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Sept. 12, 2013
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After convincing victories in the Dolan Duals at Lock Haven by both the men's and women's teams, head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan and her squads have their minds set on the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational this Friday.
Acknowledging that the home meet for the Nittany Lions is "relatively low key," Alford-Sullivan still made it very clear that the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, which takes place at the Blue-White Golf Courses, is a very exciting meet to be hosting.
The thrill of hosting the invitational is thanks to one individual who has had a lasting effect on the Penn State community. That gentleman is former Penn State cross country head coach, Harry Groves. The legendary Groves coached the Nittany Lions for 38 years, from 1968 up until 2006.
Considered a folk hero to the Penn State running community, Groves will make his presence felt come Friday when the Nittany Lions cross country team gets set to race in the Spiked Shoe Invitational.
"It took all week to mark the course," said Groves. "Without the marks, people would be running all over the place. This way there is no way to cheat."
Upon his retirement, the Spiked Shoe Invitational, a meet in which Groves founded in his first year as Penn State's coach, immediately became the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational.
"It is an honor [to have the Spiked Shoe Invitational] named after me," said Groves. "Thanks to Beth [Alford-Sullivan], who has done a hell of a good job, this invitational is still possible."
Last year the men and women's teams both finished strong in the home invitational. Led by Tori Perri, the women's team finished first out of ten teams. Guided by Matt Fischer, the men's squad finished in third place out of nine teams.
However, the written book from 2012 can be flipped for the current 2013 season. Alford-Sullivan noted that all but two women will be running come Friday, meaning that 18 women will be running in the invitational.
"I know [Fischer] placed second in the invitational last year. I am really bummed that I am holding him out," said Alford-Sullivan, "but he is carrying 100-plus mile weeks right now in mileage and he looks to be in great form, so I am preserving that. We are going to open him up in October. We are just going to let him train for the month, sharpen the tools a little bit and let him carry some heavy miles."
"I am also holding Nick Scarpello out," said Alford-Sullivan. "He just has a slight injury on the bottom of his foot and there's just no reason to push it. "
Alford-Sullivan is looking for some of the younger runners to stand out on the course for her two teams.
A big aspect to the invitational is that there is a big high school meet prior to the collegiate competition. There are approximately 30 girls teams and 30 boys teams that compete to showcase talent to the observing collegiate programs.
"The invitational really is [a recruitment for the high school runners]. The PA high school kids love to come to Penn State. They love this university," said Alford-Sullivan.
Some of the notable, local collegiate programs that will be competing Friday include Pittsburgh, Bucknell and West Virginia. The Mountaineers look to be a quality eye test for the women's team to see how they stack up against a fellow team from the Mid-Atlantic Region.
The high school boys and girls cross country meets are set to start at 4:00 p.m., as the collegiate meets will commence upon the completion of the high school meets.
"We have such a beautiful golf course that is really a cross country course, they just play golf on it," said Alford-Sullivan in a joking manner. "It's just a beautiful time of year."
Come out and enjoy the pleasant weather late Friday afternoon to support the Nittany Lions and continue Harry Groves' legacy in the Penn State community.