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FEATURE: Just Do It, Scarp

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Prior to the year 1978, Nike was simply the name of the Greek goddess who personified victory, seen in statues as one with wings. Now, a simple Google search of the word "Nike" and not one link regarding the Greek goddess can be found on the first 15 pages of the search results. Instead, each result describes a different Nike, a Nike that has become the goddess of the sports business.

9192769.jpegSince 1978, Nike has become one of the most valuable brands among sports businesses. The company is the Starbucks of sports consumerism. Just like Starbucks is located on every other street corner, a Nike "Swoosh" logo can be seen on just about every other person.

Simply walking down College Ave. here in State College, it is clear that Nike is a major sponsor of the athletic programs at Penn State. Ironically enough, the current CEO of Nike is a Penn State graduate by the name of Mark Parker.

This past summer Nike became even more blue and white when one talented student athlete and captain of the Penn State men's cross country team, Nick "Scarp" Scarpello, received the opportunity of a lifetime. Scarpello interned at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., as a track and field sports marketing intern.

"Getting to be at the heart of our sport with the company that really is the legs that this sport stands on, not only in the United States but also in the world, was just a really cool experience," said the senior Scarpello.

Thanks to Nate Althouse, who is the Varsity "S" Development Coordinator at Penn State, Scarpello was able to obtain his internship with Nike. Althouse opened the door at Penn State when he invited current student athletes to an information session. There, John Gallagher, a member of the Nike talent acquisition team, recruited athletes with strong resumes and superior grades.

"There was quite a bit to the application process, but it all worked out in the end, and I'm really glad I was able to do it," said Scarpello.

Like any internship, Scarpello articulated that he learned quite a bit. He stressed the importance of developing relationships and hinted that sports marketing is very much a "qualitative field."

"I learned this summer about the way [Nike] goes above and beyond for the elite track and field team in order to field the world's No. 1 athletics team," said Scarpello.

Speaking of developing relationships, Scarpello's internship with Nike allowed him to meet several successful men and women long distance runners this past summer.

Scarpello had the chance to meet the likes of Olympic gold-medalists Ashton Eaton and Aries Merritt, and Olympic silver-medalists Galen Rupp, Trey Hardee and Bernard Lagat. Additionally, he also met Nike runners Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky.

Noting that he did not want to leave out the females he met either, Scarpello added that he was introduced to Nike runners Kara Goucher, Jordan Hasay and Tara Erdmann.

Even with all the triumphant long distance runners that Scarpello met, he left the Nike headquarters slightly disappointed because of one special runner that he did not have the pleasure of meeting. That runner is two-time Olympic gold-medalist Mo Farah.

"I was a little bummed I didn't get to meet [Farah], but he was so busy setting the world on fire this summer," said Scarpello.

Since Scarpello had the chance to meet all these famous athletes, it is not out of the ordinary to think that he took advantage of the situation and trained a little bit with the Nike-sponsored runners. However, that was not the case. Other than an easy run together here or there, Scarpello explained that he "was not doing workouts with them."

Rather, Scarpello focused on the sports marketing aspect of the internship that involved simply getting to know the athletes.

"My number one responsibility as a Nike marketing intern was making the Nike experience for the athlete the best that it possibly could be," said Scarpello. "The athletes helped remind me why I love this sport."

But like any summer internship, the experience must come to a sudden end. Now Scarpello and the rest of his cross country team must look ahead as their season begins this Friday, Sept. 6 at the annual Dolan Duals at Lock Haven.

"Lock Haven is just a first step, but it is an important first step," said Scarpello. "Come Friday we will determine exactly who is going to be racing and who isn't."

For a senior captain who finished third overall at the Dolan Duals last season, it is quite obvious that Scarpello has set some tall goals for himself and the team this upcoming season.

"My goal is to do whatever I need to facilitate a victory for our team. Whether that means going and winning the thing or whether it means doing a workout and cheering on the guys that do race. Whatever it takes," said Scarpello. "If those five up front do the job that they are asked to do, and they run for each other, we should come out on top."

At the helm of Penn State cross country is head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan, who noted that "Scarp" as she and the rest of the team like to call him "has really stepped into the role of being a captain."

"When I think of Scarp he is one of the truest Penn Staters I've ever met," said Sullivan. "He loves this university. He loves being a student athlete at this university and representing as an ambassador for the university through sports."

It is clear that Nick Scarpello is more than just a runner who happens to be a great influence on his team and university. Scarp proved over the summer that he is capable of hurdling the goddess of victory in order to be able to "Just Do It." 

Nittany Lions Look To Get Off And Running On 2013 Season

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since strapping up the laces for the first practice of the season on Wednesday last week, both the men's and women's cross country teams have been training with one goal in mind heading into the 2013 season - making progress each day.

9173004.jpegLed by seniors Victoria Perri and Rebekka Simko, the women's cross country team begins the season ranked No. 11 in the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll.

"The women are poised and ready to maintain a top 15 finish. We've been at the nationals the last four years and had three top 15 finishes out of those years," said head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "They certainly don't want to be the team to take a step backwards. They are prepared for that. We have a good squad to be able to maintain that."

