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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.




By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team took advantage of running at their home course as they won the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational team title while senior Tori Gerlach won the individual title Friday.


A crisp, sunny day at the Blue-White Golf Courses didn't bother the team captain Gerlach who has won both events for Penn State this year on the women's side. She crossed the finish line victorious by a nine second margin. The finish line chute she ran through was lined with 297 American flags to honor the 2,977 lost on September 1, 2001 as it was the 14th anniversary of the tragic events.


The veteran runner knew the beginning of the race was all downhill then the last parts of the race were uphill. Gerlach used her mental edge to close in on the leader after having trailed by about 50 meters in the race. With about 200-400 meters to go in the race, Gerlach closed in and made the pass on the Syracuse athlete to earn the victory. She was really happy with the way she raced.


"I was very patient, our whole team was patient, and we ran really nicely. The first mile, the goal was to keep it pretty controlled, keep everyone together, and respond based off what the other team do. It's all downhill the first mile so it felt really easy, very controlled. One of the Syracuse girls made a move about a mile or two in and we made a huge surge after that and the race kind of started from there," said Gerlach.


Gerlach's performance was joined along with Elizabth Chikotas (3rd), Jillian Hunsberger (4th), Tessa Barrett (6th) and Greta Lindsley in the scoring (7th). Gondak's two freshmen runners, Greta Lindsley and Tessa Barrett impressed all in their first races in the blue and white.


"I was very excited to see (the freshmen) compete in their first race in a Penn State uniform today to round out scoring and come out with a good win over a team that was ranked higher than us coming into the meet," said head coach John Gondak.


The No. 23 Nittany Lions, the winner of the Harry Groves Invitational last year, scored 21 team points. Five Penn State runners finished inside the top-seven, to take the team title over No. 10 West Virginia, No. 17 Syracuse and Grove City.


Gondak was pleased with what he saw from his teams. "The women started things off and we executed the race plan perfectly," said Gondak.


On the men's side, junior Ean DiSilvio led the Nittany Lions with a seventh-place individual finish. He was Penn State's leading finisher in both meets this season.


Conner Quinn (10th), Wade Endress (11th), Colin Abert (12th) and Austin Pondel (23rd) were the men's finishers. Gondak was excited for four finishes in the top-12


The Penn State men look to be back to "full strength" soon as Coach Gondak will have Glen Burkhardt (team captain), Robby Creese and Tim McGowan in the running lineup.


Legendary long-time Penn State cross country and track and field head coach Harry Groves was in attendance Friday. The invitational is named after Groves. He cheered on the runners and followed the racing action from aboard a golf cart.


The Penn State women's and men's teams came away with team titles at last week's Dolan Duals at Lock Haven. After two meets, the Nittany Lions have built up the fitness levels necessary to be successful this season. It is important they continue to train to the best of their abilities for the bigger meets later in the season.


The Nittany Lions will be training for a few weeks until their next meet at Louisville, Ky. for the Greater Louisville Classic Oct. 3. The race at Louisville will be the first meet that will count towards NCAA Championship points and also serve as a beneficial course preview for the NCAA Championships, which is scheduled for Nov. 21.

By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's cross country teams look to build on momentum from last week's meet into the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational at the Blue-White Golf Courses Friday.


The Nittany Lions proved that they were in fine running shape for the season's opener at Lock Haven for the Dolan Duals as the men's and women's sides both won team titles. Junior Ean DiSilvio and senior Tori Gerlach took the men's and women's titles respectively. DiSilvio capped off his winning performance with a move with about 800-meters left in the race to take the victory. DiSilvio capped off his week with Big Ten Men's Cross Country Co-Athlete of the Week honors.


"Last week's meet was a good competitive effort for us," said Coach John Gondak. "It really showed us where everyone is at this point in the season."


"It allowed us to continue to prescribe to the students what their training should be and how they need to continue to improve their fitness."


The Dolan Duals women's winner Tori Gerlach is a prime example of an athlete continuing to improve her fitness. It was a different offseason for her, but in a positive way.


"It was the first summer I really got to train, usually I'm sick or hurt," said Gerlach. "I actually got to train the right way."


The team captain from Perkasie, Pa. picked up right where she left off. Gerlach impressed with an excellent 2015 outdoor track season. She posted a pair of personal-best performances in the NCAA East prelims to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000-meter run. She finished seventh in the 5,000-meter run and seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. At the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Gerlach finished 10th in the 5,000-meter run (16:00.28) and 14th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:14.79). She was also selected as a first-team All-Big Ten selection and second team All-American.


Gerlach says she brings experience as her main attribute to the team. She is the leader of a relatively young group on the women's side. She was impressed with how the team as a whole raced after not competitively racing in months. She looks to continue her success at a "pretty challenging course" in her opinion


"We (the upperclassmen) know all the little tricks," said Gerlach about the advantages of racing at Penn State's home course.


