It was a tale of two teams heading in different directions for Penn State on Friday as the Nittany Lions ran in the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational.
In the women’s race that consisted of 20 nationally ranked teams, the Lions were able to not only rise to the challenge but also stand out, with an eighth place finish overall.
On the other hand, it was a completely different story for the Penn State men’s team, who struggled on Friday and ended up finishing 41st out of the 45 teams that were competing.
Junior Rebekka Simko led the Penn State women, finishing 34th overall in the individual standings and completing the course with a time of 20:20.
Continuing their season-long trend of finishing in a tight pack, the top five women runners for Penn State all finished under the 21-minute mark with only 32 seconds separating their first finisher from their fifth.
Junior Victoria Perri, who finished second for Penn State, said the team was pleased to have an impressive showing in one of the biggest meets of the year.
“It was exciting to be able to place so high in such a competitive meet,” Perri said. “There were just so many good schools there that it was exciting to see how well we did.”
The Penn State women’s team made a strong conference statement by finishing ahead of the other nine Big Ten schools that ran at the meet, including No. 10-ranked Michigan State.
Senior Natalie Bower was not surprised by finishing first out of the Big Ten teams and feels that it is an indicator of what can happen at the Big Ten Championships, which is Penn State’s next meet on Oct. 28.
“I knew we had the capability of doing it,” Bower said. “We just needed to put together a good day and go out there and execute well. If we are able to continue what we have been doing in the past I think the [Big Tens] can play out in our favor.”
The men’s team was dealt a huge blow during its race when one of its best runners this year, Sam Masters, was unable to finish due to feeling light-headed and experiencing dizziness.
Junior Nick Scarpello was a lone bright spot for the men’s squad, finishing first for Penn State and 128th overall.
Scarpello said the men’s team felt extremely disappointed with its result, and that its objective heading into the meet was to finish somewhere between 20th and 30th place overall.
“We were looking to score some points in order to possibly get an at-large bid to the national championships, but by not out running certain teams we have made the challenge of getting to the national championships a lot harder,” Scarpello said. “We have kind of put ourselves in a position where we need to be no less than perfect for the remainder of the season.”
Scarpello also said the men’s team has held multiple team meetings in the days following the race to figure out what each individual has to demand of themselves moving forward to help the team reach its goals.
Having now run in a big meet where there were over 40 teams in both the men and women’s races, the Nittany Lions feel they have gained beneficial experience as they enter the postseason part of their schedule.
“You can’t really get used to running with that many people and with so many people in the same level of talent until you’ve done it a couple times,” Perri said. “I feel like the last meet in Kentucky and this meet will really help us in future meets as the season goes on.”