Even with such confidence in the women, Sullivan took note of a couple obstacles the ladies will have to weather to be successful during the 2013 season.

I think it's going to be staying healthy," said Sullivan. "We've got some big shoes to fill when we lost two of our top five to graduation and both of them were kids that were four-year run nationals appearances."

Whereas the women's team was a "very simple answer" as Sullivan put it, the men's team heads into 2013 looking to be more consistent.

On the guys' side, we've been kind of a hot and cold. We've been at NCAAs and we've missed getting to NCAAs," said Sullivan. "This is an exciting men's team and if they are able to capitalize on our competition through the regular season and set themselves up to get to NCAAs, they could be relatively dangerous once we get there."

Two keys to unlock the success of the men's team are the development of freshman Brannon Kidder and sophomore Robby Creese from sprinters to long-distance runners.

"It's an adaptation. They've really have to take it relatively slow," said Sullivan. "Both Brannon and Robbie were redshirted their freshman years of cross country and really just trained alongside guys and got used to doing some of the training and some of the mileage."

Ranked as the preseason No. 5 team in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Nittany Lions are guided by team captains red-shirt junior Matt Fischer and senior Nick Scarpello.

"I think pulling from the leadership of some of the older guys, we are looking at a team that is poised to, for the next several years, be able to continue to make an impact in the region and in the Big Ten," said Scarpello. "We've always had a solid long-term goal and every year the goal has been the same, get to Nationals, and this year we are going to be careful about what specifically we want to do in the long term and just focus on the process."

With both the men's and women's teams anxiously awaiting the commencement of their seasons on
Sept. 6 at the annual Dolan Duals at Lock Haven, it is important to note that one of the benefits of being a runner for Penn State cross country is the fact that Happy Valley houses arguably one of the toughest courses in the region.

The home meets are great," said Scarpello. "There's a lot of pride in knowing that of all the cross country courses I have ran in college, we definitely have the toughest course."

Cross country is a unique sport in that the summer months are very independent for the runners. It is up to the athletes to continue to train and follow the right diets to be prepared for the upcoming season.

"A lot of our sport - I mean obviously it's a really tough, grit sport - you've got to log the miles, put in the training and put in the up-front work," said Sullivan. "You also mentally have to be a very competitive person and a very sharp person."

For now the runners are in luck because Coach Sullivan pointed out the fit shape that the runners were noticeably able to maintain over the summer months.

But for Sullivan it is not about how fit the teams are now, it is about how fit the runners are when November rolls around with NCAAs just beyond the next mile marker.

Vote for the Top Penn State Sports Event of 2012

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2012 calendar year was one marked by excellence and achievement from numerous Penn State teams.

8416786.jpegAs we close in on the final days of 2012, wanted to take time and reflect on a tremendous year for Penn State Athletics.  The hiring of head coach Bill O'Brien on Jan. 6, in many ways, set a tone for the athletic department throughout the calendar year.  O'Brien's introductory press conference highlighted a clear vision for how the football program would try to do its part in helping the athletic department move forward as One Team.

The results speak for themselves, and all 31 Penn State teams across the University Park campus should be recognized for their efforts in 2012.  The list of achievements on the field of play, including one national title and seven Big Ten titles, and in the classroom, including more than 270 Academic All-Big Ten honorees, is tremendous.

The spring season included a Big Ten and NCAA title from the wrestling team for second-straight season.  Three Nittany Lion wrestlers - Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth - won individual national titles.  The Lady Lions, who clinched a Big Ten title on the BJC hardwood in February, earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.  The men's volleyball team earned a trip to the NCAA National Semifinals for the 27th time.  The women's lacrosse team reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.

Additionally, 171 Penn State student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades during the winter and spring seasons.  Men's gymnastics' Miguel Pineda was named a first Academic All-American.

The fall campaign was one for the Penn State record books.  Penn State won five Big Ten championships and had five coaches selected conference coach of the year.  The field hockey team (Char Morett) won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, the men's soccer team (Bob Warming), women's soccer (Erica Walsh) and women's volleyball (Russ Rose) teams all won Big Ten championships.  Additionally, after leading the Nittany Lion football team to an 8-4 campaign, including six Big Ten wins, Bill O'Brien was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

In postseason competition, the women's soccer team reached the NCAA College Cup Final for the first time in program history.  The women's volleyball team played in the NCAA National Semifinals for the 10th time in school history.  The women's cross country team captured the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional crown on its home course.

The story was much of the same in the classroom.  A fall record 100 Penn State student-athletes achieved Academic All-Big Ten recognition this semester, including a trio of 4.0 students - football's John Urschel, women's volleyball's Maggie Harding and women's cross country's Katie Rodden.  Football's Pete Massaro and Urschel earned first team Academic All-America honors.  Harding won the Elite 89 Award for the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship for having the highest cumulative grade point average of student-athletes participating in the championship.

With so many events to choose from, narrowing down the list of outstanding Penn State sporting events from 2012 to just 10 was a challenge, but here are your 10 nominees for the top sporting event of the outstanding 2012 calendar year for Penn State Athletics.