Gerlach said the team hasn't been on the course yet this year but a lot of the older girls know what it's like. As a senior leader Gerlach has a lot of course knowledge to pass on to her younger teammates.


The Big Ten Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year Elizabeth Chikotas finished in third-place in last year's Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer won the individual title in the men's race. Penn State won both team titles in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on a cold rainy day against several nationally ranked teams.


The Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is no ordinary meet for Penn State cross country athletes. This event is named after long-time Penn State coach and 2001 USTCA Hall of Fame inductee, Harry Groves. Groves spent nearly forty years at the helm of the men's program, beginning in 1968 until retiring at the conclusion of the 2006 track and field season. Groves was named national Coach of the Year on five occasions, and is a 26-time Regional Coach of the Year honoree. Throughout his coaching career, Groves coached 11 American record holders and 21 national champions. On the international level, 14 Groves-coached athletes made Olympic teams. Groves has also made numerous international appearances of his own, including a trip to Barcelona, Spain, where he served as an assistant coach of the 1992 Olympic staff. 


Also, the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational gives Penn State the opportunity to compete with some of the best cross country programs in the country on their home course. The field for this year's Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational includes nationally ranked teams such as No. 3 Syracuse (men), No. 10 West Virginia (women) and No. 13 Michigan (men).


The Nittany Lions will start the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational with the women's 6k at 5:30 p.m. and the men's 5.2 mile race at 6:15 p.m. Before the collegiate races, the high school competitions will begin with high school girls starting at 4:00 p.m. followed by high school boys at 4:45 p.m.


After the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, the Nittany Lions will be training for a few weeks until their next meet at Louisville, Ky. for the Greater Louisville Classic Oct. 3. The race at Louisville will also serve as a beneficial course preview for the NCAA Championships, which are scheduled for November 21.



By Zach Reagan, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - John Gondak is thrilled to be starting his second regular season as Penn State cross country head coach and ninth season overall with the program.


The Doylestown, Pa., native served as an assistant coach for six years, two years as an associate head coach and two months as the interim head coach for the Nittany Lions.


The title of head coach didn't suddenly change the way he approached coaching. He wants to establish Penn State as one of the best cross country/track & field programs in the country.

"Just because the title is different than five years ago, we still have the same overriding goal which is to provide the best experience for our student-athletes," said the Coach Gondak. "It's a great honor to be a head coach at Penn State University. It's a place that has tremendous passion for their students, tremendous passion for their athletes."


Coach Gondak has mentored many standout athletes throughout his tenure on the Penn State coaching staff. He has coached 19 first team All-Americans, 22 Big Ten Champions, five Big Ten Freshman of the Year honorees, and three sub-4:00 milers. Also, under the Gondak's tutelage, athletes have broke 20 records. On the track side, Gondak has been a part of five Penn Relays victories recorded by Penn State.


The coaching staff uses observation and one-on-one communication to get the maximum performance out of his athletes. New assistant coach Angela Reckart, a former assistant at North Carolina looks to help Gondak take the program to the elite level.


Gondak is very excited to get the chance to coach a talented group of runners once again for the 2015 fall cross country season.

"We return a lot of our student-athletes from last year who had fantastic seasons," said Gondak. "I believe they put us in a great spot to have a fantastic 2015 fall."


The women's cross country side led by senior captain Tori Gerlach, enters the 2015 season ranked No. 23 in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll along with a fourth ranking in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Gondak believes the women have a solid blend of youth and experience with four returners from last year's NCAA championships team. He also that the women have potentially one of the best top-four's in the country.


For all cross country teams, the fifth runner is mightily important in order to score well. Gondak calls the fifth runner the "hero" and he's looking for a fifth runner which can come from a group of about five women.


The men were selected third at the regional level who are led by fifth-year senior captains Glen Burkhardt and Wade Endress. The men have depth with a core of veterans this season. Gondak believes 12 to 14 individuals on the men's side could finish anywhere in the top-seven at meets. "With the returners we have, some incoming freshmen, I think we should have a really good team," Burkhardt said at media day.


The Dolan Duals are the traditional opening meet for the Nittany Lions. Gondak said that his group of runners are ready for the challenge against Lock Haven, a quality Division II cross country program.


The program has fared well at the Dolan Duals in previous years. Last season, both teams earned team titles. The men posted an overall score of 16 points, one point shy of a perfect score. The women swept first-place through fifth-place for a perfect score of 15 points.


Gondak plans to utilize this opportunity for his athletes 'to get the rust off'. Also, it will set the stage for where the student-athletes are physical fitness wise. Athletes on the team do their own workouts during the offseason before coming together, which can be difficult to judge progress.


