Recently in Cross Country Category


By Alyssa Palfey, 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.


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team won their fifth-straight Harry Groves Spiked Shoe invitational this Saturday at their home Blue and White Courses.


The Penn State women had four runners place in the top ten. Redshirt-sophomore Tessa Barrett won the meet, breaking the 16-year-old meet record set by Katie Jazwinski of Michigan in 2000. Barrett ran the 6k in a time of 20:31, over a minute faster than she ran last year in this meet.


"I'm really happy with how I performed today. We've been working hard as a team these past few weeks, so it's great to see all the hard work come to fruition," said Barrett. "I had no idea what the course record was, I was just trying to run as strong as a race as I could to put my team in the best position possible. I'm so proud of how we did today as a team."


Junior Elizabeth Chikotas came in second overall with a time of 20:53. Chikotas also made her way on the meet record board, setting the third-fastest time ever ran at this meet.


"It feels really good. We stayed as a pack, we worked together," said Chikotas. "It's just good to come together and run well on a really hot day on our hard course and get a good one under our belts." 


Jillian Hunsberger came in next for the Nittany Lions, placing fourth overall (21:13). Freshmen Kathryn Munks came in tenth overall (21:29). Following was redshirt-sophomore, Greta Lindsley (22:03), Victoria Crawford (22:13) and Rachel Banks (23:08) coming in 20th, 24th, and 33rd, respectively.


"It feels awesome. The 6k is a real grinder, you know it's really hard, very big difference from the 5k even though it's not too much more," said Munks. "We have a great team and a really young team this year, they push us in workouts and races. It's awesome to be around them. This is the best team I could've picked. I'm so happy I did."


The women were pleased with their first big meet of the season, but still felt the meet on the home course was challenging.


"It's a hard course, but it is forgiving because you do have these downhill segments to open up your legs. At the same time, it's pure cross country because your gate is constantly changing. You don't get to get in a good rhythm like you do if you're on a track," said Chikotas. "You're just constantly opening up then going short strides. It's brutal, but I definitely say the whole thing is hard."


"The most challenging part of the course is the final gradual incline after the three-mile mark. At this point, the legs are feeling pretty heavy and you still have a ways to go until the finish line," said Barrett. "We have a challenging course, but I'm happy about that because it makes us tougher competitors and gives us a great home course advantage."


The men's team was led by junior, Tim McGowan, who placed fifth overall (26:35). McGowan felt good about his first big meet of the season on the tough course.


"It's awesome. We always try to say, save it for the end, not to hammer it, but I felt pretty conservative," said McGowan. "The last 3k, it started to go at 3 miles, initially you feel good, but then you really start to try to find a happy place, as they say."


After McGowan for the Nittany Lions was redshirt-senior, Bobby Hill (27:29), John McGowan (27:31), Jaxson Hoey (27:47) and Colin Abert (28:49), who finished 26th, 27th, 33rd and 55th-place, respectively.


The men's team came in fifth overall.


The Penn State cross country team will next be action in Minnesota for the Annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24th.


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2016 Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is set to take place this Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Penn State Blue-White golf course.


This annual meet is named after Penn State's former head track and field coach, Harry Groves. Groves coached track and field for 53 years, 38 of them being head coach at Penn State.


Groves began his coaching career in 1953, where he started as a coach of the post track team at Fort Eustis, VA. Two years later, he became an assistant cross country and track coach at William and Mary. He then became head coach a year later and remained there until he came to Penn State in 1968.


With 11 American record-holders, 21 national champions, 14 Olympians and 227 All-Americans under his coaching career, Groves is known to be one of the most respected track and field coaches in history.


Groves has also been named Regional Coach of the Year a combined 26 times and is a five-time National Coach of the Year.


Current head coach, John Gondak, is inspired by Groves' coaching success.


"Harry was a phenomenal coach here at Penn State. He added some great traditions and history to the program. I'm honored to be coaching after him and Coach Sullivan."


The Penn State cross country team swept titles at the annual Dolan Duals last Friday, Sept. 2 in Lock Haven, PA. The men's team nearly missed a perfect score of 15 by scoring a team totally of 16.


Gondak was impressed by the team's performances, but knows the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational will be challenging.


"For the men's team, this will be a different challenge than this past weekend. Our home course is a lot different, so we'll need to have a different racing strategy. There will be good Division I competition that will also be challenging," said Gondak.


The women's team finished the meet last weekend with a perfect team score of 15, sweeping the top five positions. 


"For the women's team, I think they are in position to take the title," said Gondak.