From now until Dec. 28, cast your vote for the top event of the year.

7550286.jpegMen's Track's Robby Creese Breaks Four-Minute Mile
February 12, 2012 - Seattle, Wash. - Freshman Robby Creese runs 3:59.52 mile

Freshman phenom Robby Creese etched his place in Penn State history by becoming just the third athlete in school history to break the four-minute barrier in the mile run at the Flotrack Husky Classic at the University of Washington.  Riding the wave of momentum following a superb start to his first indoor track season in Happy Valley, Creese ran a 3:59.52 mile, which was the second fastest in Penn State indoor track history.  Creese joined Ryan Foster and Larry Mangan as the only three Nittany Lions to crack four minutes.

7674055.jpegWrestling Clinches Second-Straight NCAA Title
March 17, 2012 - St. Louis, Mo. - Penn State Clinches NCAA Championship

Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Penn State wrestling team reached the mountain top of the wrestling world for the second-straight season with a truly dominant performance at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.  The Nittany Lions mathematically clinched their third all-time team national title during the morning session inside the Scottrade Center on final day of competition at the three-day tournament.  Penn State put icing on the cake with three individual national champions, including senior Frank Molinaro (149), sophomore David Taylor (165) and sophomore Ed Ruth (174), who finished the 2011-'12 season with a combined record of 88-0.  Penn State cleared second-place Minnesota by 26.5 points in the final team standings.

8416705.jpegWomen's Basketball Beats LSU for Sweet Sixteen Berth
March 21, 2012 - Baton Rouge, La. - Penn State 90, LSU 80

When the 2012 NCAA Tournament draw was released, the fourth-seeded Lady Lions knew their road to the Sweet Sixteen would likely include a clash against fifth-seeded LSU on its home floor.  The Big Ten regular season champion Lions dispatched UTEP in the first round in Baton Rouge, setting up a showdown with the host Tigers for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.  LSU led 37-36 at halftime before claiming a 50-44 edge in the second half.  However scoring runs of 9-2 and 8-2 from Penn State in in the second half, along with a 30-point night from Maggie Lucas fueled the Lions for a 90-80 victory over LSU in a hostile Maravich Center.  The Lady Lion victory sent Penn State into the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.

7821970.jpegMen's Volleyball Tops George Mason for 14th-Straight EIVA Crown
April 28, 2012 - Rec Hall - Penn State 3, George Mason 1

Penn State's string of success in the EIVA is unmatched.  On the heels of the heels of claiming the best record in the conference in 2012, Penn State earned the luxury of hosting the championship match on its home floor.  The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions used 15 kills from Joe Sunder and 11 kills from freshman Aaron Russell to claim a 3-1 victory over George Mason in the EIVA title match inside Rec Hall.  The Lions quickly built a 2-0 lead after a strong start to the match, but George Mason answered by winning the third set.  Nonetheless, Penn State erased a 12-9 Patriot lead in the fourth set en route to the victory, automatic bid in the national semifinals and its 27th appearance in the NCAA Championship.

navyfootball.jpgFootball Downs Navy for Bill O'Brien's First Win
September 15, 2012 - Beaver Stadium - Penn State 34, Navy 7

Following an 0-2 start to the 2012 season, the Nittany Lion football team had one of the best practices of its season on the Monday of Navy week.  Penn State did not look back from there.  Led by three touchdowns from standout sophomore receiver Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions rolled past Navy, 34-7, en route to the first victory for head coach Bill O'Brien.  The Lions led 20-0 at halftime following a pair of Robinson scores and a third touchdown pass from Matt McGloin to Jesse James.  McGloin finished with four touchdown passes, and sophomore Mike Hull put an exclamation point on the victory with a 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second half.  O'Brien received a shower of water when the clock ticked to 0:00, and the win kick-started a string of five-straight victories for the Nittany Lions. 

8416731.jpegField Hockey Shuts Out Michigan for Big Ten Title Sweep
November 4, 2012 - Iowa City, Iowa - Penn State 2, Michigan 0

On the heels of winning the Big Ten regular season title, the Nittany Lion field hockey team capped off an impressive run through the postseason tournament draw with a dominant defensive performance against third-seeded Michigan.  Standout senior forward Kelsey Amy tallied both of Penn State's goals to lead the Nittany Lions to a 2-0 victory over the Wolverines and their second-straight Big Ten Tournament championship.  Senior goalkeeper Ayla Halus notched three saves and earned her fourth shutout of the season.  The victory boosted the Lions into hosting NCAA Tournament competition for second time in three seasons.

8308722.jpegWomen's Cross Country Claims NCAA Regional Title on Home Course
November 9, 2012 - Blue/White Course - Penn State Clinches NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional

There is no better motivation for a team to enter a season knowing it has an opportunity to host postseason competition at home.  When the Nittany Lion cross country team began its formal preparations for 2012 at the end of the summer, it knew the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals loomed on the Blue/White Course loomed in early November.  Penn State took full advantage of the opportunity and unseasonably warm weather to edge No. 9 and defending NCAA champion Georgetown (61-63) for a victory.  Junior Victoria Perri and senior Brooklyne Ridder led the way with fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively.  The Lions went on to finish 14th at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17.

