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By Alyssa Palfey, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt sophomore Tessa Barrett of Waverly, Pa., was recently named USTFCCCA DI National Athlete of the week and Big Ten cross country Co-Athlete of the Week.


Barrett earned these honors after winning and breaking the meet record at Penn State's annual Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on Sept. 10th. Barrett broke the 16-year-old meet record, formerly held by Michigan's Katie Jazwinski, by more than 20 seconds.


Barrett also competed in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational as a redshirt freshman in September 2015, where she placed sixth overall, placing 5 spots higher this year as she won the invitational. Her time of 20:31 this year was over a minute faster than what she ran in 2015 at this meet (21:43). Barrett has shown great improvement since last year and continues to show improvement as the season goes on.


Winning these great honors of USTFCCCA National Athlete of the week and Big Ten cross country Co-Athlete of the week took Barrett by surprise.


"I was surprised and humbled to have been named the USTFCCCA Athlete of the Week," said Barrett. "Across the country, there were many great performances that weekend, so I feel very honored and grateful to have received that recognition."


Along with the USTFCCCA DI National Athlete recognition, Barrett also earned the honor of Big Ten cross country Co-Athlete of the Week.


Barrett's Big Ten honor is the first Penn State runner to earn it since her teammate, Tori Gerlach, won it in 2015 after the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational.


"I was excited to be named Big Ten Co-Athlete of the week because I remember when my teammate, Tori Gerlach, was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Week last year as a senior and how inspired I was by that accomplishment," said Barrett.


Barrett was named Big Ten Co-Athlete of the Week with senior, Erin Finn of Michigan.


"Being named co-athlete of the week with Erin Finn of Michigan was also really cool," said Barrett. "Erin is an incredible athlete who I have always looked up to."


Barrett placed 12th this past weekend at the 31st Annual Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, MN, where the Penn State women's team took 3rd out of 34 teams. The Roy Griak Invitational is one of the largest meets in the country.


Barrett believes winning these honors will continue to motivate her for the remainder of the season.


"Receiving these accolades has been humbling, and it definitely keeps me motivated to continue training hard," said Barrett. "We still have a long way to go until championship season, and I hope that individually I can keep improving as the season progresses."


Cross Country and Track & Field head coach, John Gondak, believe Barrett's hard work and dedication to the sport, helped her win these honors.  

"Tessa is very passionate about her running," said Gondak. "She comes to practice every day with a purpose and that shows in her results."

Gondak also believes that her hard work and dedication that won her these honors will help inspire the rest of the team.

"I think winning awards like that, and winning honors like that, shows the rest of the program that if you come to practice and you put in the work, and you're passionate about what you do, you can be very successful in this sport," said Gondak. "Our sport is about putting in the conditioning and putting in the work so that you have a great mindset when it comes to race day and you're ready to go, and Tessa is very good at doing that."


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.


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