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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach John Gondak and two members of the Penn State cross country teams are headed west to Indiana this weekend to compete in the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Freshman Jillian Hunsberger is making her National stage debut after qualifying at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with an 11th place (20 minutes, 49 seconds) finish in the 6,000-meter run.
The freshman has had a great 2014 season posting competitive times in all her races. As most athletes would be, she is excited, nervous, and ready for the challenge.
"I don't event know what to expect I'm just going to go and try my hardest. Just thinking about the race, making sure I have it planned out," said Hunsberger. "I [mostly] mentally preparing, I will be excited on Saturday.
Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer has had an exemplary year. He finished first in both races he competed in at home and was named second team All-Big Ten at the Big Ten Championships.
Fischer, the Mid-Atlantic Men's Athlete of the Year, is making his second trip to the NCAA Championships this weekend after a phenomenal first-place finish at the Regional meet with a time of 30 minutes, 16 seconds.
"I was pretty excited and just to see how well the team did was exciting. It was a bit of a let down when we found out that we didn't make it [to Nationals]," said Fischer. "Personally, it ended up working out and I think it set me up well for this week."
As Fischer looks to end his senior year in the best way he can, his second trip to Terre Haute, Indiana provides opportunity for preparation.
"Last year was my first time there and I wanted to go out there and get All-American but there were 70-80 guys that at any given day could fall in there too," said Fischer. "I'm just more mentally and physical ready [this year] and I'm more confident."
In 2013, Fischer posted a 78th-place finish in 31 minutes, 6 second, a 10,000-meter time.
"I feel that I still have work to do and I'm not satisfied at all and I want a big result this weekend," he said. "Making sure I feel good is all that matters at this point. There's only one left and I have to put all my energy into that one. It stinks going there alone but the mentality doesn't change."
This weekend will see Fischer final collegiate cross country race, however, he doesn't fear the end quite yet as he stays focused on the mission.
"I'm really excited. I feel like I'm in the best spot I've been all season at the right time and as long as I can put that together on Saturday and I can walk away happy with what I did, it'll be a good end to the season," he said.
Hunsberger will represent the Nittany Lions in the 6,000-meter run set to kick off at noon on Saturday followed by the men's 10,000-meter run slated for 1 p.m.