8416748.jpegFootball Ousts Wisconsin on Senior Day to Remember
November 24, 2012 - Beaver Stadium - Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 OT

It would have been hard to script a better ending to the 2012 football season.  A senior class that will forever be remembered for its commitment to Penn State had to earn ever ounce of success it achieved, even on its special day.  After an emotional senior ceremony to honor the 31 members of the senior class, the Nittany Lions quickly found themselves down 7-0 to Wisconsin.  The Lions rallied back to take a 21-14 lead until the final 18 seconds of the game when the Badgers sent the contest into overtime with a late score.  Sam Ficken's leg put Penn State up 24-21 in OT before a missed field goal preserved the Senior Day win.  Defensive tackle Jordan Hill was the star of the show.  Hill was simply not going to let the Lions be denied in his final game, notching 12 tackles in dominant fashion.

8369918 (1).jpegWomen's Soccer Edges Florida State in Dramatic Fashion for first Trip to College Cup Final
November 30, 2012 - San Diego, Calif. - Penn State 2, Florida State 1 OT

After winning its 15th-straight Big Ten title, the Nittany Lion women's soccer team etched its place in program history with a remarkable run through the NCAA Tournament.  But the string of postseason victories will be trademarked by a soggy night in San Diego on the final day of November.  The Nittany Lions had been to the College Cup three times before their trip to the West Coast, but never to the College Cup Final.  Senior midfielder Christine Nairn changed that with an overtime goal that will live in Penn State women's soccer lore forever.  After taking a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute, Penn State held on until the final 48 seconds when Florida State tied the contest in improbable fashion.  Nevertheless, Penn State's senior class was not going to let the season end.  A long pass from Maddy Evans on the right wing into the box set up Nairn's tap-in, game-winner from six yards out, sending Nittany Lion women's soccer into the College Cup Final for the first time in program history.

8393292.jpegWomen's Volleyball Punches Ticket to 10th NCAA Semifinal
December 8, 2012 - West Lafayette, Ind. - Penn State 3, Minnesota 1

Faced with the task of needing a third victory over the same team to earn a spot in the NCAA National Semifinals, the top-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team entered its regional final match in Purdue's Mackey Arena focused on the task at hand.  Penn State built a 5-0 lead over eighth-seeded Minnesota in set one en route to a 1-0 lead in the match.  No strangers to adversity, though, the Nittany Lions dropped set two and found themselves in a 23-21 deficit in the third set.  Just two points from going down 2-1 in the match, Penn State answered.  Micha Hancock and Deja McClendon combined for four-straight tallies to make it 25-24 before Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott finished the match with a kill, punching Penn State's ticket into the NCAA Semifinals for the fifth time in six season and the 10th time in school history.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Perri and Masters Power Lions as Women Take Regional Title, Men Finish Fifth

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - On an afternoon that presented perfect running conditions, the Penn State's women's cross country team raced to a first place finish in team standings at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals, while the men's squad took fifth place.

8294669.jpegCompeting against 31 schools, the women edged out defending national champion Georgetown, 61-63 in points, while the men (147 points) finished behind Georgetown, Villanova, Princeton, and American University in that order.

For the women, the victory was extremely sweet, as the squad entered the race ranked behind Georgetown and had expected to battle Villanova and Princeton for the second spot.

Instead, they found themselves in first place, something head coach Beth Alford Sullivan stated she could not be more proud of them for.

"To beat the defending national champions is a big feather in the cap," said Sullivan. "It's a well earned victory for these gals."

Leading the way for the women's squad was junior Tori Perri, who finished fourth overall with a time of 20.31. The Nittany Lions also got top 25 finishes from senior Brooklyne Ridder (sixth), Junior Rebekka Simko (10th), sophomore Leigha Anderson (20th), and junior Emily Giannotti (21st).

Perri, who stated that she was surprised to have finished so high, seemed more excited by her team's victory than her own impressive performance.

"I'm really happy with how our team ran today," said Perri. "It's really exciting to do as well as we did and that's definitely the best part."

Something that both Sullivan and Perri stressed was key to the squad's victory was their ability to run together in a pack at the front of the race.

"The way we ran is certainly the way to do it in cross country," said Sullivan. "You have to have a pack on top if you want to do well."

Perri agreed that her teammate's ability to stick together made a big difference during the course of the race.

"It always helps to have someone by your side," said Perri. "It keeps you comfortable and relaxed and makes you want to work hard for the girl next to you."

On the men's side, the star of the day was senior Sam Masters, who finished 12th overall with a time of 30.48, and put himself in place to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

"I put everything I had into that last mile," said Masters. "This race meant a lot to me and it means a lot to make it to Nationals."

Masters stressed that the extra training he put in to prepare for the team's first 10K was what gave him the ability and confidence to perform well.

"I put in 120 miles a week for about a month straight," said Masters. "I knew that I was ready to go and I felt so confident."

While the longer course made the race more of a challenge for the men, their familiarity from running in it in practice gave them the strength to handle the extra mile.

