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Sept. 30, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky.: September 29, 2012 - Led by top 20 performances by juniors Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio), and Victoria Perri (Philadelphia, Pa.), the 17th-ranked Nittany Lion women's cross country squad placed fifth overall at the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday, knocking off No. 8 Vanderbilt, as well as No. 29 and conference rival, Wisconsin. The men's squad also posted a solid effort, placing 10th in the team standings, thanks to a 17th-place finish from senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.), individually.
"The Nittany Lions had a great weekend in Louisville," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "As a team, we really had a great trip, and enjoyed the great atmosphere provided by the meet management. It was outstanding to get a preview of the NCAA course, and having seen an event there, I'm certain the championship competition will go just as well."
Previewing this season's NCAA Championship course at Tom Sawyer Park, the Nittany Lions found their way to the front of the pack early on, with Simko, Perri, and senior Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio) going toe-to-toe with some of the country's finest distance athletes across the 5,000-meter course. Simko would lead the Lions home, placing 15th overall in 17:10 - shaving over two minutes off her previous 5K PR. Perri wasn't far off, taking 17th in a stacked field, via a finishing time of 17:13. Ridder also turned in a top 30 finish, placing 26th overall in 17:17.
The trio's effort helped propel the Nittany Lions to stellar results in the national-class field, including seven teams in this week's USTFCCCA Top 30. Penn State scored 161 points to place fifth overall, just off No. 14 Michigan State and No. 10 Arkansas, who both earned a 135-point total to tie for third. Current No. 12 Arizona won the women's title, paced by an individual victory by Elvin Kibet. Kibet's victory led the Wildcats to a 71-point total, which was enough to topple top-ranked Washington with 80.
"It was great to see our women line up in a highly competitive race, especially with Washington, which is ranked number one, and other highly, ranked teams," said Sullivan of the women's race. "We knew we had the opportunity to make a statement, and we went out and knocked off number-eight Vanderbilt, who sixth last year at NCAAs, and come very close to the other four teams in front of us"
The Lions took home a myriad of notable victories on the afternoon, bettering No. 8 Vanderbilt, and No. 29 Wisconsin in sixth and seventh, as well as Duke, Kentucky and Georgia, who rounded out the top 10,
The Lions reaped the benefits of a tight pack, as the squad closed the race with just 28 seconds between their first and fifth finishers, including senior and Penn State's fourth runner on the day Natalie Bower (Pleasant Unity, Pa.), who placed 49th overall in 17:36. Sophomore Leigha Anderson (Carlisle, Pa.) enjoyed a breakout race, finishing 54th in 17:38.
The Nittany Lions also proved their team's depth in the effort, as junior Emily Giannotti (Coudersport, Pa.) continued a fast and furious pack of Lions through the finishing, taking 58th in 17:41 as the Lions' number six. True freshman Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) rounded out the Lions' top seven in 77th, finishing in 17:52. Sophomore Abbie Benson (Elma, Pa.) made it eight Lions under 18:00, crossing the line in 17:53 - good for 82nd place.
"Simko, Perri and Ridder gave us quite a bit of dominance up front," added Sullivan. "I know we can get a better race out of Bower, and need to continue to use our depth and have a strong five through 12. "It's going to be exciting to get back to 6K, because I think that distance will suit us a little better, and we'll continue to light it up in late October."
Masters led the way on the men's side, closing well to finish 17th overall, crossing in 24:10 for the 8,000-meter course - also a lifetime-best effort. Sophomore Matt Fischer (Kennett Square, Pa.) also scored a top 40 finish in a stellar field, finishing in 24:33.
Junior Nick Scarpello (Jamison, Pa.) was the Lions' third, thanks to an outstanding finishing effort, placing 72nd overall in 24:56. Redshirt freshman Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) was the fourth Nittany Lion across the finish line, posting a 97th-place standing in 25:14, while senior Tyler Corkedale (West Windsor, N.J.) was just behind in 102nd overall in 25:19 as Penn State's fifth and final scorer.
"Our men had some outstanding races from Sam and Matt," said Sullivan on the men's performance. "Unfortunately, our three through five got buried because they didn't quite execute in the first mile. To their credit, we battled hard to close down but just didn't come up with quite the result we wanted. But it was a great lesson to learn in the early season, and now we can shake the rust off and really get after it throughout the month of October."
Senior Tom Luff (Emmaus, Pa.) took 108th as the Lions' sixth finisher, completing the course in 25:22, while sophomore Chris Campbell (Newtown, Pa.) was seventh for the Blue and White and 131st overall.
The was also a potential rankings shake up in the Men's "Gold Division" Race, as No. 8 Iona dominating the field, scoring just 47 points, to better Columbia, who came in ranked 28th, in second overall with 110 points. Georgia placed third with 143 with upstart Missouri finishing fourth with 152. No. 6 Texas placed fifth with a score of 166, with Louisville (202), Arizona (236), Michigan State (249), Grand Valley State (284), and the Nittany Lions (303) rounding out the top 10.
Also running well for the Nittany Lion men was redshirt-freshman Glen Burkhardt (Kennett Square, Pa.), who placed 24th overall in the Men's Blue Division "Open" Race, finishing in 25:30.
The Nittany Lions will be in action again in two weeks, traveling to the Madison, Wisc., for the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational, on October 12.
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