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Nov. 10, 2012
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - On an afternoon that presented perfect running conditions, the Penn State's women's cross country team raced to a first place finish in team standings at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals, while the men's squad took fifth place.
Competing against 31 schools, the women edged out defending national champion Georgetown, 61-63 in points, while the men (147 points) finished behind Georgetown, Villanova, Princeton, and American University in that order.
For the women, the victory was extremely sweet, as the squad entered the race ranked behind Georgetown and had expected to battle Villanova and Princeton for the second spot.
Instead, they found themselves in first place, something head coach Beth Alford Sullivan stated she could not be more proud of them for.
"To beat the defending national champions is a big feather in the cap," said Sullivan. "It's a well earned victory for these gals."
Leading the way for the women's squad was junior Tori Perri, who finished fourth overall with a time of 20.31. The Nittany Lions also got top 25 finishes from senior Brooklyne Ridder (sixth), Junior Rebekka Simko (10th), sophomore Leigha Anderson (20th), and junior Emily Giannotti (21st).
Perri, who stated that she was surprised to have finished so high, seemed more excited by her team's victory than her own impressive performance.
"I'm really happy with how our team ran today," said Perri. "It's really exciting to do as well as we did and that's definitely the best part."
Something that both Sullivan and Perri stressed was key to the squad's victory was their ability to run together in a pack at the front of the race.
"The way we ran is certainly the way to do it in cross country," said Sullivan. "You have to have a pack on top if you want to do well."
Perri agreed that her teammate's ability to stick together made a big difference during the course of the race.
"It always helps to have someone by your side," said Perri. "It keeps you comfortable and relaxed and makes you want to work hard for the girl next to you."
On the men's side, the star of the day was senior Sam Masters, who finished 12th overall with a time of 30.48, and put himself in place to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
"I put everything I had into that last mile," said Masters. "This race meant a lot to me and it means a lot to make it to Nationals."
Masters stressed that the extra training he put in to prepare for the team's first 10K was what gave him the ability and confidence to perform well.
"I put in 120 miles a week for about a month straight," said Masters. "I knew that I was ready to go and I felt so confident."
While the longer course made the race more of a challenge for the men, their familiarity from running in it in practice gave them the strength to handle the extra mile.
"This is the first time for the entire field to run a 10K so it really becomes a grit race," said Sullivan. "It's a very difficult course but having the experience practicing on it really did pay off."
Being familiar with the course was a factor that helped play into the women's race as well.
"It's one of the more difficult courses we run," said Perri. "Having the opportunity to work out on it and get familiar with it really helps."
Overall, Sullivan stated she was thrilled with the efforts of both squads.
"I think we've had this kind of race in us all season," said Sullivan. "We've been building towards this and everyone really pieced together a great race."
The Nittany Lions will finish their season at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, which take place Nov. 17 at the University of Louisville.