"This is the first time for the entire field to run a 10K so it really becomes a grit race," said Sullivan. "It's a very difficult course but having the experience practicing on it really did pay off."

Being familiar with the course was a factor that helped play into the women's race as well.

"It's one of the more difficult courses we run," said Perri. "Having the opportunity to work out on it and get familiar with it really helps."

Overall, Sullivan stated she was thrilled with the efforts of both squads.

"I think we've had this kind of race in us all season," said Sullivan. "We've been building towards this and everyone really pieced together a great race."

The Nittany Lions will finish their season at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, which take place Nov. 17 at the University of Louisville.

Nittany Lions Return Home for Regionals

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By Matt Allibone, Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - It's been two months since the Penn State cross country teams have had the opportunity to race on their home course.

That will change on Friday when the Nittany Lions play host to the 2012 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.

8285313.jpegBoth the men and women's squads have been looking forward to running on the Blue & White Golf Course, where they have not had the chance to compete since Sept 8.

"We're really excited to have another chance at home," said head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "It's an electric environment to compete at."

Not only are both squads looking forward to running in front of their own fans, they also believe their knowledge of the course gives them a strong home field advantage.

'We know this course, we practice on this course, and we own this course," said junior Emily Giannotti. "That makes it even more exciting."

Senior captain Tyler Corkedale agreed that being familiar with the course should benefit the team.

"It's a tough course but that benefits us because we run it so much," said Corkedale. "The teams coming in may have seen it once or twice but they don't know it like we do."

Another aspect that could play to the Nittany Lion's advantage is the distance of the race.

While the women will be running their usual 6,000 meters, the men will be running a slightly longer distance than usual at 10,000 meters, something they are accustomed to doing on the course in practice.

"We add a mile on which goes in our favor," said Sullivan. "As long as our guys stay tough and stay in a pack we should be able to close well since it's our course."

One factor that will potentially affect strategy is the amount of teams competing in the meet.

Coming off of the Big Ten Championships that featured just 12 schools, the Nittany Lion's will now be facing more than 30 schools on Friday.

Despite this, Sullivan believes her teams can make the race seem smaller by staying up at the front of the pack.

"Both of our squads are front end teams," said Sullivan. "It may be a lot of people but we should be able to make it a relatively small race up front."

Both squads enter the meet with the aspirations to qualify for the National Championships.

The women, who are currently ranked behind defending national champion Georgetown, will be looking for the automatic bid that comes with a top two finish.

While Sullivan knows her team will be challenged for the second automatic bid from schools such as Villanova and Princeton, she is optimistic about her team's chances.

"We got to really compete for it and we can't afford to fall asleep," said Sullivan. "We're going to fight a really good battle though and it should be really exciting."

The men's squad, who enter the race ranked behind Georgetown and Princeton, will be in tough competition with a number of schools including Villanova for an at-large bid.

"We're going to try to put ourselves in a position to upset somebody," said Sullivan. "Hopefully we can knock somebody off."

Between both their training and their experiences competing in meets both large and small this season, Sullivan believes her runners could not be more prepared to race on Friday.

"I think we've really come together well," said Sullivan. "We understand our goals, we're well prepared, and we're healthy and feeling good."

Since it is the team's last chance to compete at home this season, a pair of berths to National Championships would mean that much more to the seniors whose careers are winding down.

"It's going to be emotional," said Corkedale. "It could be my last cross country race and it's my last chance to run in front of our home crowd."

Sullivan agreed that the meet will be extra special because of the seniors.

"I'm very excited for our seniors," said Sullivan. "Having a second chance for them to compete at home is very important to us." 

Nittany Lions Gear Up for Big Ten Championships

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - They've been looking forward to this moment all season, and on Sunday both the Penn State women's and men's cross country teams get the chance to prove themselves against their conference at the Big Ten Championships.

The meet, which takes place at Michigan State,

8230935.jpeg will feature all 12 teams that make up the Big Ten.

When asked about the meet, head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan couldn't contain her excitement about facing their competition.

"It's a great opportunity to go head to head with everybody," said Sullivan. "It's a rare sport that gets to do that and our kids and I are excited for it."

Sullivan was also quick to mention how her teams training in preparation for the meet has kept them in excellent shape.

"We've had a great cycle of workouts starting from the end of last week," said Sullivan. "Now we're trying to make sure their legs are good and fresh going into this weekend."

Along with making sure her team is in top physical shape, Sullivan wants to ensure that they are mentally prepared to handle the pressure of a big race as well.

"I just tell them to embrace the fun and get excited about what's at hand," said Sullivan. "It's all about keeping it relaxed, loose, and being confident.

Junior Nick Scarpello agreed with his coach and stated that the key to staying calm for a race of this magnitude is to keep your mindset the same as always.

"For a meet like this, we like to approach it like any other race," said Scarpello. "For us it's like business as usual."

One thing that Sullivan did stress is how the team's strategy changes with only nine runners competing from each school.

"The tactics change because the runners have a clear vision of the race," said Sullivan. "They can see their teammates better and run in a pack better so the strategy changes so they can team perform."