At last year's Spiked Shoe Invitational, the women's team won the title with Elizabeth Chikotas, Jillian Hunsberger, Tessa Barrett and Greta Lindsley placing in the top ten.


The meet will take place this Saturday, Sept. 10 at Penn State's Blue-White golf course. The women's 6k race is set to start at 10 a.m., with the men following.  


By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2016 cross country team has spoken and officially named their captains for the upcoming season.


"We took a vote from the team," said head coach John Gondak about the selection of this season's captains.


"They, as a group, spend a significant amount of time together above what we do as coaches, so I think they have a good pulse of who their leaders are. We let them vote for who their captains were this year, and I think they picked some very good individuals."


Captains for the 2016 season on the women's side are senior Julie Kocjancic, junior Tessa Barrett and junior Elizabeth Chikotas. For the men, captains are junior Tim McGowan and sophomore Colin Abert.


"I was a little loss for words because it came to me as kind of a surprise," said McGowan on the captain title. "It's cool to get to talk to the freshmen and lead them a little bit."


Barrett, who finished last year's season as a NCAA All-American, and Chikotas are excited to lead the freshmen on the women's side as well.


"It's pretty cool to be able to usher them through the learning process, helping them with things that we might not have known as freshmen," said Chikotas.


The men's team finished 6th at the 2015 Big Ten Championships, and are hoping to change that this year. The new captains have set some goals for the 2016 season.


"We've got a young team, so I think a big thing we're trying to do is get them accumulated, make sure we don't have any hiccups, no injuries or anything. With the returning guys, we have a lot of scorers coming back, so I don't think top five in the Big Ten in cross is out of the question," said McGowan.


"We do have a really young team on the guys' side, but that kind of allows us to shape the team how we want it to be for the next few years," said Abert. "I think we have a good group of guys. We're going to turn some heads; they aren't going to be ready for it."


The women were 2015 Big Ten Cross Country Champions and won the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. They also finished 16th at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. They are hoping to defend their Big Ten and Mid-Atlantic titles from last year's season.


"We're also ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference right now," said Chikotas. "We want to continue on what we did last year, definitely placing better at nationals."


"We want to take everything day-by-day, train week-by-week, putting in the time now and being patient," said Barrett on preparing for the championship meets. "At the national meet we want to get out, be aggressive and competitive and see what happens."


Coach Gondak is satisfied with how the team is looking early in the season.


"I'm pleased with where everybody is right now. How we're going to do this year? It's too early to tell. I usually like to wait until after our first couple of meets to see how they go out and compete and where their mindset is from a racing standpoint," said Gondak. "Probably after the Spiked Shoe Invitational we'll sit down and come up with some more goals moving forward."


The annual Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is Penn State's first home cross country meet of the season. Races are set to start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10th.


"I'm most excited about going to Lock Haven, and putting the uniform on and racing our first race of the year," said Gondak.


The Nittany Lions first meet of the season is the Dolan Duals this Friday at 6:00 p.m. in Lock Haven.

BLOG: Fall Sports Media Day in Review

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While the Penn State Fall Sports season may have kicked off with women's soccer in action last week, Nittany Lion fans got a unique perspective from the annual athletics Fall Sports Media Day.

Coaches and student-athletes from seven different Penn State programs set to compete this fall met with members of the media to talk 2016 and their expectations for the upcoming year. 

Check out some highlights and links to videos, transcripts and extra coverage from today's event.

Men's and Women's Cross Country
In his third year at the helm of the program, head coach John Gondak highlighted his opening statement with high expectations for the Penn State Open, which comes to Happy Valley Friday, Oct. 14.

"We've got an outstanding group of teams coming in ... and it's going to be one of the premier competitions in the country again and we're going to continue to grow that," Gondak said of the upcoming Penn State open.  

 On both the men's and women's side, Gondak is excited to begin the season. The returning Big Ten Champion women's team will look to defend its title once again with three decorated leaders in Tessa Barret, Elizabeth Chikotas and Jillian Hunsberger.  The men's team will look to develop a young group, welcoming in some accomplished freshman for the season. 

Press conference video
Periscope session with Tessa Barrett

Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unwavering support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A complete team effort highlighted by several milestone running performances helped the Penn State women's cross country team ultimately win its first Big Ten team title since 2009 in Sunday's 2015 Big Ten Cross Country Championships.

The No. 15 Nittany Lions reigned superior of the field of Big Ten teams and edged No. 2 Michigan by a team score of 58-53 at the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago, Ill.

