The Penn State cross-country team started its season on Friday with a couple of similar traditions.
The first tradition was traveling to Lock Haven to run in the Lock Haven Dolan Duals, and the second was having both the men’s and women’s teams win the event.
Last year, the men and women both produced perfect scores by having their teams’ top five runners finish in the top five places overall.
This year, with head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan deciding not to run many of the returning starters, only the women’s side was still able to produce a perfect score by wining their race 15-50.
Penn State junior Rebekka Simko won the individual title with a time of 14:16 on the 4,000-meter course.
The Nittany Lion men ran a much closer race, but still came out with the 25-30 victory.
Alford-Sullivan said the women scoring a perfect score for the second straight year in this meet didn’t surprise her.
“I knew we were going to run very strong and that we had the potential to do that off of who we had returning and who we were racing,” Alford-Sullivan said. “Just being able to go out there and run in a big pack and try to hold together to show that strength.”
Redshirt freshman Robert Creese won the individual title with a time of 18:12 on the men’s 6,000-meter course.
Since Creese was redshirted last year, this was his first official race as a member of the Penn State cross-country team. He has been able to take away a lot of positives from this winning experience and will try to apply them to future races.
“I know I can hold a better pace than I have before, and just to always try and keep in contact with somebody,” Creese said.
Redshirt junior Thomas Luff, who finished fourth in the men’s race, was not completely surprised by how close the men’s competition turned out.
“We weren’t running all of our guys, we were running about half squad so just the fact that we won was pretty good,” Luff said.
The race was forced to start earlier than it was supposed to because of high temperatures, which Alford-Sullivan said she was glad they did because of how hot it got towards the end of the race.
Sophomore Abbie Benson finished fourth on the women’s team and is focusing on improvements she can make for the next meet.
“To run harder and stronger, and try to believe more in myself that I can be there running along more with the team,” Benson said of her goals.
Now with the first meet behind them, the Lions are looking ahead to next week’s meet, the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, which Penn State is hosting on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Alford-Sullivan will be training the team hard to get it ready for the meet and is looking forward to seeing the result.
“We’ll be a little bit beat up and a little bit fatigued from a heavy training cycle, which we do this time of year and you can’t really let that get to you,” Alford-Sullivan said. “You just got to go out there and race hard against some great competition and kind of see where it falls. It’s still considered an early season, and I’m excited to see how well we respond to that challenge.”