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Aug 27, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a 14th-place standing at the 2012 NCAA Championships, the Nittany Lion women's cross country team is poised for more success in 2013, starting the season at No. 11 in the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll. With five of last year's top seven competitors returning, the Nittany Lions will look to defend their Mid-Atlantic Regional title, and vie for a spot at the top of the Big Ten podium.
The Nittany Lions enter the season as the No. 2-ranked squad in the Mid-Atlantic, following perennial power Georgetown, which ranks No. 1 in the region, and No. 6, nationally. The Nittany Lions are the top rated team from the Big Ten Conference, with Michigan State following closely in No. 13. Rival and defending conference champion Michigan is currently ranked 17th, while Minnesota also appears in the top 20 at No. 19.
Returning to the Lion pack are seniors Victoria Perri (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio). Perri placed 47th, as the Lions' top finisher at the NCAA Championships last fall, while Simko returns after turning in a fifth-place and all-conference finish at the Big Ten Championships. The Lions' 2012 NCAA Championship appearance was the program's fourth-straight national bid, as well as the third top 15 finish in the last four years.
Also back in 2013 are NCAA qualifiers senior Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.), junior Katie Rodden (Ardmore, Pa.), and sophomore Leigha Anderson (Carlisle, Pa.). Adding depth to the lineup will be sophomore Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.), and Abbie Benson (Elma, N.Y.).
Both Giannotti and Rodden proved their mettle this spring, both posting outstanding performances in the 10,000 meters. Giannotti would qualify for the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round in the event, thanks to a lifetime-best effort of 34:54.26. Gerlach and Benson both enjoyed sensational outdoor campaigns in the steeplechase, with Benson going 10:26.44, and Gerlach finishing the season with a PR of 10:32.69. Benson advanced to the NCAA First Round in the event, while Gerlach finished fourth at the USATF Junior Championships.
The Nittany Lions will also welcome the talents of a quartet of freshmen to the roster, including Stephanie Aldrich (West Chester, Pa.), Julie Kocjancic (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Cara Ulizio (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Meghan Vogel (West Liberty, Ohio).
The Nittany Lion men also appear in the preseason rankings, started the season at No. 5 in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Lions will be led by top returners and team captains redshirt-junior Matt Fischer (Kennett Square, Pa.), and senior Nick Scarpello (Jamison, Pa.).
The Nittany Lions kick of the 2013 campaign on September 6, traveling to the annual Dolan Duals at Lock Haven. For more on Nittany Lion cross country, log on to www.GoPSUsports.com.