The outstanding achievement was made possible with phenomenal individual performances from both the young and veteran athletes on the team. Four women Nittany Lion runners finished in the Top 12. Senior team captain Tori Gerlach led the way for the Nittany Lions all year and she did it once again by finishing 4th in the field.

"This was Tori's best race of her career at a conference cross country championship," said second-year head cross country coach John Gondak.

Sophomores Elizabeth Chikotas (6th) and Jillian Hunsberger (9th) each posted Top 10 finishes. Rounding out the team's scoring was redshirt freshman Tessa Barrett with a 12th place finish and junior Julie Kocjancic with a 22nd place finish.

Gondak has been looking for runners that could round out the scoring all year and he got that this past weekend when it mattered the most.

"We had been content with how we had been running this year, we'd had some really solid performances at Louisville and Wisconsin but we knew we were better. What this does right now is it gives you a great boost of confidence because at this time of year most of your fitness you either have it or you don't. Now it's about believing in it, and when you can go out and pull off a victory like this it just drives home the fact that the student-athletes believe that they can go out and accomplish what they want to accomplish," said Gondak.

Gondak, recently named the Big Ten Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year, is proud of his team's efforts to win the championship. It's even more special to him because this conference championship is Gondak's first conference championship as head coach and ninth overall in his coaching career. Gondak is excited to keep moving forward with momentum in the postseason.

With an excellent Big Ten Championship performance, the Nittany Lion women broke into the Top 10 of the USTFCCCA national rankings this week for the first time since 2012 and continue to be ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The No. 10 Nittany Lion women look to continue building on success in the final two postseason races. They have a valuable time to recover and train for the next big race. That next step for the Nittany Lions is the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Princeton, NJ on Nov. 13. The last time, the women won the regional was in 2012 when they hosted the event at the home Blue-White Course.

Following the regional is the concluding NCAA Championships on Nov. 21 in Louisville, Ky at a course where the Nittany Lions have already ran this year.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - To coach cross country and track and field, it takes a special individual that has passion for the craft of running and the internal drive to get the most out of their student-athletes. Just a few months into her Nittany Lion coaching career, Angela Reckart has already left an impact on the State program.


Reckart commonly referred to as "Coach Reck" by student-athletes and staff is not new to the coaching ranks. She previously served as an assistant at the University of North Carolina before making the move to join Penn State head coach John Gondak's staff. In Reckart's time at North Carolina, she coached the cross country and track and field teams to historic seasons for the program. She's looking to bring that same continued success to Penn State.


The high-energy distance coach is a 2008 graduate of the College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and a former standout track athlete herself. During her time at TCNJ, she was a member of the track and field team and posted All-America honors seven times. She was a member of two national championship 4x400-meter relays. After her collegiate running career concluded, she started coaching at TCNJ by helping with the middle distance program. Then, she moved on to be a graduate assistant and volunteer coach at North Florida before her stay at North Carolina.


She combines her athletic experiences, her exercise science background and personable personality to coach up the Nittany Lion runners. Reckart's easy-going personality makes it easier for the team to connect with her.


Hailing from New Jersey, Reckart has always thought highly of Penn State and about how special it would be to coach at Penn State. Now that she earned the opportunity, she has shown that she is loving every second of it. Reckart has taken to social media on many occasions to display her Penn State passion and pride. Here are a few of her tweets since she's been on campus since July. 


Coach Gondak and Reckart have lead the cross country program to an impressive 2015 campaign. Both the men's and women's sides have worked hard at practice during the off-season and in-season to achieve this success. The women's team has been nationally ranked all season and is currently No. 15 in the USTFCCCA rankings.


Coming up for the Nittany Lions...


The Nittany Lions are preparing for post-season competition, which begins with the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, November 1 in Chicago.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Open on Saturday morning marked the last time that the Penn State men's and women's cross country teams will run competitively at the home Blue-White Course this season. The meet was also the Senior Day home finale for seven senior Penn State cross country athletes.


Amidst hail-like precipitation falling, head coach John Gondak recognized the senior athletes during a ceremony after the conclusion of the men's and women's races. The five men honored were Glen Burkhardt (captain), Robby Creese, John Dugan, Wade Endress and Conrad Lippert. The two women honored were Tori Gerlach (captain) and Sarah Jane Underwood.  


Saturday morning's unseasonably cold weather conditions weren't optimal for running but the Penn State cross country program battled through the frigid, blustery conditions the best they could. It gave the Nittany Lions an experience to run in sub-par conditions which benefit them when they run in freezing cold postseason races in a few weeks.


