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Fall Sports Media Day - Cross Country

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Aug. 25, 2015

Men's and Women's Cross Country

Head Coach John Gondak Opening Statement:

"Thank you all for coming today I'm very excited about the 2015-2016 cross country season. We return a lot of our student athletes from last year who had fantastic seasons. I believe they put us in a great spot to have a fantastic 2015 fall. Tori here on the right is the team captain for the women's program, had a phenomenal track season breaking 16-minutes for 5,000m on the track and advancing to the national championships in both the 3,000m steeplechase and the 5,000m which has boded well for her training this summer and given her great confidence going in to the cross country season. She's doing a great job in terms of leading our young team that we have and looking forward to great things from heron the women's side and hopefully heading back to the national championships. We have been there five of the last six years so I'm looking forward to making that six of the last seven years after this season. On the men's side we have Glen Burkhardt here who is our team captain; Glen had a phenomenal spring last year as well, actually a phenomenal fall. In his first Big Ten championships he was first-team all-Big Ten, finished in 11th-place, helped lead the men to a third-place finish -- which ties the highest finish in school history. The Big Ten in both the men's and women's cross country is a phenomenal conference. Michigan State won the national championship last year in cross country on the women's side, on the men's side Wisconsin has had a strangle hold on the conference for many many years so it' s very tough to break into that top-three which we were excited about on the men's side last year. Glen turned around and had a phenomenal track season advancing to the national championships during the outdoor season in the 10,000m. We have great leaders and great young athletes in our program and (I'm) looking forward to getting things started over in Lock Haven."

Q: How proud are you of Joe Kovacs right now?

Coach Gondak: "Extremely proud of Joe Kovacs right now! For those of you who don't know, Joe Kovacs is a former shot putter with our program who is our school record, he was fourth in the Olympic trials in 2012, and just recently won the world championship in the shot put this past weekend so (I'm) very excited for Joe and that accomplishment. It's hard for me to fathom sometimes that he did phenomenal here but was never an NCAA champion and ended up being a world champion, so very cool for Joe. We had another former athlete and one of Joe's teammates Casimir Loxsom was also on the world championship this year so we were well represented over in Beijing."

Q: For the two athletes, just take us through the preparation for the season, how do you feel the team is right now leading up to the season opener next Friday?

Glen Burkhardt: "Well, I think the team is in a very good position right now. Like coach said we're returning most of our athletes from last year and we've had the whole summer to build a base, get ready, work our millage up, and get ready for a big season. With the returners we have, some incoming freshman and newcomers, I think we should have a really good team and I'm excited to see what we can do at Lock Haven."

Tori Gerlach: "It's kind of hard in the summer we're all separated so we're all doing our own training, more individually. We had pre-season last week, so that's kind of where you can come together and see who's been running and putting in the miles. I guess I could say for both teams we have a lot of young people but a really solid top-five and some depth especially on the men's side so you don't really know how everyone's going to do until you start racing."

Coach Gondak: "When you break it down, on the women's side we have -- if everyone stays healthy and continues to do what they're doing -- in my opinion one the best top-four's in potentially the country. When you look at the women race 5K or 6,000m as well (5K 6K) for cross country, we have three athletes that for 5K have run 15:58, 16:05, and 16:11which includes redshirt freshman Tessa Barrett who was a high school national champion her senior year who's back healthy and training now along with our freshman Jullian Hunsberger who made the national championships last year as an individual. Elizabeth Chikotas who was Big Ten freshman of the year in cross country last year and made the outdoor championships in the 5K, I think we can go head-to-head with any of the programs out there if those four continue train, and train consistently and train healthily and get themselves in a position for when we're at the championships in October and November that they're ready to go. So I'm excited about that little bit of question still in terms of who will step up to be the fifth athlete on the women's side. For those of you that know how cross country works, your top-five individuals score and you add up their places and the lowest score wins. So the reality is, as important as it is to have a good No. 1, your fifth runner is really the hero. The better they can be the better your team's going to be. We have a group of about four or five women that that fifth runner is going to come out of so I'm looking forward to see how the next two months are going to progress in terms of seeing where that comes from. On the men's side, we have a lot of depth this year. We have some extremely talented individuals on the men's side. Glen who was fourth in the Big Ten in both the 10K and the 5K last year outdoors, we have Robby Creese who is a sub-four minute miler, we have Brandon Kidder who is a sub-four minute miler, we have a freshman in Colin Abert who got edged at the line in the state championships last year in the two-mile but both him -- the first-place and second-place finishers -- would've set the Pennsylvania state record in the 3200m. We have two great transfers coming in that were both sub-nine minute two-milers in high school. We have a lot of what I like to call just hard work grind it out type athletes, Conner Quinn who was a Pennsylvania state champion, Ean DiSilvio and others who provide about a group of 12 to 14 individuals on the men's side that can finish anywhere in that top-seven."

Q: How do you see the schedule panning out with Louisville and Wisconsin, those are two of the big meets in the country this year?

Coach Gondak: "I'm excited about it you know cross country is all being ready at the end of the year, being ready when it counts. So our first two competitions, over at Lock Haven next week which is our annual Dolan Duels we call it with Lock Haven, and our home meet here on September 11th which is turning out to be a great meet. We have Syracuse coming down and Michigan on the men's side and West Virginia on the women's side -- all programs that were at the NCAA championships last year and very high caliber -- so it'll give us a decent test but then we get back to training and we prepare for October where the meet at Louisville is where they're hosting the national championships this year so it'll a chance to go run the course and get an idea of what it's like to race against some pretty good teams there then the meet at Wisconsin is like a mini national championship it's 35 of the best schools in the country so it'll give us a good chance to see where we line up against some of the top teams out there and hopefully that'll prepare us for when championship season arrives."

Q: Thinking locally, any of the local high school kids that you're expecting to have an impact this fall?

Coach Gondak: "Right now, the local kids that are on the team are still continuing to develop and work up their roles within the program."




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