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By Alyssa Palfey, GGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team swept the Penn State National Open today, placing 1-2-3 with Tessa Barrett (20:11), Elizabeth Chikotas (20:14) and Jillian Hunsberger (20:17) leading the team.
Barrett's time of 20:11 is tied for the third-best performance at the Penn State National Open. She ran 20 seconds faster than last time running this course at the Spiked Shoe Invitational earlier this year.
The women's team win puts them in great position going into their next meet, which is the Big Ten Championships held in Minneapolis, MN.
"The team win is huge. We knew we were going to have some good competition out here today, and I think going into Big Tens now, we feel more confident," said Barrett. "There's definitely a lot left in us, I know we're all in really good shape, and we worked together really well out there today."
"It's been two weeks since we've raced and it's a really good confidence boost going into Big Tens knowing that our training has put us all at a great spot and this is the second time we've run this course; we're going to run it again at regionals. We ran it earlier this season at Spiked Shoe and I think across the board everyone ran a lot faster today, so that gives us a lot of confidence knowing that our training is paying off," said Chikotas.
"I think it's going to give us confidence and take control and take lead and not be scared. Last year we went into Big Tens as the underdogs, and this year we are going in with a target on our backs, so I think it's a really nice confidence booster," said Hunsberger.
Fifth place team finisher, junior Greta Lindsley (20:55), ran over a minute faster than her performance earlier in the season at the Spiked Shoe Invitational. After today's race, she knows that her and the team are both physically and mentally strong going into the championship season.
"Overall, it was definitely a confidence booster. There were a lot of ranked teams here and great individuals here, and we came out on top so that was very exciting. We have the fitness level there, but our mental focus definitely shot up after this race and we are extremely ready for Big Tens."
Senior captain Julie Kocjancic, who placed sixth for the Nittany Lions and 46th overall, knows all their hard work is paying off.
"This team win just showed us what we are doing in practice and workouts is enough," said Kocjancic. "It gave us confidence that we know that we aren't even near where we're going to peak later in the season, so it's an exciting place to be."
Head coach John Gondak is ready to ride the momentum after today's victory as they prepare for the Big Ten Championships.
"It's a really big confidence booster for both teams. The women came in and made a statement today, this was an excellent field and for Tessa, Liz, and Jillian to go 1-2-3, and for us to win with 47 points," said Gondak. "I was really proud of their efforts. They are just brimming with confidence and just added another layer of confidence to the team."
"With the guys, they were kind of a little uncertain with how they would finish today and we had a really specific plan, and they executed it and I'm really proud. Sixth place finish, I just said there were a couple teams here that we shouldn't even focus on, we have focus on a few teams that we should try to beat, and we did that today."
With two top-15 place finishers, the men's team came in sixth place overall today. Tim McGowan (25:11) and Colin Abert (25:15) lead the team placing eighth place and 12th place respectively.
The Big Ten Championships will be held Sunday, Oct. 30th in Minneapolis, MN. The race is set to start at 11:45 a.m. ET.