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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's cross country teams started their season off right today, with their first home invitational of the season.
The Nittany Lions host the Spiked Shoe Invitational ever year, and each year it serves as their first test running against some tough competitors on their hard home course.
The women's team won its sixth-straight Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational at Penn State's very own Blue and White Golf Courses.
The Nittany Lions had their top three runners finish in the top ten overall in the 6k (3.7 mile) race. Jillian Hunsberger took first with a time of 21:07, sophomore Kathryn Munks took fourth at 21:17, and freshman Allison Willingmyre placed eighth at 21:34. And not far behind, junior Greta Lindsley took 11th overall running a time of 21:44.
The girls felt that this race was a great early start to their upcoming cross season.
"I think it's really exciting. It's just a really good way to start off a season and kind of get everybody on the team excited for the rest of the season and to show them 'hey, we can win, we can do things, we can accomplish everything we need to accomplish,'" said Hunsberger.
"It feels great, especially because it's our home course, we want to defend it. The girls team went Jill, Kathryn, Allison to me to Julia, so a solid top five," said Lindsley. "We're just gonna keep grinding from here and get our girls back and just keep pushing the rest of the season. It's the start of something special I think."
"We are hoping that people can step up especially younger people," said Munks on the early season race. "We got talented people on the team and we are just hoping to make an impact and do great."
On the men's side, the team came out strong, placing second behind Syracuse. Junior Colin Abert won the Invitational with a time of 25:46 over the course's 5.2 miles. Senior Tim McGowan followed closely behind, placing third overall and running a time of 25:53 and senior Bobby Hill placed seventh overall (26:15).
The men's team is also really excited for where this early success will take them the rest of the season.
"I'm pretty stoked about it. I knew coming into this, it was still really early, it was September so I didn't really have an individual goal. I just kinda wanted the team to do well," said McGowan. "We got pretty kicked in the stomach last year with how we did. It was sick to see Colin do so well. He's got a lot better foot speed than I do, which makes him a great training partner. I think we all finished real strong and everyone's happy."
"It's pretty awesome. This summer we put in so much work. Me, Tim, all the guys, we even took a trip out to Colorado, so seeing it work out for us and having a great finish today was definitely awesome," said Abert.
The men and women both showed a solid, early effort in their first home meet of the season. The coaches were excited about their performances, and look forward to what lies ahead in the season.
"We're really pleased with their efforts. It's still really early in the season, but we made a lot of big steps in the right direction, especially compared to last year," said assistant coach Angela Reckart. "Both on our men and women side, a lot of PR's for each of the teams and the biggest thing is that they worked really well together. They packed up very well and they fought through the end."
The team has three weeks until they compete again, so the next few weeks will be a solid training period for them to prepare for the rest of their cross country season.
"We'll recover off this meet and then use the next two weeks to get in some good, solid, hard efforts and gearing up for more championship part of the season," said Reckart.
Abert is ready to take these next few weeks of training alongside his teammate, Tim.
"Well, one of the big things for me is just having my teammate Tim to run with, race with, hang out with. He's a really identical runner to me, and I think having him out there right next to me really helps me to push myself to the best that I can be, so we're just gonna look to keep the low stick going for the next few races," said Abert.
The team will next be action on September 30th, when they travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma to compete in the Cowboy Jamboree.