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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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. 

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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. 


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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.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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. 

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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. 

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com 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.  

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

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team swept the Penn State National Open today, placing 1-2-3 with Tessa Barrett (20:11), Elizabeth Chikotas (20:14) and Jillian Hunsberger (20:17) leading the team.

 

Barrett's time of 20:11 is tied for the third-best performance at the Penn State National Open. She ran 20 seconds faster than last time running this course at the Spiked Shoe Invitational earlier this year.

 

The women's team win puts them in great position going into their next meet, which is the Big Ten Championships held in Minneapolis, MN.

 

"The team win is huge. We knew we were going to have some good competition out here today, and I think going into Big Tens now, we feel more confident," said Barrett. "There's definitely a lot left in us, I know we're all in really good shape, and we worked together really well out there today."

 

"It's been two weeks since we've raced and it's a really good confidence boost going into Big Tens knowing that our training has put us all at a great spot and this is the second time we've run this course; we're going to run it again at regionals. We ran it earlier this season at Spiked Shoe and I think across the board everyone ran a lot faster today, so that gives us a lot of confidence knowing that our training is paying off," said Chikotas.

 

"I think it's going to give us confidence and take control and take lead and not be scared. Last year we went into Big Tens as the underdogs, and this year we are going in with a target on our backs, so I think it's a really nice confidence booster," said Hunsberger.

 

Fifth place team finisher, junior Greta Lindsley (20:55), ran over a minute faster than her performance earlier in the season at the Spiked Shoe Invitational. After today's race, she knows that her and the team are both physically and mentally strong going into the championship season.

 

"Overall, it was definitely a confidence booster. There were a lot of ranked teams here and great individuals here, and we came out on top so that was very exciting. We have the fitness level there, but our mental focus definitely shot up after this race and we are extremely ready for Big Tens."

 

Senior captain Julie Kocjancic, who placed sixth for the Nittany Lions and 46th overall, knows all their hard work is paying off.

 

"This team win just showed us what we are doing in practice and workouts is enough," said Kocjancic. "It gave us confidence that we know that we aren't even near where we're going to peak later in the season, so it's an exciting place to be."

 

Head coach John Gondak is ready to ride the momentum after today's victory as they prepare for the Big Ten Championships.

 

"It's a really big confidence booster for both teams. The women came in and made a statement today, this was an excellent field and for Tessa, Liz, and Jillian to go 1-2-3, and for us to win with 47 points," said Gondak. "I was really proud of their efforts. They are just brimming with confidence and just added another layer of confidence to the team."

 

"With the guys, they were kind of a little uncertain with how they would finish today and we had a really specific plan, and they executed it and I'm really proud. Sixth place finish, I just said there were a couple teams here that we shouldn't even focus on, we have focus on a few teams that we should try to beat, and we did that today."

 

With two top-15 place finishers, the men's team came in sixth place overall today. Tim McGowan (25:11) and Colin Abert (25:15) lead the team placing eighth place and 12th place respectively.

 

The Big Ten Championships will be held Sunday, Oct. 30th in Minneapolis, MN. The race is set to start at 11:45 a.m. ET.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State cross country team will run their last home meet of the regular season at the annual Penn State National Open this Friday, Oct. 14th at the Blue-White Golf Course.

 

Last year at this meet, the women captured the top spot with their top three runners placing in the top-10, while the men got second as a team with their top five runners placing in the top-15.

 

This will be the last meet they compete in before championship season starts and will have several ranked teams present.

 

Along with being their last meet before championship season, this will also be Senior Day for the Nittany Lions.

 

Seniors on the men's team are redshirt senior, Conrad Lippert of Middletown, N.J., Brad Rivera of Bensalem, Pa., and Joseph Phifer of Union, N.J. For the women, the seniors include captain, Julie Kocjancic of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Cara Uilizio of Redondo Beach, Ca.

 

Senior Captain Julie Kocjancic reflects on how she has grown as athlete throughout her career at Penn State.

 

"I have improved from my freshman year by being able to get ready for competition and approach workouts with confidence in my training," said Kocjancic. "Also just figuring out the system of what works for me, whether it be my mileage or my diet and that has shown improvements in my time and fitness."

 

She also relives her favorite memory on the team, and is looking forward to the upcoming championship season.

