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Oct. 1, 2010
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The Nittany Lion men's cross country squad knocked off a total of five nationally ranked opponents on Friday, on their way to a fifth-place finish in the team standings at the highly-charged Notre Dame Invitational at the Notre Dame Golf Course. The Penn State women's team also impressed in a national-class field, placing 10th overall - also besting a handful of teams in this week's USTFCCCA Top 30. Junior Vince McNally (Paoli, Pa.) led the way for the Nittany Lion men, turning in a seventh-place finish, while classmate Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) was on his heels in 13th overall. Sophomore Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio) was the top Penn State finisher on the women's side, placing 50th.
"It was an excellent day for the entire Nittany Lion program," said Director and Head Coach of Cross Country/Track and Field Beth Alford-Sullivan. "Notre Dame continues to host one of the nation's best cross country meets, and it was exciting to be so well represented by both teams. The weather conditions were perfect, and the competition was truly outstanding. We took advantage of the opportunity and set ourselves up for later in the season, with hopefully some at-large points."
The men's team engineered an outstanding performance, led by outstanding front-running performances from McNally and Dawson, who covered the 8,000-meter course in 24:04, and 24:11, respectively. The junior duo held their own in a stellar front pack, which featured numerous NCAA All-Americans, including eventual winner Luke Puskedra of Oregon.
"Our men's team raced one of the best competitions I've ever seen from our program," continued Sullivan. "Our leaders McNally and Dawson set the tone out front and the rest of our pack responded by running with a lot of heart and determination from start to finish."
The Lions would total 205 points for fifth overall, following only No. 3 Oregon (69 points), No. 16 New Mexico (78), No. 21 Florida State (99), and Tulsa (196). The effort yielded victories over a wealth of talented opponents, with No. 30 UCLA in sixth (206), Notre Dame in seventh (208), fifth-ranked Alabama in eighth (242), UTEP in ninth (260), and Indiana State in 10th (260). The Lions would also score wins over No. 14 Villanova, No. 17 Arizona State, and No. 28 Butler.
Sophomore Danny Pawola (Naperville, Ill.) ran a impressive race as the Lions' third, finishing 53rd in 24:53. Senior Ryan Foster (Tasmania, Australia) also posted a stellar performance, placing 60th overall with a finishing time of 25:00. Both Pawola and Foster displayed outstanding improvement from a year ago, as both Nittany Lions shaved over 40 seconds off of their finishing times on the same course in 2009. Senior Owen Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) closed out the scoring as Penn State's number five, coming in 75th overall in 25:14, while junior Chris Cipro (Harmony, Pa.) was just behind in 81st overall, finishing in 25:19. Freshman Nick Scarpello (Jamison, Pa.) was the Lions' seventh finisher, placing 114th in 25:55.
The women's squad also posted a strong effort in a loaded field, led by Ridder, who toured the 5,000-meter course in 17:31 to take 50th overall. The Nittany Lion finished with their tightest pack of the season, posting a ten-second spread from first to fifth finishers, not to mention a 16-second spread from first to seventh runners. Senior Maura Ryan (Doylestown, Pa.) ran a sensational second half of the race, ending as the Lions' second finisher in 56th in 17:35. Junior Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) was next in line, crossing 58th in 17:37, while junior Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.), and senior Paige Anderson (Carlisle, Pa.) provided a bang-bang finish to round out the Penn State top five, placing 65th and 66th, respectively, both clocking 17:41.
"Our young women's team held its own in a great field," said Sullivan of the women's performance. "A 17-second spread from one to seven is almost certainly the tightest pack I've seen in my career. If we can continue to finish with this tight of a pack it really makes us a dangerous squad for championship time."
Freshman Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.) and sophomore Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.) also finished with an eyelash of one another as the Lions' sixth and seventh runners, with Giannotti placing 75th and Bower in 76th - both in 17:47.
The Lions totaled 295 points to claim 10th overall, bettering ranked opponents No. 17 UTEP, No. 21 BYU, No. 23 Southern Methodist, No. 24 and Big Ten foe Iowa, and No. 30 Notre Dame. Defending NCAA Champion and top ranked Villanova won the women's race with 64 points, followed by No. 5 Oregon in second (118), No. 2 Florida State in third (129), No. 12 New Mexico in fourth (143), and unranked Stony Brook in fifth (295).
"We look forward to a couple of weeks of rest before we move into our final preparations for the conference meet," said Sullivan.
The Nittany Lions will sit out next weekend before hosting the Penn State National on October 16. Action is slated to begin at 10:00 a.m., at the Blue and White Golf Course.