Men's Cross Country Aims for Repeat Trip to NCAA Championships
Aug. 31, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.: August 31, 2009 - The 2008 season was a banner year for the Nittany Lion men, as they made an appearance at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1994, thanks to a second-place effort at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. Turning in a 25th-place finish in the team standings, the Nittany Lions, who placed fourth in the Big Ten standings, proved their place among the nation’s elite, topping perennial distance powers from Arkansas, UCLA, Florida State, and Villanova. Led by Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan, the Nittany Lion men are poised for a repeat trip to the NCAA Championships in 2009, and will challenge for another finish in the top tier of the Big Ten Conference.
The Nittany Lions will get a chance to show their stuff for the first time in 2009, opening up the season this Friday at the Dolan Duals in Lock Haven, Pa. The flat, fast 6,000-meter course will be a shortened version of the typical 8,000-meters run at the men’s collegiate level, but will be a great gage of fitness for the Nittany Lion pack. The Lions have dominated the competition in past years, with John Mahoney taking top honors individually in 2008, and Brian Fuller capturing the win in 2007.
Following the Lock Haven competition, the Lions will host the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational (Sept. 11), before heading to Princess Anne, Md., for the Cappy Anderson Invitational at Maryland-Eastern Shore – the host of the 2009 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. The Nittany Lions will then take on a national-caliber field at the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 2, before heading home to host the always challenging Penn State National on Oct. 16. For the first time since 1999, Penn State will play host to the Big Ten Championships set for Sunday, Nov. 1, at the Blue-White Golf Course, kicking off the 2009 championship portion of the schedule. Following the Big Ten meet, the Lions will be off to the Mid-Atlantic Region at UMES on Nov. 11 in hopes of earning a bid to the 2009 NCAA Championships, slated for Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.
After a breakout freshman campaign in 2008, redshirt sophomore Kyle Dawson (Coatesville, Pa.) is back and poised for even greater successes in 2009, after earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors as a rookie. Dawson stepped right into the Lion lineup last fall, posting a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, and following up with eighth-place and All-Region finish at the NCAA Regional. Dawson led the pack once again at the NCAA Championships, placing 81st overall, and 64th among team competitors over the 10,000-meter course. Dawson continued to excel on the track as a freshman, scoring top eight finishes in the 5000-meters at both the Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships and recorded a personal-best 14:02.50 to qualify for the NCAA Regional Championships outdoors. Dawson was also an NCAA provisional qualifier indoors, clocking 14:05.95 in the 5K.
Dawson will be joined by a talented group of returners, including sophomore and fellow All-Region finisher Vince McNally. McNally also played a crucial role in the success of the 2008 Nittany Lion squad, including a sixth-place and all-region finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. McNally also added a 22nd-place finish at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships, the third-highest standing among freshmen in the field. McNally also had a stellar freshman campaign on the track, posting an NCAA regional-qualifying performance in the 1500 meters (3:47.73). McNally was just off provisional status indoors, running a personal-best 3000-meter time of 8:07.29 – which was tops among Lions in 2009.
“The 2009 Nittany Lions look to challenge the results of the 2008 team,” said Sullivan. “Led by our returning top two, we will rely upon returners and newcomers to fill the gaps left by our graduating seniors.”
Zarzeczny was one of the top members of the 2007 cross country squad, including a Big Ten Athlete of the Week citation during his freshman campaign. Borchers, the 2007 Big Ten Champion at 1500-meters, is no stranger to success on the track, but thanks to a productive summer of training, will vie for spot in the Lions’ top seven this fall.
“It is exciting and inspiring to look at the depth of our roster and know that the talent is there for us to achieve some truly great things,” continued Sullivan. “Beyond Dawson and McNally, Zarzecnzy, Borchers, Cipro and Foster will an integral part as well as impressive freshmen class”
Foster, an All-American and two-time Big Ten Champion at 800-meters, will also look to up his long distance prowess, after getting several cross country races under his belt as a freshman. Cipro will also hope to join the Lion front pack after gaining invaluable training and experience during redshirt seasons in both indoor and outdoor track last year.
The Lions will also be joined by an outstanding recruiting class, led by 2008 Footlocker finalist Danny Pawola, out of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. At the state level, Pawola, who placed 13th at Footlocker as a senior, was the number-two man on Neuqua Valley’s state championship team in 2007, and tallied a fifth-place finish individually as a senior in 2008. Pawola clocked a personal-best 9:09.70 in the 3200-meters at the Illinois State Championships last spring, taking bronze-medal honors in an outstanding field.
Also on the Lion roster is a trio of accomplished milers in Tyler Corkedale (Plainsboro, N.J.), Sam Havko (Fairview, Pa.), and Connor Revord (Tampa, Fla.). Corkedale clocked a speedy 4:11.66 for 1600-meters on the track, placing seventh at the New Jersey Meet of Champions. On the course, Corkedale placed 26th at Meet of Champs, to help his West Windsor-Plainsboro North squad to a team title to go along with the team’s Group III Championship victory.
Havko successfully completed the 800/1600 sweep at the PIAA State Championships as a senior, in an impressive 1:52.78/4:10.17 double. In cross country, Havko was the individual winner at the District 10 Championships as a senior and went on to ninth-place standing at the PIAA Championships. Havko has also been successful in his high school appearances in Happy Valley, winning individual gold at the 2008 Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on the Blue-White Golf Course.
Revord clocked 4:11.5 for the 1600 as a high school senior, winning top honors at the Tampa Distance Carnival, after running 4:13.12 to place second at Florida Relays. As a senior in cross country, Revord, who also has 9:14.44 3200 credentials to his credit, placed sixth overall at the Florida State Championships, leading his team to a second-place finish.
“We will look to see the lineup fill out week by week and be poised and confident once championship season comes around,” said Sullivan.
Action in Lock Haven begins at 6:00 p.m., on Friday. Check www.gopsusports.com for full results and recaps following the evening’s events.