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Sept. 16, 2011
By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Nittany Lion cross country team heads into Saturday eager to host one of its only two home meets this season.
The meet, The Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, is named after hall of famer and former Penn State cross country head coach, Harry Groves. The meet is an invitational, so it not only hosts Penn State and other collegiate squads, but area high school teams and other participants can enter.
The races will take place on the Blue-White Golf Course on Saturday morning. The women's race, a 6,000-meter trek, will begin at 10:00 a.m. The men will follow with a grueling 5.2 mile contest starting at 10:45 a.m.
Groves, who coached the Nittany Lions' cross country and track teams for 38 seasons, is honored to have his name on a meet that contributes so much to the sport.
"It's always nice to have your name on something that is worthwhile," said Groves.
The hall of famer was the head coach at William and Mary for 12 seasons before taking over the reigns at Penn State in 1968. According to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, Groves coached 21 national champions, 227 all-Americans, and 14 Olympians in his five-plus decade career.
The annual meet began in the early 70s after Coach Groves took over as head coach in Happy Valley. The meet started as a traditional two-team dual meet before progressing and transforming into an invitational hosting more teams, and for the Nittany Lions, providing more competition.
Throughout the years, the competition at this event has fluctuated.
"The meet goes back and forth," said Groves. "The last few years have been very competitive, but it really depends on how the national schedule falls out. It really depends on the team and the year, it just varies."
Being so early in the year, some coaches decide to rest their top stars and give younger runners experience. For Groves, however, he is confident that the meet will be competitive regardless of who is racing on Saturday.
Groves retired in 2006, but has remained an active member of the meet and has had some involvement with the team.
"It is hard to say how they will fare this year because I'm not as involved with the team," said Groves. "I do know they have been doing some great training and are ready to do some good running."
Regardless of the season or the race, Penn State cross country has had a history of success.
"It has always been a good program and you can always count on the team to make an impact in cross country and track and field," said Groves.
The Nittany Lions will host their final home meet of the season on October 14, the Penn State National.