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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2016 cross country team has spoken and officially named their captains for the upcoming season.
"We took a vote from the team," said head coach John Gondak about the selection of this season's captains.
"They, as a group, spend a significant amount of time together above what we do as coaches, so I think they have a good pulse of who their leaders are. We let them vote for who their captains were this year, and I think they picked some very good individuals."
Captains for the 2016 season on the women's side are senior Julie Kocjancic, junior Tessa Barrett and junior Elizabeth Chikotas. For the men, captains are junior Tim McGowan and sophomore Colin Abert.
"I was a little loss for words because it came to me as kind of a surprise," said McGowan on the captain title. "It's cool to get to talk to the freshmen and lead them a little bit."
Barrett, who finished last year's season as a NCAA All-American, and Chikotas are excited to lead the freshmen on the women's side as well.
"It's pretty cool to be able to usher them through the learning process, helping them with things that we might not have known as freshmen," said Chikotas.
The men's team finished 6th at the 2015 Big Ten Championships, and are hoping to change that this year. The new captains have set some goals for the 2016 season.
"We've got a young team, so I think a big thing we're trying to do is get them accumulated, make sure we don't have any hiccups, no injuries or anything. With the returning guys, we have a lot of scorers coming back, so I don't think top five in the Big Ten in cross is out of the question," said McGowan.
"We do have a really young team on the guys' side, but that kind of allows us to shape the team how we want it to be for the next few years," said Abert. "I think we have a good group of guys. We're going to turn some heads; they aren't going to be ready for it."
The women were 2015 Big Ten Cross Country Champions and won the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. They also finished 16th at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. They are hoping to defend their Big Ten and Mid-Atlantic titles from last year's season.
"We're also ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference right now," said Chikotas. "We want to continue on what we did last year, definitely placing better at nationals."
"We want to take everything day-by-day, train week-by-week, putting in the time now and being patient," said Barrett on preparing for the championship meets. "At the national meet we want to get out, be aggressive and competitive and see what happens."
Coach Gondak is satisfied with how the team is looking early in the season.
"I'm pleased with where everybody is right now. How we're going to do this year? It's too early to tell. I usually like to wait until after our first couple of meets to see how they go out and compete and where their mindset is from a racing standpoint," said Gondak. "Probably after the Spiked Shoe Invitational we'll sit down and come up with some more goals moving forward."
The annual Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is Penn State's first home cross country meet of the season. Races are set to start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10th.
"I'm most excited about going to Lock Haven, and putting the uniform on and racing our first race of the year," said Gondak.
The Nittany Lions first meet of the season is the Dolan Duals this Friday at 6:00 p.m. in Lock Haven.