"You don't really know how everyone's going to do until you start racing," said senior women's captain Tori Gerlach at media day.


This opening meet will be important for the coaching staff to see what the team may have to work on in the coming weeks in preparation for bigger meets.


Running in the Dolan Duals is an opportunity for Coach Gondak to see what the younger runners can do. Gondak said a handful of freshmen from both the women's and men's sides will run in their first collegiate race. Some may race unattached for NCAA eligibility reasons.


"Lock Haven is a flat and fast course," said Gondak. "It's a nice course to open on."


The runners will lace up their spiked footwear for a running distance will be shorter than normal. The women's 4K run starts at 5:30 p.m., and the men's 6K starts at 6:15 p.m.

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.

Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).

By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"


The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).


Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.

It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.


In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.


While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach John Gondak and two members of the Penn State cross country teams are headed west to Indiana this weekend to compete in the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Freshman Jillian Hunsberger is making her National stage debut after qualifying at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with an 11th place (20 minutes, 49 seconds) finish in the 6,000-meter run.

The freshman has had a great 2014 season posting competitive times in all her races.

As most athletes would be, she is excited, nervous, and ready for the challenge.

"I don't event know what to expect I'm just going to go and try my hardest. Just thinking about the race, making sure I have it planned out," said Hunsberger. "I [mostly] mentally preparing, I will be excited on Saturday.

Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer has had an exemplary year. He finished first in both races he competed in at home and was named second team All-Big Ten at the Big Ten Championships.

Fischer, the Mid-Atlantic Men's Athlete of the Year, is making his second trip to the NCAA Championships this weekend after a phenomenal first-place finish at the Regional meet with a time of 30 minutes, 16 seconds.

"I was pretty excited and just to see how well the team did was exciting. It was a bit of a let down when we found out that we didn't make it [to Nationals]," said Fischer. "Personally, it ended up working out and I think it set me up well for this week."

As Fischer looks to end his senior year in the best way he can, his second trip to Terre Haute, Indiana provides opportunity for preparation.

"Last year was my first time there and I wanted to go out there and get All-American but there were 70-80 guys that at any given day could fall in there too," said Fischer. "I'm just more mentally and physical ready [this year] and I'm more confident."

In 2013, Fischer posted a 78th place finish in 31 minutes, 6 seconds, a 10,000-meter time.

"I feel that I still have work to do and I'm not satisfied at all and I want a big result this weekend," he said. "Making sure I feel good is all that matters at this point. There's only one left and I have to put all my energy into that one."

This weekend will see Fischer final collegiate cross country race, however, he doesn't fear the end quite yet as he stays focused on the mission.

"I'm really excited. I feel like I'm in the best spot I've been all season at the right time and as long as I can put that together on Saturday and I can walk away happy with what I did, it'll be a good end to the season," he said.

Hunsberger will represent the Nittany Lions in the 6,000-meter run set to kick off at noon on Saturday followed by the men's 10,000-meter run slated for 1 p.m.

By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In less than twenty-four hours the Penn State men's and women's cross country teams will gear up to run at one of this season's most important meets yet, the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

Head coach John Gondak and the Nittany Lions are thrilled about the opportunity to host the region-wide event and they are looking forward to seeing some of the top teams the Mid-Atlantic has to offer gather in Happy Valley.

"I really look forward to providing an opportunity for the 32 teams that are coming in this weekend and giving them an outstanding experience," said Gondak. "I know [the meet has] been on [the team's] mind and I know they're excited."

Anticipating the Competition

The trails and locker rooms have been murmuring all week as excitement for the race sets in for student-athletes and coaches.

This Friday, the Nittany Lions will look to qualify for the 2014 NCAA National Championships and they're confident in their training, which has set stage for this race.

Coming off a record-breaking third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago, the team's confidence on the men's side is at an all-time high. 

"We're excited to get back in the game with this weekend's meet. [Big Tens] was a new burst of energy for the team and to bring that into regionals is exciting," said fifth-year senior Matt Fischer.

The women's side has performed with tremendous consistency this season in their pack strategy and concentration. This weekend looks to be no different.

"We have a really positive attitude going into Regionals and we're looking for some good turnouts," said senior Katie Rodden.

As top-ranked teams like No. 2 Georgetown (women) and No. 7 Villanova (men) trickle into town, Fischer and Rodden will look to edge the competition with their experience.

Both seniors are contenders for a positive result after showing continuous improvement at all regional competitions within the last four years and both have been preparing persistently as they hope to leave their mark in their final home outing.

"We just want to do what we need to do to get to the NCAA meet. We want to perform well and use that to get to NCAAs and kill it there too," said Fischer.

"I definitely want to be All-Region again and [I want] to help put our team in a position to make it to Nationals," said Rodden.


