By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With country cross season just coming to an end, and the first indoor track meet of the season soon, the Penn State distance team is now in full track mode.
"It's been an outstanding fall. Obviously, the vast majority of athletes in middle distance group were doing some really high quality cross country training this past fall and really helped our team have a successful fall season," said head coach John Gondak. "The women as runner-ups in the Big Ten and winning the region and advancing to nationals. The men for getting a top five finish at the regional championships. Everybody has built up a fantastic base."
Cross country season has allowed the athletes to already have solid training under their belt, but now the Nittany Lions are gearing up for their first indoor meet and are doing more track-based workouts.
"Now that cross country is over we're going to transition that into some quality track work. I think we have some outstanding athletes between the middle distance and distance side, both the men's and women's program," said Gondak. "I'm really looking forward to this indoor season."
The women had great success this cross country season, with 2015 Cross Country All-American Tessa Barrett and 2016 Cross Country All-Americans Elizabeth Chikotas and Jillian Hunsberger.
Last indoor season, Tessa Barrett ran the fastest 5,000-meter time in program history (15:46.08). Barrett also placed third in both the 3,000-meters (9:16.49) and 5,000-meters (15:51.56) at the Big Ten Championships. She also qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 5,000-meters and recorded an 11th place finish with a time of 16:25.94.
Elizabeth Chikotas ran the 5th fastest time in program history in the 5,000-meters at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington, running a time of 16:04.66. Chikotas placed third in the 3,000-meters at the Penn State National (9:17.58) and recorded a personal best in the mile at the Nittany Lion Challenge (4:45.59). Chikotas was also a part of the winning distance medley team and 4x800-meter relay team that won at the Penn State Relays.
Current junior Jillian Hunsberger did not compete during the 2016 indoor season, but did compete in a few meets outdoor. Hunsberger had a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Big Ten Championships in the 5,000-meters, running a personal best of 16:18.95.
For the men's middle distance and distance, last indoor season standouts were Isaiah Harris and Colin Abert.
Coming off a sixth-place in the 800-meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials is sophomore Isaiah Harris. Harris won the 800-meter at the Indoor Big Ten Championships running his all-time Big Ten record time of 1:46.24. That is also Penn State's all-time fastest indoor 800-meters time. He also has the fourth fastest 600-meter run in program history with a time of 1:17.50. Harris was also a part of Penn State's second all-time fastest distance medley relay.
Also, a sophomore this year, Colin Abert finished eighth in the mile at the 2016 Indoor Big Ten Championships (4:10.95). Abert recorded an 8:08.94 in the 3,000-meters at the FastrackNational Invite. He also took third in the 1,500-meters at the Penn State National (3:48.15).
"They're responding really well from a great fall cross country season, which I'm really excited about," said assistant distance coach Angela Reckart. "They're really strong aerobically, so I'm just looking forward to continue to build on that for track."
The Penn State Track team will first be in action at their Blue and White intrasquad meet next Sat. Dec. 10th at the Multi-Sport Complex on campus.