Veteran Women's Cross Country Squad Looks to Match 2009 Success this Fall
Aug. 30, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off the program's first-ever victory at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships as well as a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the 2010 version of the Nittany Lion women's cross country squad is poised and ready for more success in 2010, with six of the nine members of the conference title team returning. The Nittany Lions, who are rated fifth in the Mid-Atlantic Region in the USTFCCCA preseason poll, will get the chance to hit the course for the first time in 2010 this weekend, traveling to the Dolan Duals at Lock Haven University, on Friday, September 3.
Leading the way is sophomore Nicole Lord (Media, Pa.), who more than impressed as a rookie, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors as well as All-Region standing at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. Also back in 2010 are newly named team captains Caitlin Lane (Greenwich, N.Y.) and Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.), who both have junior eligibility. Lane and Millhouse were both members of the Nittany Lions' top five finishers at the conference meet, placing 22nd, and 23rd, respectively.
Sophomore Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio) will also look to run at the front of the Penn State pack, following a 16th-place effort at the Big Ten meet as a freshman. Also returning are sophomores Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.) and Lindsey Graybill (Macungie, Pa.) - both members of PSU's Big Ten Champion squad. New to the 2010 roster are standout middle distance recruits Bekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio), and Kalyn Fischer (Lewisburg, Pa.), as well as longer distance newcomer Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.).
About the Lock Haven Dolan Duals
Penn State will then hit the road for the always competitive Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota (September 25), where the Lions will get their first look at squads from the Big Ten, as well as nationally ranked programs from around the country for the 6,000-meter event. Next up is the Notre Dame Invitational (October 1), where the distance will drop to 5,000-meters and feature a national-class field over the flat and fast terrain. The Lions will be back at home for the Penn State National (October 16) for their final appearance prior to the Big Ten Championships. The Penn State National has become one of the foremost competitions of the fall season, and 2010 version is shaping up to be no different and stands to feature outstanding programs from across the country.
The Lions' postseason trail will begin with the Big Ten Championships at the University of Wisconsin, on October 31, and continue with the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships on November 13. The Lions will also get the benefit of the home-course advantage for the regional meet, as Penn State is set to host the competition for the first time since the 2004 season. Then it will be on to the NCAA Championships, which are slated for November 22, in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Nittany Lions enjoyed unparalleled success in 2009, led by then-senior Bridget Franek, who would claim the individual Big Ten crown, and go on to earn All-America honors. The Lion squad placed fourth overall in a stacked Mid-Atlantic Region, behind Villanova, West Virginia and Princeton, who accounted for three of the top six spots in the team standings at the NCAA Championships, with Villanova winning the national title. The Lions put all five scoring finishers in the top 30 positions with Franek, Lord, and then-senior Cheryl Spring capturing All-Region honors. Throughout the regular season, the Nittany Lions topped the fields at the Lock Haven Dolan Duals, and Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, while claiming second-place finishes at the Cappy Anderson Invitational, and the Penn State National. Perhaps the Lions' most notable effort was a breakout race at the Notre Dame Invitational, where the squad finished fourth in a national-class field, knocking off several ranked foes, including then-third-ranked Florida State.
Nittany Lions on the Track
Each of the returning Nittany Lions were equally as successful on the track in 2010, with Lord and Lane both posting scoring finishes at the Big Ten Championships. Lane was outstanding in the middle distances against conference as a sophomore, scoring a seventh-place finish in the 800-meters indoors, after clocking a PR 2:09.53 during the regular season. Outdoors, Lane would go on to clock an impressive 4:20.40 for 1500-meters - the second-fastest effort by a Nittany Lion in 2010 - to advance to the NCAA First Round. The sophomore would also post an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meters at the outdoor conference meet, going 16:39.18. Lord clocked a personal-best 10:26.41 to place fifth in the 3,000-meters steeplechase at the Big Ten outdoor meet, and would earn a third-place finish in the event at the USATF Junior National Championships, following an appearance at the NCAA First Round.
Millhouse, Ridder, and Bower also had productive go arounds on the track, with Ridder turning in a PR 16:39.25 in the 5K at Penn Relays, and claiming bronze-medal honors in the event at Junior Nationals. Millhouse show great promise in the longer distances with an effort of 35:53.41 for 10,000-meters in her first attempt at the distance, while Bower was an NCAA First Round qualifier in the steeplechase, thanks to a personal-best 10:37.66.
Simko, who has both track and cross country success to her credit, recently clocked a personal-best 2:09.04 in the 800, finishing fourth at New Balance High School Nationals. Simko was outstanding at the 2010 Ohio State Championships, turning in an individual victory in the 800, to go along with a win in the 4x800-meter relay, while also taking second in the 1600-meters, and running on the second-place 4x400-meter relay. Fisher, who will competing in cross country season after a stellar soccer career at Lewisburg Area High School, has been a force on the Pennsylvania middle distance scene over the past several years, winning three-straight state titles in the 800, clocking a personal-best 2:10.62 during senior year. Fisher also owns a PR 4:59.96 for 1600. Giannotti was a four-time PIAA qualifier in the 3200-meters, winning the event as a senior with a personal-best effort of 10:43.87. Giannotti also enjoyed outstanding success at the PIAA Cross Country Championships, finishing sixth overall during her senior campaign.