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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's cross country team has advanced to the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championship after defending their Mid-Atlantic Regional title today at their home course.
Redshirt sophomore, Tessa Barrett placed first overall, running her career fastest time of 20 minutes flat, finishing in 20:00. Following Barrett were juniors Elizabeth Chikotas (20:17) and Jillian Hunsberger (20:23) who placed third and fourth place, respectively. Next for the Nittany Lions were freshman Kathryn Munks (21:57) in 12th place and redshirt sophomore Greta Lindsley (21:06) in 16th place.
The top five runners on the team, Barrett, Chikotas, Hunsberger, Munks and Lindsley all received Mid-Atlantic Region honors. For the rest of the team, junior Victoria Crawford ran 22:03 and finished 60th while senior Julie Kocjancic ran 22:19 placing 80th.
This top place finish will automatically send the women's team to Terre Haute, IN for the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. After today's win on the home course, the team has high hopes going into this big meet.
"It feels great, best race all year I think on this course. We were really controlled and I think everyone on the team did what they wanted to do and then some," said Chikotas. "Just knowing that we all still have a little left in the tank, for what it matters next week. We did what we needed to do today, defended our title on our home course and moving forward I think we are all going to be really ready for a great NCAA meet."
"I feel really great. I feel confident, it was a great boost coming in and being able to kill it on our home course," said Munks right after her race. "I don't know what my time was, but I felt better. I feel like I ran more strategically and was able to surge up the hill, which is where I love making my moves. It's great being able to come in and sprint that finish. It's awesome."
Going into regionals, the team knew that winning the meet meant an automatic bid to nationals. The race pace was pushed with this end goal in mind.
"Regionals is how to get to NCAA finals in Terre Haute, IN, so to get there as a team you automatically go in you get top two. We were ranked coming in first and wanted to execute," said Lindsley. "The race got off to a really, really fast start, we went through at like 5:14, which I usually feel comfortable going through 5:30-5:35, so 5:15 was definitely a wakeup call."
"As I ran through 5:15 in the top 40, I knew all these girls were going to come back to me later. I stayed patient and picked people off and then closed on the last half of the hill and the final straightaway," she added. "Ended up getting top 18th, all five of the Penn State girls got top 18. Tessa won and we are so proud of her. Now, next weekend is nationals and we are really excited for it."
Upping the course to a 10-kilometer race, the men's Penn State team claimed fifth place as a team and finished higher than what they were ranked.
Junior Tim McGowan was first for the Nittany Lions (31:13), placing 16th overall, which earned him All Mid-Atlantic Region honors.
For the rest of the team, sophomore Colin Abert (31:24) and Jon McGowan (31:29) placed 27th and 32nd, respectively. While freshmen Brandon Tubby (31:47) and Billy McDevitt (32:08) finished 49th and 67th.
The Penn State women's team will be traveling to Terre Haute, IN for the 2016 Division I Cross Country Championships next Saturday, Nov. 19th.