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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are putting a little fun into this week's practice with the Big Ten Cross Country Championships right around the corner.
Around championship season every year, the Penn State women's cross team always participates in what they call 'Spirit Week.'
This fun-filled week is always the week before the Big Ten Championships and includes daily themes that the girls dress to before their usual practice starts.
"Spirit week is something you look forward to every year around this time just because it takes the edge off getting too in the zone too soon, so it's fun to just see people dress up and let that side out of them because usually practice can get pretty serious," said senior captain, Julie Kocjancic.
"I think it kind of gets us motivated in a lighthearted way," said assistant coach Angela Reckart. "Obviously, we've been really focused all season. We want to have as much energy and team comradery as possible going into it (Big Tens). It's a great way to emulate the team culture and where we are mentality moving into Big Tens."
On Monday, it was nerd day, where some of the girls dressed wearing big glasses, pigtails and even suspenders. Tuesday was animal print day, where they dressed as animal they wanted. Wednesday was 'Little Tens', which is an intersquad meet they run at the Blue-White courses. Thursday was costume day- a very appropriate theme with Halloween coming up.
"I like that it settles the nerves, even yesterday we had a workout but we're all going into like 'oh, but today's this type of spirit day'," said junior, Greta Lindsley. "It relaxes us because I know get really in my mind and in my head before meets, so it definitely puts it in perspective that it's still something fun. It's just running- it's important but it's still just running, and you're with your girls that you love and work hard with every day."
Freshman Kathryn Munks of Chester, N.Y. is experiencing Spirit Week and the Big Ten Championships for the first time.
"I think Spirit Week is really fun. It was great to have that comradery with the team, but also kind of chill out before this big meet, so I think it all ties together. I'm excited," said Munks.
Even though this week had a lot fun and entertainment, the girls know what the ultimate end goal is.
"We are most definitely ready. This is what we've been working for all year long, starting back since we won it last year, our goal is to always come back at reclaim the title," said Reckart. "We've been really focused all season long. It's a business trip for us, at the same time, I think everyone is in a good spot, and we have a lot of fun. Yes, we work hard but we have a lot of balance. I think we're all just really excited to go in and compete."
"I think our team looks solid. I'm having so much fun, which is the important part. We're also working hard together and we're all aiming for one goal, so I think that if we can all come together on the same day, it can be something magical," added Greta Lindsley.
For senior captain Kocjancic, this Big Ten Championship is a special one.
"Going into my last Big Ten Cross Country Championship, this is the best feeling I've had going into a championship season yet," she said. "It's my last one, but I'm so excited about where our team is at and how strong we are and that a lot of us have experienced what it takes to win Big Ten Championship, so mentality we are prepared and just know how to race. I'm really confident in all our abilities, so it's going to be awesome."
The Nittany Lions will use this spirit and excitement to defend their Big Ten Cross Country Champion title this Sunday, Oct. 30th in Minneapolis, MN.