A drizzle of rain fell on the women's athletes during the end of their race but it didn't seem to bother the No. 16 nationally ranked Penn State women who won the meet with a score of 37. The women were led by freshman Victoria Crawford who recorded a third-place finish for the Nittany Lion women. Right behind Crawford was junior Cara Ulizio with a fourth-place finish and sophomore Megan Hellman with a sixth-place finish to help the Nittany Lion women capture the victory.


On the other side, the men claimed a second-place team finish. Senior John Dugan led the men's team with a second-place individual finish. Other solid performances came from sophomore Timothy McGowan who finished fifth and senior Conrad Lippert who finished ninth.


Penn State's regular season running action has come to an end after a season filled with strong performances. Penn State cross country will look to keep the momentum going when it matters the most, in the postseason. The Nittany Lions have weeks to train before heading to Chicago, Illinois for the Big Ten cross country championships on Nov. 1. With success at the Big Ten cross country championships, the men's and women's teams can earn the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional and the NCAA Championships.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion cross country program looks to continue to run with momentum from its early season success against a strong field of competition at Saturday's Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, Ky.


When the Nittany Lions react to the starter firing off the pistol on the starting line Saturday, it will be their first competitive action in three weeks. After solid performances on back-to-back weeks in the Dolan Duals at Lock Haven, Pa. on Sept. 4 and Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational at home on Sept. 11, Penn State runners have using this "break time" as advantageous practice opportunities to build on their running craft.


The first meets of the season allowed the Nittany Lion runners to get a gauge on their fitness levels.

The Nittany Lions have built from each meet so far this season and look forward to the opportunity to run in a special meet like the Greater Louisville Classic. The idea for Penn State remains to perform better in each meet in order to run the best towards the end the season, when it ultimately matters the most. The cross country season is similar to sport of cross country itself, it's not a sprint, it's an endurance race. Individual goal setting has Penn State runners motivated for big meets like the Greater Louisville Classic.


The Greater Louisville Classic has been called the "Pre-Pre-Nationals" and one of meets to watch by the USTFCCCA. The "Pre-Pre-Nationals" term connects with the NCAA National Championships being hosted at the same site of E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 21. Head coach John Gondak noted that this meet will be the first opportunity of the year for the Penn State cross country teams to earn points towards qualifying for 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships in November.


That aspect makes the race even more of a special opportunity for the team. The opportunity to preview the course for the future could well be beneficial for Nittany Lion runners. "The goal is to run on the course, get a good feel for it and expose our student-athletes to it so, hopefully when we make the National Championships as a team later in November, we will have had some experience running on the course," said Gondak.


With a special meet comes unique training depending on the specifics of the meet. Gondak said the team trained like they normal but added in an additional component to simulate crowded conditions on a narrow stretch at the beginning of the race. With more teams in the meet, the start of the race can prove very impactful for the team in the race. "The only minor adjustment we've made to our training during this break in between meets is we've done some higher quality intervals, doing an interval or two at a faster pace to simulate what it's going to be like getting out in a field like this filled with 30 teams. Getting off the line will be important in positioning yourself early in the race this weekend," said Gondak.


An excited Gondak thought the team's practice went well. "It's been three weeks of fantastic training with the squad and I feel like we've put in the work necessary to go to Louisville and have a great performance this weekend," said Gondak.


Penn State will put their fast-paced training to the test against a quality field of teams on a "very flat and fast course" according to Gondak. The No. 19 Penn State women will compete against nationally ranked teams that include No. 6 Iowa State, No. 8 Michigan, No. 13 West Virginia and No. 23 Minnesota. Some of the competition on the men's side includes No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 8 Iona, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Mississippi, No. 22 Iowa State and No. 28 Eastern Kentucky.


As for the season thus far, Penn State swept both the women's and men's sides of the Dolan Duals with first place finishes turned in by junior Ean DiSilvio and senior team captain Tori Gerlach. DiSilvio earned Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors following his performance. DiSilvio has posted Penn State men's top finishes in both meets.


At the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, Gerlach continued her great start to the season by leading the women's squad to a victory with another individual title. Her performance earned her USTFCCCA Division I National Athlete of the Week honors and Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors. She has led her women's team to a No. 19 ranking in the country and second in the Mid-Atlantic regional. The Nittany Lion men are ranked third regionally.


The Men's Gold 8k is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., while the Women's Gold 5k race is scheduled for a 10:15 a.m. start. The meet will be held at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky.


After Saturday's Greater Louisville Classic, the Penn State men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Madison, Wisconsin Oct. 16 to compete in the Wisconsin Adidas Invite, before hosting the Penn State Open at the Blue-White Golf Course in University Park Oct. 17.