know exactly how to race come Big Tens in Indiana.

 

"Definitely motivating. It's just like any other race, even if we did bad today, everyone knows that it's championship time. It's ready to go, we've been training for this and we're ready. It's just time to make some magic and put our hard work and just try to do our best. It'll be fun," Lindsley said.

 

Head Coach John Gondak knows that with all the hard efforts that showed today, the women will be more than ready to compete at the championship level.

 

"Last regular season meet at here at home, celebrated senior day and thought that both teams competed extremely well. I'm very pleased for the women to come away with the win over a great Villanova team. So with championship time around the corner all you hope to do is week in and week out build confidence and I think today was another confidence boost for them as they move toward Big Tens in two weeks," he said.

 

The Big Ten Championships will take place on October 29th in Bloomington, Indiana.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just under three weeks until the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lion cross country teams are set to run their last meet before championship season starts.

 

The Penn State National Open is to take place this Friday, October 13th at the Blue and White Golf Courses. The teams are using this meet as an opportunity to push themselves one last time before entering the championship part of their season. This part of the season includes the Big Ten Championships, NCAA Regional, and the NCAA Championships.

 

This home meet serves as a last chance to race before it really matters.

 

"I see every meet before championship season as way to practice racing, so you have to get used to racing again and get everyone in a good spot mentality," said senior Jill Hunsberger. "It's an opportunity for us to realize that we can accomplish a lot."

 

"I think we are just trying to work to kinks out, and to see one last time of a good hard effort before we really have to buckle down and get focused," added senior Greta Lindsley. "We've been focused all year long, but I feel like in the past it's been aimed toward getting more in shape and now it's time to get ready to execute what we've been practicing instead of getting stronger and fitter. Now, it's getting the pieces together as a team to create something magical."

 

The National Open also acts as a good way to prep for the competition at the championship level. With teams like Oklahoma State, Villanova and West Virginia, the Lions will be racing teams that will help them prepare for running in their championship meet.

 

"There's going to be good teams here, so we're going to be running toward the front of the pack. It gets us used to racing at the Big Ten level where there's going to be some really good competition," said senior Bobby Hill.

 

"I like this meet because it's at our home course again, which is really cool because it's my last home meet. We're going to use it to kinda keep running as a pack and get ready for Big Tens," said senior Tim McGowan.

 

For some of the Nittany Lion runners, like the seniors mentioned above, this will be the last shot they get at winning a Big Ten Championship. It will also be their last time running a race on their home course.

 

"I'm really excited especially because it's my last season. It's really been great to watch the team grow over my years here. So, that's really exciting especially since it's my last go around. You know everyone says in your last season to give it all that you got, and I think this year we are looking better than we ever have," said Hill. "The team is more together than it ever has been, which is really nice. Other than that, I'm really excited for championship season."


This last chance mentality has some of the senior runners feeling more than ready to give it their all for their final few races.

 

"It's a little sad going into my last championship season as a senior, but it's kinda cool to have nothing to lose and a lot to gain It's really exciting but definitely sad at the same time," said McGowan.

 

"It is my last cross country championship season, but I'm kind of excited for it. It's definitely something to look forward to," said Hunsberger. "It's a little sad being my last one, but at the same time it's just another reason to get after it to go and kill it."

 

These seniors and the rest of the Nittany Lions will be racing their final home meet of the season Friday, October 13th with races starting at 11:00 a.m. at the Blue and White Golf Courses.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This cross country season marks year four for senior Jillian Hunsberger's Penn State journey, and she is ready to go out with a bang.


While most runners start their career young, Hunsberger hasn't always been this involved in running. She actually didn't have much interest in the sport until her high school years.

 

"I started doing road races in middle school, but just really sporadically. I wouldn't train for them; my mom would just sign me up and I would go off and do it," said Hunsberger. "I didn't really start taking running seriously until about my sophomore year of high school, and I really only started running because my brother had done it in high school."

 

Her love for the sport started to develop throughout the rest of her high school years, and then she made the decision to continue her running in college. For many athletes, looking to further their athletic career in colleg and picking the right place to attend is tough. For Hunsberger, the academic factor played a critical role in this decision.

 

"I like the mix of athletics with academics. I didn't want to go somewhere where they just focused on athletics, but I also didn't want to go somewhere where the academics were the main point and there'd be no chance to further my career as a runner," she said. "I thought that Penn State would provide an opportunity for me to excel in both areas."

 

While a lot of people find running an easy few miles relaxing and fun, Hunsberger loves the aspect behind how running is very straightforward when analyzing competition and who excels more.

 

"My favorite part of running is the fact that you can't argue who's faster or who's better. There's times, there's places, it's very cut and dry," said Hunsberger. "I feel like with sports like soccer and football, you can argue who has better stats, who plays better. With running, you're all on the same course, you're all on the same track, and it's whoever is better that day."

 

Penn State has brought Hunsberger with this aspect of running and an amazing team surrounding her. She knows that her accomplishments couldn't have been done without them.

 

"A lot of the decisions I make with winning has to do with the team especially in cross country where you really want to focus on getting a solid core group of scores where everybody's coming along together. I definitely wouldn't run if I had to run by myself every day," said Hunsberger. "Running's about scoring and achieving goals and competing and the end results. Being a part of a team, that all is part of it. It's getting the team to that spot."

 

Penn State has also brought her memories that will stay with her for long after her running career.

 

"My favorite memory would definitely be winning Big Tens both times in cross and then in indoor. The whole purpose of the sport is to win, you always want to win. Both times, I feel like we were the underdogs and we weren't necessarily supposed to win, but we did. It's an amazing atmosphere to be around."

 

Head Coach John Gondak has always known Hunsberger would be a great asset to team from beginning. He knows her leadership will lead the team to do great things during her last cross country season here at Penn State.

 

"Jill has had an amazing impact with Penn State cross country from when she first came into the program as a freshman. She is very passionate about her running. She's very knowledgeable about her own personal training and what her limits are. She's battled through some injuries early on in her career that has made her a better and stronger athlete through her junior and senior season. She's somebody we've been incredibly thrilled to have in the program the last four years," said Gondak. "She was All-Big Ten and All-American last year, that's kind of being the best of the best. So, hopefully she'll just continue to improve and work to place higher at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships than last year, just want her to continue to be the best that she can be."

 

To end her final cross country season, Hunsberger wants the team to continue doing well at the conference level, but more importantly, wants to see a step up at the national level.

 

"I would really like us to win Big Tens, that's always the goal. To me, that's a lesser goal than nationals, I've always personally wanted to focus more on nationals. It's a bigger stage and better place to gauge where the program is. We're still pretty early in the season, but I think we can definitely do better than what we did last year. I would like to see us top ten," said Hunsberger.

12866477.jpegBy 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."

By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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.  

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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