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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's cross country teams kick off the 2015 regular season on Friday at the Dolan Duals. The Dolan Duals are hosted by Lock Haven University at the West Branch Cross Country Course in Lock Haven, Pa. The meet begins with the women (4K) at 6:00 p.m., and the men (6K) run at 6:30 p.m.
"This meet is our traditional opener with Lock Haven University, an outstanding Division II university that finished last year in the top-10 and enters this year at No. 11 in the national rankings," said head coach John Gondak
"We run a shorter distance than normal, the women run a 4K, and the men run a 6K. It gives us a chance to get the rust off our legs, open the season up, and get ready for the bigger meets that are down the road."
Last year at the Dolan Duals, the women's cross country team won their race with a perfect score of 15 points. The men posted an overall score of 16 points, one point shy of a perfect score, with a finish of first, second, third, fourth, and sixth to round out the scoring. Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.) was the top finishing returner from last year's meets claiming second, while on the men's side, Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) won the Dolan Duals for the second consecutive year. The women's squad enters the 2015 season ranked No. 23 in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll.
At the regional level, the Nittany Lion men and women are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the Mid-Atlantic region. During the 2014 campaign, the women placed seventh at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships, took fifth at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional and Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) recorded a 161st-place individual finish at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
The women return four runners from last year's squad. The 2015 team is led by senior and team captain Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.), and sophomores Jillian Hunsberger and Elizabeth Chikotas (Hellertown, Pa.). Gerlach, Hunsberger, and Chikotas were a part of the team that finished fifth at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Hunsberger claimed 11th (20:49) and Gerlach finished 21st (21:13). Chikotas received a unanimous selection for the Big Ten Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year prior to the regional championships for her performance at the Big Ten Championships and throughout the year.
Senior Tori Gerlach with sophomores Jillian Hunsberger and Elizabeth Chikotas mixed with redshirt freshman Tessa Barrett (Waverly, Pa.), a three-time national champion in high school, give the Nittany Lions experience up front as they were all on last year's NCAA team.
The men are led by fifth-year seniors, and team captains, Glen Burkhardt (Kennett Square, Pa.), who posted an 11th-place finish at the 2014 Big Ten Cross Country Championships and Wade Endress (Altoona, Pa.) who was 19th at the Big Ten championships last season. Glen Burkhardt, Wade Endress and fellow senior Robby Creese, all earned all-region honors as they tallied top-25 finishes at the Mid-Atlantic Regional last season. Sophomore Ean DiSilvio (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who helped the Nittany Lions tally a third-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with his 35th-place finish (31:02), will also look to step up and contribute towards the success of the Nittany Lion men throughout the 2015 season.
"Not only is it the first meet of the year for our athletes, but it's the first meet of the year for us coaches as well," said Gondak.
"I feel we as a coaching staff have done a good job preparing ourselves for the season opener by watching and taking to the team, getting an idea where they are physically and mentally, and myself and Coach (Angela) Reckart discussing with each other to make sure that we preparing our student-athletes to be able to achieve their goals in practice, on the course in meets, and in the classroom from beginning to end."
The Nittany Lions return home next weekend as they host the annual Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on Sept. 11.
For more on Nittany Lion cross country, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.