The Penn State cross-country team will get back into competitive racing this weekend as it makes the long trip to Louisville, Ky., to run in the Greater Louisville Classic.
The meet will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, and it kickoffs a stretch of three straight meets where the Nittany Lions will be on the road.
The Lions will make the 525-mile trek by bus to Louisville University, which is their first experience with long distance travel as a team this season. The runners are looking forward to the trip and the chance to get closer as a team.
“We had the privilege of getting to stay at home for the first part of the season and get acclimated to school again and everything else,” senior Natalie Bower said. “But it’s definitely exciting to be able to get back into things and start traveling… I feel like we have more team bonding on travel trips.”
This meet also gives the Lions a sneak peek at what the NCAA Championship course will be like this year, since Louisville is hosting that event, as well.
The only difference will be that in this meet the course will be slightly shorter than the one run in nationals.
The men will be running an 8,000-meter race Saturday instead of the 10,000-meter course, and the women will be running 5,000 meters instead of the 6,000-meter course.
Sophomore Matt Fischer said even though the meet is far away, the preparation will be no different than if the team was running at home.
This type of mindset is exactly the attitude coach Beth Alford-Sullivan wants as she expects her team to be focused despite the long trip.
“They know why we’re going. They got the business attitude,” Alford-Sullivan said. “They got their teammates on the bus for 10 hours, so they’ll be excited to gear up.”
The Lions are going to have to be geared up for this highly competitive meet that features the No.1 women’s team in the country, Washington, and two top 10 men’s teams, Texas and Iona.
Alford-Sullivan is looking for her runners to be more aggressive in their races because of this talented field.
“We’ve got to get comfortable running in a big crowd. We got to get comfortable running fast early,” said Alford-Sullivan. “Getting out and getting into the race, getting engaged and then really running tough to hang on to what we’ve earned.”
The team has enjoyed its long break in between meets and has now been training for three weeks leading up to Saturday’s meet.
Fischer said he can see improvements in the team during these past three weeks and that it gave them a chance to go back to some of the training they had during the summer, as well as do some race ready workouts.
He also said the past three weeks’ training and the meet on Saturday will help the team set up for its more important races later in the year.
“Really right now we’re trying to improve our fitness,” said Fischer. “Then after this race and in the coming weeks, it’s more maintaining and getting sharp for the championship time towards the end of the season.”
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