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Nov. 15, 2009
PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland - Running in wet and muddy conditions, sophomore Vince McNally (Smoketown, Pa.) posted an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday, guaranteeing himself an individual bid to the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Meanwhile, the No. 11 Nittany Lion women's squad scored a fourth-place finish in the team standings led by a fourth-place effort from senior Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio). The Penn State women are still alive and in solid position to receive at at-large bid to the national meet, but will have to wait until the selections are announced on Sunday evening.
The women's team provided a solid finish in less than ideal conditions - which included ankle-deep mud and several inches of standing water in several areas - against some of the nation's top talent, highlighted by All-Region performances from Franek, freshman Nicole Lord (Media, Pa.) and senior Cheryl Spring (The Woodlands, Texas.). No. 2 Villanova dominated the competition with 23 points, claiming five of the top nine finishing places. No. 4 Princeton took second-place in the team standings with a total score of 77 - just ahead of No. 7 West Virginia with 82. Penn State totaled 98 points for fourth, edging No. 12 Georgetown with 100.
"The women represented extremely well against the regional competition," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "This was the toughest competition at any regional championship throughout the country, and our women held their own to hold off Georgetown and put themselves in good position to get a spot at the NCAA Championships."
Franek, who recovered from a stumble in the late stages of the race, positioned herself in the lead pack from the gun, providing a strong follow up effort to her Big Ten Championship victory two weeks ago by placing fourth overall in 20 minutes, 41 seconds on the 6,000-meter course. In her four years as a Nittany Lion, Franek has never finished any lower than fifth at the regional meet, earning All-Region honors on all four occasions.
Lord, who was recently named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, continued to impress in her rookie campaign, turning in 14th-place finish in 21:14 - the top effort of any freshman in the field. Spring would also run strong, coming in 21st overall in 21:44 to earn her third-career All-Region certificate.
"I'm really impressed with our toughness in the extreme conditions," continued Sullivan. "It was a total team effort across the board and I'm very proud of our three all region finishers, especially for the two seniors (Franek and Spring), who have both been factors in our success throughout their careers. We really closed the gap on both Princeton and West Virginia, and hopefully we'll get the chance to continue to improve at nationals."
Sophomores Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.) and Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.) both posted top 30 efforts to round out the Lions' scoring five, placing 29th and 30th, with finishing times of 22:03, and 22:17, respectively. Freshman Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.) was the next Lion across the line, placing 33rd in 22:24, while classmate Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio) finished as the Lions' seventh in 50th place overall.
McNally ran a tremendous race over the 10,000-meter course, finishing eighth in 32:00 to claim one of the four individual qualifying spots in the region. McNally, who also posted a top 10 finish at the regional as a freshman, will be making his second-career appearance at the NCAA Championships after running on the Lions' 25th-place team at the 2008 Championships.
"McNally did a great job of managing the demands of the men's race," said Sullivan. "It was a hard day to run a mud-soaked 10K, but Vince proved he's not only a regional force, prepared to be a national force as well. I'm excited for the opportunity for Vince to race again as a seasoned competitor at the national championships."
Sophomore Chris Cipro (Harmony, Pa.) was the Lions' second man on the afternoon, placing 84th overall, just ahead of teammate Lucas Zarzeczny (Pittsburgh, Pa.) in 85th. Sophomore Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) finished 100th, while freshman Danny Pawola (Naperville, Ill.) completed the Lion scoring in 115th. The Nittany Lions placed 16th in the team standings. Georgetown won the event with 38 points, followed by Villanova in second with 48.
"It's been a long year for our very young men's team," concluded Sullivan. "But we look forward to the future because our squad is definitely talent laden. We just need to use this season as a building experience."
The NCAA Cross Country Championships are set for Monday, Nov. 23, in Terre Haute, Ind., on the campus of Indiana State University.