 

"The most memorable part of my cross country career was last year winning Big Tens and all the fun I had with the team. We beat a No. 2 nationally ranked team when weren't even ranked in the top 10," said Kocjancic. "I am looking forward to this season more than I ever have any other season because we have a very talented team that is in a great spot, and it being my last cross country season since I was in sixth grade. These last few races will be very bittersweet."

 

Head Coach John Gondak, enjoyed coaching and watching Kocjancic grow over the past few years.

 

"Julie has come in and really grown as an athlete in XC, earning all-region honors last year and helping to seal the deal as our number 5 runner when we won the Big Ten last fall. It has been great to see her grow as a person and athlete," said Gondak.

 

On the men's side, redshirt senior, Conrad Lippert, is the only one left from his freshman year, but feels the team atmosphere is still the same as it was back then.

 

"There is no one else on the team right now who was also on the team with me my freshman year. In that sense, this team is completely different. In another sense, nothing has changed," said Lippert.

 

Lippert is ready to take on the rest of the season, as championship meets are coming up.

 

"I'm just looking to experience that underlying presence of Penn State XC that has been such a prominent part of the last five years of my life a few more times and make the most of this championship season," he said.

 

Gondak is happy to see Lippert competing hard for his final season as a Nittany Lion.

 

"It is great to see Conrad back in the mix and competing well for the team. This is his final semester and he is really taking advantage of it," said Gondak.

 

Coaching is a very rewarding job for Gondak. He enjoys watching his athletes grow as both athletes and people. 


"It is always exciting to see athletes grow from when they come in as wide-eyed freshman to where they leave as young adults with a Penn State education," said Gondak.

 

The Penn State National Open will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday.  

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite being a Penn State newcomer, freshman Kathryn Munks of Chester, NY has proven herself to be a crucial asset in the Nittany Lions line up this season.

Munks attended Monroe-Woodbury high school where she was a lead runner for her team. She was a 4xmile school and section record holder, and was team cross country and track captain.

"The switch from high school competition to college competition has been an interesting transition. For my last two years in high school, I was working out on my own and I was the leader that the team looked up to," said Munks. "In college, I have a whole team of girls that push me not only in workouts but also in races and they set a high standard for the team."

The switch from high school to college can be a tough transition, especially when it comes to sports. Head coach Gondak explained the hardest adjustment for the athletes.

"The biggest adjustment for freshmen when they get to college is that they are used to being the very best in high school," said Gondak. "They are always used to being at the front of the pack and winning races, or if not winning, being in contention for it. Now, for some it's hard to dig down and give it your all when you're in 60th place and you're used to being in first or second from your high school races, and that becomes somewhat of an adjustment."

Munks has noted the competition shift and is aware of the changes she needs to make when competing collegiately.

"The competition from other college teams are much more competitive than in high school. In high school, being top ten or fifteen was pretty good but in college that changes because of how talented the field is," said Munks.

 "The toughest part has been trying to get myself into the mindset of a collegiate runner, sometimes my mind reverts back to the competitors and the training of high school," she added.  "I was considered a student of the game in high school, and I'm trying to repeat that in college. This includes being aware of other big ten schools and just knowing who the competitors are and how to efficiently race against them."

Munks has been a top finisher on the team this year, earning points for the team in big meets. In the Nittany Lions last meet, the Griak Invitational, which is one of the largest meets in the country, she placed 62th overall and fifth on the team. This placement helped earn them a third place team finish. 

"Munks was our fifth runner at the meet, the last point score for us, and was a pivotal reason as to why we were able to get third place as a team," said Gondak.

 As the season continues, Munks is looking to improve and continue her season past just the regular season meets. She is also hoping to help her team improve upon their national ranking.  

"It feels very weird that the season is halfway done," said Munks. "It feels like just yesterday that the season was starting. Looking ahead, my goals are to improve my time on our home course and to stay top five on our team.  As a freshman, making the meets in the championship part of the season would be amazing and a huge confidence booster. I also want our team to climb higher in the rankings."

Munks has gotten to where she is now by the motivation and hard work that her team members contribute to practice every day. 

"The girls on this team are incredible," said Munks. "They are kind and nurturing yet they are not afraid to push the freshman and tell us if we are doing something wrong."  

"The leaders on this team have definitely inspired me to be the best runner that I can be and they give the team motivation.  It is great getting to run with such a talented field of girls that always strive to be the best that they can be, and this pushes me to do the same."  

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