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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field program is nearing the official start of its indoor season. GoPSUsports.com caught up with senior distance runner Tori Gerlach and senior mid-distance runner Brannon Kidder to get a preview of this year's athletes. Members of the women's cross country team look to transition their success onto the track in the distance events after claiming both the Big Ten and Mid-Atlantic Regional championships this past fall. It was a memorable season for the Nittany Lions, as they were ranked as high as No. 9 in the country. Penn State went on to advance to the NCAA Cross Country Championships for the sixth-time in the last seven years.
Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.), who leads the distance group, believes the group had a strong fall and looks forward to the indoor season. "It's really nice that now a lot of distance girls can run together," said Gerlach. Gerlach qualified for the 2015 NCAA East Prelims in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meter run where she posted personal-best performances in both events to advance to the last season's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Other members of the strong women's distance group include sophomore Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.), sophomore Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.), and freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.). Chikotas earned her way to in the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA East Prelims. Barrett is coming off the an impressive 38th place finish at the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships where she earned All-American honors. The performance was the best Nittany Lion finish since 2011.
For the men, Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) leads the middle distance group. There's a solid mix of veteran runners and talented young runners, according to Kidder. "It's been a good fall for us, we've got a lot of solid strength work in," said Kidder.
Kidder recorded a runner-up finish in the 800-meter run at last season's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships which earned him first team All-American honors.
Senior Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.), senior Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.), junior Conner Quinn (Horsham, Pa.), and freshman Colin Abert (Easton, Pa.) are other standouts for the men's side this year. Creese placed 13th in the 1,500-meter run at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships which earned him second team All-American honors.
Both Gerlach and Kidder stressed it is important for the team to continuing to train through the winter break in order to be in prime condition. With some fine tuning after the break, the Nittany Lions will be ready to put their offseason training to the test in the opening Penn State Relays on Jan. 9th.
For more information on Penn State Track and Field visit www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.