Men's Cross Country Earns Automatic Bid to NCAA Championships at Mid-Atlantic Regional
Nov. 15, 2008
PRINCETON, N.J.: November 15, 2008 - For the first time since 1994, the Nittany Lion men's cross country team will make an appearance at the NCAA Championships, thanks to a second-place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships at Princeton University. The Nittany Lion women finished fifth in the team standings and are still alive for an at-large berth to the national meet, led by a third-place finish from junior Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio). The men were paced by an outstanding four all-region finishes (top 25), led by a sensational effort from freshman Vince McNally (Smoketown, Pa.), who placed sixth overall. The Nittany Lion men's contingent posted an inspired effort over the 10,000-meter course, placing all five of its scoring runners in the top 26 places.
"It was incredible day for our men's program," said Director and Head Coach of Penn State Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "Our guys ran, not only with guts and passion, but with true composure of a seasoned and talented team. It was impressive to see how well they responded, not only to the poor course conditions and humidity, but also challenging races from Georgetown and Villanova."
McNally, who held strong in the lead pack from the start of the race, completed the rain soaked and muddy course in 31:52. Redshirt freshman Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) proved a strong-rookie presence for the Lions in the top ten, turning in an eighth-place effort with a finishing time of 32:15. McNally and Dawson were the top two freshman in the field. Also recording a top 15 and all-region finish was senior Tyler McCandless (Bath, Pa.) who finished 12th overall in 32:25 - improving over a dozen spots from his 2007 regional finish.
Senior John Mahoney (Richboro, Pa.) would also capture his first all-region certificate, turning in a 21st-place finish in 32:59. Mahoney showed marked improvement from his last regional outing, shaving over 50 places off his 2007 standing. Just missing an all-region finish was senior Dennis O'Connor (Philadelphia), who placed 26th overall, finishing in 33:10. O'Connor has also come on strong this year, taking nearly 20 places off his 2007 regional effort. Senior Brian Fuller (Camp Hill, Pa.) also posted an outstanding finish, grabbing 37th-place in 33:39.
"I couldn't be more proud of these seven guys," continued Sullivan. "It is truly a special moment for our seniors and our entire program."
The Lions finished second to only Georgetown, which totaled an impressive 27 points in the victory. Penn State scored 73 points, nipping Villanova in third with 84. Host Princeton took fourth in the team standings with 145, while St. Joe's (Pa.) rounded out the top five with 159 points. Georgetown's Andrew Bumbalough was the individual champion, finishing in 31:36.
In one of the most talented regional fields in recent memory, Franek more than held her own in the front of the pack, finishing third overall in 21:15, just four seconds back of winner Frances Koons of Villanova. Franek has been a force at the regional level for the past three seasons, finishing fifth in 2006, and fourth in 2007. Franek's finish will guarantee an individual berth to the NCAA Championships and will mark the third straight season that she has advanced to the national meet.
"Once again, we faced one of the toughest fields in the country, but our women definitely held their own," said Sullivan. "This was the best cross country race of Bridget's career. It was exciting to see her run so composed and contend for the win. We've done what we could to be in a position for an at large bid, and we are excited to see the outcome tomorrow."
Redshirt sophomore Leah Rosenfeld (Ridgefield, Conn.) came up just short of an all-region effort, coming in 26th in 22:29, while junior Cheryl Spring (The Woodlands, Texas) followed in 34th in 22:58 as the Lions' third finisher. The Lions packed up for their third-through-fifth finishes, as Janelle Young (Lemoyne, Pa.) led the way in 38th in 23:05. Freshman Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) and Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.) would come in 39th and 40th, in 23:12 and 23:15, respectively. Senior Claire Percival (Sarnia, Ontario) finished off the Penn State effort with a 53rd-place finish.
Princeton and Villanova tied for the women's victory with 51 points a piece with Villanova finishing third with 59. Georgetown placed fourth with 90, while the Lions followed in fifth with 140.
"The 2008 Mid-Atlantic Championships showcased competition in which we brought home five all-region athletes, and a hugely successful Nittany Lion program," said Sullivan.
The Nittany Lion men, as well as Franek, are guaranteed a spot on the line for NCAA Championships on Monday, November 24 in Terre Haute, Ind., while the Nittany Lion women will wait for the NCAA at-large bids, which will be announced by 7 p.m., Sunday evening, on NCAA.com.