This is a factor that Sullivan believes could play into the Nittany Lions favor, as they have raced in both large and small meets this season.

"I think we're really ready," said Sullivan. "We've run the gamut on all the things that the sport produces and we've seen a lot of the Big Ten.

Junior Rebekka Simko agreed that the Nittany Lion's are prepared for the challenge, since they have already faced some of the best competition the country has to offer this season.

"We've been against the best in the country," said Simko. "We know we can run with these schools.

Both squads enter the race with high aspirations for themselves. Sullivan believes the men's squad can place in the top five.

"We finished sixth last year, so we're looking to crack that top five," said Sullivan. "That's the standard and hopefully we can get into the upper echelon.

Scarpello shared Sullivan's opinion on the goal for his team.

"We're standing by our goal at the beginning on the season which was to finish fifth," said Scarpello. "We're going to have to run well but it just means performing up to our capabilities."

Some of the schools that the men's squad will be sure to keep an eye on are the defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers, as well as Michigan.

"Wisconsin looks to be highly the favorites," said Sullivan. "Michigan has also been running extremely well lately."

On the women's side, the 13th-ranked Nittany Lion's will be in tough competition with seventh-ranked Michigan and 15th-ranked Michigan State for the title.

"Michigan State is the two time defending champs and they've got the home field advantage," said Sullivan. "Michigan is having a phenomenal season and they're the one team we haven't seen yet."

In Sullivan's opinion, the school that ends up winning will be the one that manages to get some unexpected breakout performances.

"The team that wins this weekend is going to be the one that pulls off some surprise performances," said Sullivan. "If someone comes through with a bigger race then they have all year and gives their team an extra punch then that could determine it."

The one factor that Sullivan believes will be huge for her runners is their ability to run together.

"Our girls have been running so tight amongst each other," said Sullivan. "If that pack can stay tight on the front end then we're going to be really dangerous."

Sullivan also expressed how much it would mean to see this group of girls win the title.

"This would be huge," said Sullivan. "We've been in contention every year and to pull off the win would really set the standard for the program."

Simko echoed her coach's sentiments on what winning would mean to the program.

"It would be unbelievable," said Simko. "It would be a great way for the seniors to end their careers."

Though the competition will be tough, the Nittany Lion's believe that can pull off their goal.

"We're looking at it as it's ours to steal, not ours to lose," said Sullivan. "If we keep that attitude we'll have a great shot."

Ridder and Bower Look Forward to Last Big Ten Championships

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four years ago, they were starry-eyed freshmen, honored to be apart of a team that won the Big Ten Championships.


Now as seniors, Brooklyne Ridder and Natalie Bower want nothing more than to lead the Penn State women's cross country team to that same goal in their final season.

"Winning the Big Ten Championships would be the perfect ending to our four years on the cross country team," said Ridder. "I couldn't imagine a better ending."

Bower couldn't have agreed more with her teammate's sentiments.

"It would be a dream come true," said Bower. "We would love to have that goal achieved."

With the Nittany Lions ranked 13th nationally and only trailing Michigan (seventh) in terms of Big Ten schools, the two senior captains know that their goal is attainable, and are extremely proud of their team's performance up to this point in the season.

"It's been really exciting to perform well and to run strong," said Ridder. "It's definitely giving us a lot of confidence."

After having both qualified for the NCAA Championships their first three years at Penn State, Ridder and Bower have continued to give strong individual performances this season, having both finished in the Nittany Lion's top five in every race they have run this year.

They maintained that they have welcomed the pressure of having the team count on them, since they have extremely high expectations of themselves, as well.

"Natalie and I have had good performances since freshmen year, so we knew expectations were going to be high," said Ridder. "We expect a lot out of ourselves too though."

Not only have they embraced the pressure of being among the team's top performers, but also the pressure of leading the team as captains.

"Being a captain you automatically put some pressure on yourself," said Bower. "But it's all part of being a senior on the team."

Ridder added that being a captain is easier knowing that she has both Bower and fellow senior captain Lindsey Graybill to count on.

"The three of us work together really well," said Ridder. "I know that the two of them always have my back."

Both Ridder and Bower also stated that the underclassmen on the team have made their job easier with their strong performances.

"The younger girls stepping it up have been a great help," said Ridder. "Being able to have a team that runs together as a pack has been amazing."

Bower was quick to add that the entire team's work ethic during the course of the season has also been a source of pride.

"We've been working really hard in both our workouts and our daily runs," said Bower. "Not just our mileage but also our strength and our core."

Along with their teammates, Ridder and Bower both made sure to credit head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan with their continued success.

"Every year she sets the expectations a little bit higher," said Ridder. "She's been great to work with and I love having her as a coach."

Bower also praised Alford-Sullivan on her ability to get the best out of her and her teammates.

"She realizes we need to work hard to achieve what we want to do," said Bower. "I really appreciate her working with me."

With their final season winding down, both girls have been trying to put their cross country careers in perspective.

"It feels like a few days ago that we were freshmen," said Bower. "It shows you got to make it count while it lasts."

Ridder shared her teammate's opinion on the subject.

