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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although running is the basic concept behind cross country and track, the two sports couldn't be any more different. This fall, sophomore Danae Rivers is experiencing this difference first hand as she competes in her first cross country season at the collegiate level.
Rivers had a stellar track season last year as a freshman. She was named the Big Ten Women's Freshman of the Year of both the indoor and outdoor seasons, which was the first time a Penn State runner has ever earned both honors. She also has set the school record in the indoor 600-meters, 800-meters, mile and DMR and the outdoor 800-meters, DMR and 4x800-meters.
"Dane obviously had a breakout track season last year and improved all the way to placing third at the national championships in the mile and setting multiple school records. That was all off of doing cross country type training but just kind of a beginning level of it last fall," said head coach John Gondak. "Now that she has another year of experience under her belt, she's going to be able to be much stronger and potentially help contribute in cross country and add some more depth into that part of the program as we get to championship time."
Although it is clear that Rivers is trained well for track, the training for cross country is a whole different world. Rivers is mainly adjusting to the mental aspect of the sport.
"The major difference I have to say is the mentality and pushing myself to run with these ladies because it is completely different to run with a group. From Dolan Duals (the team's first meet of the season), I learned that you have to stay mentality strong and if you with a pack just run with them because that's who you run with all the time. That was the big difference from track," said Rivers.
Most would think that the more mileage would be the hardest adjustment, but Rivers isn't phased by the distance that cross country training adds.
"The most challenging part... I wouldn't say it's the mileage because coach and I have a plan where I'm content with what I'm doing right now, so I have to say it'd be doing something that's completely new for me. I'm actually running cross country races, so that's going to be a challenge."
Although the adjustment to running cross country is a challenge, the addition of Rivers to the team has the rest of her teammates and coaches excited.
Especially sophomore teammate and close friend, Kathryn Munks. Munks believes that Rivers is a strong asset to the cross country team and to her personally.
"I think Danae is a great contribution. I think she can definitely crack into our top seven. She's really strong, even though she says she's not, she has a great endurance base and she's got great speed," said Munks. "Me and Danae are really close, so it's awesome having that person there that's going to support you no matter what and she'll definitely help motivate me."
One of the benefits of running cross country this season for Rivers is that it will help her be that much more prepared for the track season.
"It's also going to help her be even that much stronger when it comes to track season. She was a little tired by the end of the year last year and that's typical for freshman, but the strength of just another year especially of cross country training is going to help her finish the season that much stronger when it comes to track," said Gondak.
Rivers is excited to have this extra bit of training and is ready to see how it all comes together during the rest of the cross season and for the upcoming indoor and outdoor track seasons.
"I am actually looking forward to how this benefits me in the track season. Being able to run longer distances, and like I said going back to the mentality, I think that's definitely going to help be stronger, especially when it comes down to running the mile," said Rivers. "I just want to be stronger and more confident."
That strength and confidence will help Rivers this year, whether she is running in the woods or on the track, and that can only be a good thing for the Nittany Lions.