Nittany Lion Women Win Big Ten Cross Country Championship

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Nov. 1, 2015

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MEET RECAP

Nationally Ranked Teams

 
Men Women
#5 Michigan #2 Michigan
#19 Michigan State #15 Penn State
#27 Wisconsin #21 Michigan State
#28 Indiana #22 Minnesota
Illinios (RV) #30 Purdue
  Wisconsin (RV)

CHICAGO, Ill. - The Penn State women's cross country program won its second Big Ten Championship on Sunday with 53 points, placing three runners in the top-10 at the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course. The championship marks the Nittany Lions' first title since 2009.

The Nittany Lions were led by senior Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) with a time of 20:04.9 (4th place), followed by Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.) (6th place), and Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) in 9th place.

"I'm really proud of the way the women fought today," said head coach John Gondak.


"We knew it was going to be an incredible challenge to try and knock off Michigan who is the No. 2 team in the country. You know, we talked before the competition and I told them for us to win we need to put four women in the top-10 and our No. 5 needed to be within the top-25. From 1K into the race the women positioned themselves great and just fought and fought and came away with an incredibly tight victory over an outstanding Michigan squad."


Penn State's five point victory over Michigan ties for the fourth-smallest margin of victory in Big Ten women's cross country championship history with Wisconsin, who defeated Michigan by a score of 31-36 back in 1998.

Penn State entered the meet as one of five nationally ranked teams, including the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines who finished the meet in second with 58 points.


Along with Gerlach, Chikotas, and Hunsbrger, redshirt-freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.) in 12th-place (20:21.4), and junior Julie Kocjancic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) in 22nd-place (20:46.5), would round out the scoring for the Nittany Lions.


"This was Tori's best race of her career at a conference cross country championship," said Gondak


"To have Elizabeth, Jillian, and Tessa all finish in the top-10 with Julie Kocjancic in 22nd and Stephanie Aldrich in 25th-place was awesome. What made the meet, was for those two (Kocjancic and Aldrich) to come in and step up like they did, that really helped to seal the win."


"This is a huge momentum swing for us," Gondak continued. "We had been content with how we had been running this year, we'd had some really solid performances at Louisville and Wisconsin but we knew we were better. What this does right now is it gives you a great boost of confidence because at this time of year most of your fitness you either have it or you don't. Now it's about believing in it, and when you can go out and pull off a victory like this it just drives home the fact that the student-athletes believe that they can go out and accomplish what they want to accomplish."


"It's exciting," exclaimed Gondak. "This is the ninth conference championship that I've been a part of but the first one as a head coach. I'm really proud of the way the women competed today."


"I feel like everyone's goal when they come to the Big Ten championships is to win a title," said senior Tori Gerlach.

"I've been a part of two track teams who won Big Ten's and I think cross country is really special because it's a smaller group of girls. Every year we've had a goal of winning and we finally pulled it off and to have it be my senior year is pretty special as well."


"Going into every race we have the same plan `just pack up and stay confident' I think today it just finally clicked, we've been working so hard this season and I think now that its championship time this is a really great start towards the national championships," said Gerlach.


Tori Gerlach and Elizabeth Chikotas received first-team All-Big Ten honors, while Jillian Hunsberger and Tessa Barrett garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors.


With the Big Ten cross country championship today, the Penn State women now have nine cross country and track & field Big ten championships since the 2007-08 academic year, four more than the next closest team in the conference over that span of time.


For the men, senior Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.) would lead the way recording a 16th-place finish, just two spots shy of All-Big Ten honors.


Rounding out scoring for the Nittany Lion men were Colin Abert (Easton, Pa. )(24:14.1), Conner Quinn (Horsham, Pa.) (24:22.3), Ean DiSilvio (Pittsburgh, Pa.)(24:30.5), and Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) (24:33.3) to claim 31st, 38th, 43rd, and 44th-place, respectively.


The men would finish in 6th-place overall with a team score of 169.


"This was a great performance for our men's team," said Gondak.


"We've been down a lot this year with people missing chunks of training at a time. One of our returners from last year, Glen Burkhardt (Kennett Square, Pa.), wasn't able to compete today. After a tough performance at Wisconsin it's really easy to get down on yourself. For these student-athletes to race well they have to stay engaged mentally for over 25 minutes of racing. They went out today and beat the teams that they should've beat and came away with a solid sixth-place finish. Looking forward to regionals, the top five or six teams in the Mid-Atlantic regional are all right there and it'll be exciting to go in two weeks and see what we can do."


"The race got out really fast," said fifth-year senior Wade Endress.

"Being the `track type setting' that this course is I just fell in place. I had a couple guys, Robby and Ean, move up to me right arounf 3K in and coach kept telling me to stay where I was and that the guys were racing well behind me so I think the race played out well for us today."


"Colin is a tough kid," said Endress. "He's one of the more talented kids to come through the program, he puts his head down every day and just works hard. I finished right in front of him at our home meet earlier this year so you know he's been having a good year and the way he was able to finish out the second half of that race today shows how special he's going to be down the road in his career."


For more on Nittany Lion cross country, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.


 

 

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