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Nov. 4, 2009
PARK RIDGE, Ill.: November 4, 2009 - Following the program's first Big Ten victory, the Penn State women's cross country team was well represented in the conference's postseason awards, headlined by individual conference champion Bridget Franek (Hiram, Ohio), who was named Big Ten Athlete of the Year. Director and Head Coach of Nittany Lion Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan was awarded Women's Coach of the Year honors, while rookie Nicole Lord (Media, Pa.) was declared Freshman of the Year after her outstanding finish at the conference meet last weekend.
Franek, an All-American in cross country in 2008, is the second Nittany Lion in program history to win the Big Ten individual title, and capture Athlete of the Year honors, after Kim McGreevy accomplished the feat in 1996. Franek's finishing time of 20:03 over 6,000-meters at the Blue/White Golf Course was not only the second-fastest performance ever run in Happy Valley, but also the second-best winning effort in the Big Ten record books. The Big Ten title is the second for the senior, who captured conference gold in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Lord, who is running in the very first cross country season of her career, impressed against national class competition, placing ninth overall in 20:52 - the highest finish of any freshman in the Big Ten field. Lord is the first Nittany Lion to win the award on the women's side since Colleen Glyde captured the honor in 1992. Lord's finish also warrants All-Big Ten Second Team honors.
Sullivan becomes the first Nittany Lion mentor to earn the Big Ten award in cross country, after earning the award a total of three times in Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field. The award marks of the 20th "Coach of the Year" citation of Sullivan's decorated career. Throughout the season, Sullivan has guided the Nittany Lion women to several impressive finishes, including a first-place effort at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, a second-place finish in a high-powered field at the Penn State National, and a fourth-place showing against NCAA caliber competition at the Notre Dame Invitational.
Another pair of Nittany Lions were recognized by the conference, as sophomore Vince McNally (Smoketown, Pa.) and senior Claire Berryman (Morgantown, W.Va.) each won the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.