"I look back and I feel like I was just starting," said Ridder. "It's definitely hitting me now that I have three races left in my senior year."

Whether or not this season ends in a Big Ten title, Ridder and Bower both cannot believe their time with the Penn State women's cross country team is coming to an end.

"It's sad that I only have three races left," said Ridder. "It would be great to end this season on a good note."

Bower agreed, and stated she will miss the camaraderie between her teammates.

"It's something special to have this many girls work together so well," said Bower. "It'll be sad to move on."

The Nittany Lions will compete at the Big Ten Championships on Oct 28 at Michigan State University.

With Season Underway, Fischer Eyes Nationals

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- Last year, the Penn State men's cross country team finished the season with a bad taste in their mouths, after they didn't qualify for the NCAA Championships.


It is a feeling that redshirt sophomore Matt Fischer is not intent on repeating for the second-straight year.

"The biggest thing for us is to make it to Nationals as a team," said Fischer. "Its something that we missed out on last year, unfortunately."

Fischer and the team hopes to build on a strong outing at home earlier this season.

After sitting out the squad's first meet at Lock Haven, Fischer led the lions with a second place finish at the Harry Groves Spike Shoe Invitational, a performance that he expected from himself.

"I expected to do well," said Fischer.  "It's a small field and it came against guys that we race against pretty often so I knew what to expect."

With the Nittany Lions set to race again next Saturday at Louisville, Fischer stressed how excited he is to get back to competition.

"Its definitely exciting," said Fischer. "We get a chance to score some at-large points for later in the season."

One aspect about the remainder of the season that Fischer is particularly excited about is the opportunity to compete on a larger scale.

"It's exciting to get out there and see some bigger meets," said Fischer. "It's a fun way to start up the season again by traveling."

While Fischer has gotten off to a hot start this year, he maintained that he is looking to continue this type of performance for the rest of the season.

"I want to keep a level performance throughout the season," said Fischer. "I felt I was a little inconsistent last year."

While Fischer's redshirt freshmen campaign consisted of him finishing in the top seven for the Nittany Lions in every meet he competed in, he still feels as if he has made major strides entering this year.

"I have a lot more confidence this year," said Fischer. "I definitely have a better handle on the way to train."

Fischer was quick to attribute his ability to compete to the training he put forth this summer.

"Last season I trained too hard during the summer but this season I figured out how to have a better summer," said Fischer. "There's a fine line between quality and quantity."

Now entering his second competitive cross country season, Fischer feels as though he has a firm grasp on how to toe that line.

"You don't want to go too hard in the summer but you do want to keep your mileage up," said Fischer. "I think I did a good job keeping my training steady this summer."

Training was just one element that Fischer had to adjust to when he made the decision to redshirt his freshmen season.  Looking back, he feels as though he has come a long way.

"It's a whole different atmosphere with longer distances in college," said Fischer. "You just have to build on it every year and stay consistent and it'll take you to a higher level."

Along with making his own adjustments, Fischer credited head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan for the influence she has had on both him and his teammates.

"She brings a great atmosphere that reverberates to the rest of the team," said Fischer. "We build off of what she preaches."

This atmosphere has created what Fischer believes is a brotherhood among the cross country runners.

"I can't imagine any team in the NCAA being closer than we are," said Fischer. "We're just like a family."

Moving forward, Fischer believes the Nittany Lion's can be successful not just this season, but also for many seasons to come.

"We want to create a culture where we can compete at the National Championships every year," said Fischer. "We want to be the team that starts that tradition."

Though he wants to excel individually, Fischer is completely focused on the goals of the team, not his own personal ones.

"I just want to do whatever I can for the team to be as good as we can be," said Fischer.

However this season eventually turns out, Fischer is glad that he is a Nittany Lion.

"Penn State is the greatest," said Fischer. "I couldn't imagine going to any other school."

Simko Uses Olympic Trials as Springboard for Success

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By Matt Allibone, Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In collegiate athletics, when an athlete goes from competing against the best in her conference to the best in the country, it is not surprising for the jump in competition to strike a chord with the athlete.


That is why junior cross country runner Rebekka Simko, who had the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Trials in the 800 meters this past summer, knew her experience competing against the best the United States had to offer would be a life changing one.

"It was a phenomenal experience," said Simko. "Just being there around world class athletes is unbelievable."

Although she had just set Penn State's school record in the 800 with a 2:03.09 during the outdoor track season, the Ohio native believes the trials completely increased her motivation after she placed 27th in the field. 

"It put everything in a different perspective," said Simko. "Running against the best gives you completely new goals and aspirations."

The experience not only revamped her desire to train for cross country season, but also her anticipation for it to begin.

"It really gave my summer training a boost," said Simko. "I couldn't wait for the first cross country meet."

Although Simko had grown accustomed to training for 800-meter races during track season, she maintained that the transition to the 6,000-meter for cross country has gone smoother than some would think.

"The training isn't too much different," said Simko. "There's just more miles and tempo runs instead of speed work."

Now more than two weeks into the season, Simko has wasted no time displaying how much her training has paid off, winning the Nittany Lion's first meet, and finishing fourth in their second.