Defending the Home Turf

This weekend, Gondak marks his ninth Mid-Atlantic Regional competition as a part of the Penn State program and even after almost a decade of coaching the Nittany Lions, championship racing still sparks adrenaline.

"Every time we can host a championship event at home, it's thrilling," said Gondak. "As soon as the Big Ten [Championship] meet finished, the excitement surrounding the Regional meet has been building since then."

With this year's race location set for Penn State's home turf at the Blue-White Golf courses, the team will compete in a convenient and fun atmosphere.

"That's an exciting factor to this year's competition. We feel like it's an advantage to know that we're really familiar with the course. It's a nice thing to have and I think it will work in our favor," said Fischer.

"The fact that we're able to train on the golf course on a regular basis allows our student-athletes to have a really good feel for [the course]. It gives them an advantage but at the end of the day everybody is out there racing and racing hard and we've got some extremely talented teams in our region," said Gondak. "We're looking forward to going out and doing the best we can do."

Facing Opponents

The senior student-athletes running on Friday like Lauren Mills, Matt Fischer, and Katie Rodden avoid talk of leaving behind the blue and white as they approach the final stages of the season, but they're all aware of the opportunities that surround them.

As for Fischer and Rodden, they anticipate their last time stepping up to their home start line to be memorable and exhilarating.

"The mentality going in [we're thinking] it's a qualifying meet. I personally want to do whatever I can to help the team...Go out there and stay relaxed. [I want to] just help myself [and the team] have the best race [we] can," said Fischer.

The younger Nittany Lions are bringing out their best post-season strategies to ensure the team has the best outcome it's capable of and they're excited to compete against some of the greatest runners in the area of Friday.

"As I always say, I'm not big on predictions...I'm just hoping they can go out there and put themselves in a position to qualify for the National Championship," said Gondak.

The event will bring an exciting atmosphere to campus full of fans, athletes, free giveaways, and upbeat music. Festivities kick-off with the women's 6K at noon followed by the men's 10K race at 1 p.m. 

By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Championship season is always the most exhilarating.

This weekend the Penn State cross country team travels to the University of Iowa to begin its post-season and face some familiar foes at the 2014 Big Ten Championship meet.

There's a lot of excitement surrounding the event as the Nittany Lions prepare to face a handful of ranked teams including the No. 1 Michigan State and No. 4 Michigan women and the No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 14 Michigan men.

While the teams will look to build off their previous meets and show improvement against their elite opponents, they're mostly excited about the intensity that comes with conference racing.

A pair of senior women consisting of Lauren Mills and Katie Rodden will travel to the Big Ten Championship for their last time but the days leading up to the race haven't lost their thrill.

"Championship time is always fun. [The] Big Ten [Championship] in general is always a good meet," said Rodden. "It's tradition that ten days out [from the event] we have themed days [at practice]. It's something silly to get us excited."

There were a few nerds and some barn animals running around the course at practice this week but the fun didn't distract the team from their goals.

"Same mindset going in," said Rodden. "Obviously [we're looking for] improvement and I know people were satisfied [last meet] but we know that we can do better. At the Big Ten meet you know all the colors and you can see exactly who you need to beat."

The freshmen women have stepped up to the plate this season showing consistency and determination. They are sure to display their best performance yet at their first conference championship outing.

"Particularly on the women's side Elizabeth [Chikotas] and Jillian [Hunsberger] have been making an impact and have been consistently in the top five this year. I'm excited to see what they can do at the Big Ten meet. It's very competitive but they're prepared," said head coach John Gondak.

"It's exciting to have them. Even though they're freshman they act older and more mature and I'm confident they are going to race well," said Rodden.

On the men's side, the pack is full of depth and experience, a change and advantage compared to previous years.

"[The] upperclassmen are leading the way and they're prepared and have a lot of experience. [They're] looking to make their mark," said Gondak.

Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer is returning to the Big Ten Championship as one of the top athletes after posting a third-place finish in 2013. He is accompanied by strong competitors like Brannon Kidder and Robby Creese.

"We as a team are no different than the other ones. We train the same and there's no need to have expectations lower than any other team," said Fischer. "We have some high goals. We're looking for one of those days where everyone has a great race and there's no better place to do that than at [the Big Ten Championship]."

The teams will rely strongly on their confidence to help them get through the weekend but they're determined to have a great time regardless of the outcomes.

"I'm fantasizing about dream outcomes for the team," said Fischer with a smile. "It's easy to be really engaged because it's a small [competitive] environment."

"It's the Big Ten meet, you're just looking forward to going out and watch everyone go head to head," said Gondak.

The Big Ten Championship will mark its 100th anniversary on Sunday morning at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. The women are set to begin their 6k run at 10:45 a.m. CDT and the men will compete in an 8k run at 11:45 a.m. CDT.


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