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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Victoria Perri (Philadelphia, Pa.) and redshirt-sophomore Matt Fischer (Kennett Square, Pa.) paced the Nittany Lions individually despite rainy and windy conditions, each turning in runner-up finishes, Saturday at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational at the Blue-White Golf Courses. The Nittany Lion women's squad posted a dominant effort in the team standings, winning the competition with a 25-point total, thanks to five finishers in the top 10, and seven in the top 16. Penn State also fared well on the men's side, taking third overall in a solid early-season field.
Perri scored her second runner-up finish in as many weeks, completing the Nittany Lions' 6,000-meter home course in 21:20. The junior - and second-place finisher at the Lock Haven Dolan Duals a week ago - was second-to-only Ohio's Julie Accurso, who won the race in 21:03. Senior Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.) wasn't far behind, finishing as the Lions' number two, and third overall in 21:26. Junior Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio) made it three Lions in-a-row, placing fourth overall with a finishing time of 21:27.
"We had two great showings today," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "It was excellent to win on the women's side, with both Princeton and West Virginia coming in with some pretty high preseason rankings. So it was encouraging to really see us step up and respond to a competitive situation and really dominate the meet."
Next in line was senior Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio), who crossed sixth overall in 21:32 as the Lions' number four, with sophomore Leigha Anderson (Carlisle, Pa.) turning in a 10th-place finish in 22:05 to finish off the Lions' scoring five. Junior Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.) would also finish among the top 15, taking 13th overall in 22:06. Sophomore Abbie Benson (Elma, N.Y.) came through as Penn State's seventh finisher, winding up 16th overall in 22:16.
The Nittany Lions totaled 25 points to easily better the 10-team field, with Princeton taking second with 52 points. Navy finished third overall with a total of 97 points, with West Virginia (104 points), and Ohio (108 points) rounded out the top five spots.
"It's early, so some team held out some of their top runners, but we executed our race plan perfectly, which was very evident in the strength of our finish," continued Sullivan. "Great to see a breakthrough performance for Tori Perri, and some really outstanding performances across the board. I'm very excited to see what we can do this season."
Fischer ran an outstanding second half of the 5.2-mile race, to finish second overall in 26:07 - just seven seconds off of eventual winner Alejandro Arroyo Yamin of Princeton. Senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.) and junior Nick Scarpello (Jamison, Pa.) also ran to top 15 standings, with Masters finishing 13th in 26:35, and Scarpello on his heels in 15th in 26:36. Senior Tom Luff (Emmaus, Pa.) finished just off Scarpello, coming in 16th overall in 26:39.
"I'm very impressed with Matt Fischer, he's really stepped up his game in his training, and showed in his performance today," said Sullivan. "We were tough today, that was our mission. We have a long season ahead of us, and we're the type of team that's going to have to get it done by really being `scrappy', `gritty' and `tough.'
Redshirt-freshman Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) was the Lions' fifth and final scorer, via a 32nd-place effort in 27:05. Senior Tyler Corkedale (West Windsor, N.J.), and sophomore Chris Campbell (Newtown, Pa.) were the Penn State sixth and seven on the day, coming in 35th and 44th, respectively, in 27:13, and 27:47.
"It's early season, and a lot of the guys are carrying some high miles right now, but it was nice to see them hold off a challenge from Navy and run to the level we ran today," said Sullivan on the men's team's performance. "We were by no means perfect on the men's side, and we had a few people have a bad day. When those kids clean up and give us a better effort, we could really be a pretty good team this year."
The Lions held their own in a field chocked full of regional foes, with Princeton taking top honors with 25 points. Georgetown placed second with 57 points, ahead of the Nittany Lions in third with 78. Navy finished fourth overall with 91, while St. Joseph's (Pa.) took fifth with 114.
"As always, it's great to have Coach Groves as our meet referee and to really see him in his element at a cross country race like this," concluded Sullivan. "It's also great to race at the Blue-White Golf course, which has been such a tremendous venue for our home competitions. We didn't have great weather conditions today, but the course really provides a great experience for athletes and fans alike."
The Nittany Lions will train through the next several weeks, before traveling to the Greater Louisville Classic on September 29. Spiked Shoe will be the Lions' lone regular season competition of the fall season prior to hosting the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships on November 9.