"She's been doing great," said head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "She stepped into cross country this fall with a whole new confidence and level of ability."

Sullivan believes that Simko's performance last year during the outdoor track season, when she earned Second Team All-American Honors, has paved the way for her success at cross country.

"She really caught her stride last spring during the outdoor season," said Sullivan. "It's all really come together for her."

Simko agreed with her coach's sentiment, and stated that she expected this type of performance from herself.

"I have high expectations for myself," said Simko. "I hoping that I would do well."

Another role that Simko has embraced along with being a star runner is the role of team leader.

"I feel like my attitude coming in everyday has been better," said Simko. "It's been really fun helping everyone out."

Sullivan said that she expected Simko to be one of the team's leaders, and that she could not be more proud of her for stepping up.

"I told her to be herself and that kids would follow her because she's just a tremendous young person," said Sullivan.

One of the qualities that Sullivan believes makes Simko such a special leader and teammate is her sense of humor.

"She's just a wonderful girl but she's really funny," said Sullivan. "She has a real honest sense of humor."

Simko, for her part, has credited Sullivan's coaching as one of the biggest factors of her improvement and success.

"I have complete faith in Coach Sullivan," said Simko. "I give her all the credit and I trust everything she tells me to do."

Along with the guidance of Coach Sullivan, Simko also credits her teammates for the camaraderie that they have provided her.

"Training with these girls everyday has had an unbelievable impact on me," said Simko. "We all have different strengths and weaknesses so pulling for each other makes a huge difference."

Now two meets into the schedule, Simko stressed how excited she is about the rest of the season.

"I can't wait for the meets to start kicking up in intensity," said Simko. "It should be really fun."

Already having been named Big Ten Athlete of the Week for her opening meet performance, Simko believes that both her and teammates can achieve loftier goals this season if they keep up their dedication.

"As a team we want to win the Big Ten and get to Nationals," said Simko. "Individually, I'd like to be All Big Ten and All Region."

Simko and her teammates return to competition on Sept 29, when they race at Louisville at the Greater Louisville Classic.

Perri and Fischer Lead Lions, as Women Take Top Spot, Men Finish Third

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - As rain poured down at the Blue and White Golf Course Saturday morning, the Penn State women's cross country team surged to a first place finish in team standings at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, while the men's team took third place.


Competing against a selection of schools that featured Princeton, Navy, West Virginia, Ohio, Delaware, Georgetown, Rutgers, Geneseo State, St. Joseph's, and St. Francis, the women's team placed five runners in the top ten to edge out Princeton 25-52 in points, while the men's squad finished behind Princeton and Georgetown in points at 25-57-78.

Afterward, head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan remained very positive about not only the winning performance of the women, but also the grittiness displayed by the men.

"The women really showed up today and had a great day," said Sullivan. "On the men's side we weren't perfect by any means, but we held our own."

Junior Tori Perri and Sophomore Matt Fischer led their respective squads with second place finishes, while the women's team also got top ten finishes from Senior Natalie Bower (third), Junior Rebekka Simko (fourth), Senior Brooklyne Ridder (sixth), and Sophomore Leigha Anderson (10th).

"Matt Fischer really had a breakout day," said Sullivan. "On the other side just great racing from Tori, Bekka, Natalie, and Brooklyne with Leigha really stepping up."

Perri, who finished second overall to Ohio's Julie Accurso with a time of 21:20, seemed to think her high finish was somewhat unexpected.

"I was pretty surprised," said Perri. "Everyone's in really good shape this year, so I wasn't sure which one of us was going to be up front."

One thing that Perri did attribute her strong showing to was the amount of dedication she showed in the offseason.

"I trained better this summer than I had before," said Perri. "The training is finally catching up with me."

Fischer, who made his season debut and finished second to Princeton's Alejandro Yamin with a 26:07, seemed confident in his ability to place high.

"I felt like I could do pretty well and give a good performance today," said Fischer.

After opening the season with a pair of victories against Lock Haven last Saturday, both squads knew they'd be in for a different kind of challenge competing against an assortment of schools instead of just one.

"In a race like this you really need to be able to run your team strategy and compete together," said Sullivan.

Although the meet was different from the one they had run a week ago, runners such as Perri felt as though the larger scale environment was a good experience for the team to encounter.

"This is more of what college racing is all about," said Perri.  "I like that we can get used to it early in the season and see what we can do."

Another prospect that both squads had to face was the rain, which began shortly after the women's race began, and ended midway through the men's race.

While the rain certainly didn't make anything easier, both teams maintained that it did not affect their performance.

"I honestly didn't even notice it," said Perri. "I was so in the mind set of racing that it wasn't a factor at all."

Fischer agreed that the weather was not a hindrance to the team.

"Rain really doesn't matter," said Fischer. "We workout in this rain and mud all the time so its kind of fun."

Not only were the squads unfazed by the weather, but they also enjoyed being back on their home course.

"Our knowledge of the course really paid off," said Sullivan.  "We had a nice home opener and I was very pleased."

The Nittany Lions do not race again until Sept. 29, when they travel to Louisville for the Greater Louisville Classic.


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