Cross country finishes 14th at NCAA Championships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Going head-to-head with the nation's best, the Nittany Lion women's cross country team turned in an impressive 14th-place finish in the team standings Saturday (Nov. 24) at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, hosted by the University of Louisville. Junior Victoria Perri (Philadelphia, Pa.) led the Nittany Lions individually, claiming 47th-place overall. Perri - in her first NCAA appearance - was also the second-best finisher among Big Ten athletes, following only Iowa's Marieke Schrulle, who placed seventh individually.

"It was a great season," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "We actually started off the year unranked and overachieved the whole way through. This team really came together at the right time, from a great finish at Big Tens, to a big win at the regional, and capped the season off with another outstanding result today.

Penn State, which qualified for the NCAA Championships for the fourth-straight go around, totaled 387 points in the effort, marking the program's third top 15 finish in the last four years. The Nittany Lions, who have made six NCAA appearances since 2002, were also second among Big Ten competitors, with Michigan leading the way with the fifth-place finish in the team standings. Michigan State followed the Nittany Lions in 16th, while Minnesota placed 22nd.

Oregon won the women's team title with 114 points, with Providence (183), Stanford (198), and Florida State (202) rounding out the top four.

Perri toured the 6,000-meter course in 20:21.4 - a PR for 6K - also edging out Big Ten rivals Jillian Smith of Michigan, and Michigan State's Sarah Kroll - the 2012 Big Ten Champion. Smith and Kroll finished 52nd and 53rd, respectively. The junior, who placed 33rd in team scoring, is now one of just five Penn State athletes to score a top 50 finish in the women's race since the field was expanded to 31 teams in 1998.

Classmate Rebekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio) finished as the Nittany Lions' number two, placing 71st overall and 51st in team scoring in 20:35.3, in her first-career appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. On her heels was senior Brooklyne Ridder (Cincinnati, Ohio), who placed 80th overall, and 59th in team scoring in 20:38.9. The finish was the highest of Ridder's four NCAA races. In fact, Ridder and teammate Natalie Bower (Latrobe, Pa.) are just the sixth and seventh four-time NCAA qualifiers in program history.

Bower would also finish as a member of the Lions' scoring five, crossing in 156th overall and 121st among team competitors, finishing in 21:09.7. Sophomore Katie Rodden(Ardmore, Pa.) - another Nittany Lion in her first-career NCAA race - wrapped up the Lions' top five, taking 159th overall, which was worth 123 in team scoring. Rodden crossed the line in 21:10.

Sophomore Leigha Anderson (Carlisle, Pa.) and junior Emily Giannotti(Coudersport, Pa.) weren't far behind as Penn State's six and seven, finishing in 180th and 188th, respectively, running 21:21.8, and 21:26.7.

Senior Sam Masters (Columbia, Mo.) represented the Nittany Lions on the men's side, placing 231st overall, with a finishing time of 32:25.9, over 10,000-meters.

"Our entire team really did a great job of representing themselves well this weekend," continued Sullivan. "It was an extremely fun weekend from start to finish, and the whole team really embraced the opportunity. They are all also really great examples of what we are able to do at Penn State - We develop great athletes, and really just outstanding young people."

Prior to the championships, the athletes were honored at the NCAA Cross Country Banquet, where Rodden was a finalist for the Elite 89 Award, which is presented to the competing athlete with the highest grade point average. Sullivan also accepted her award as USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year at the event.

"We're very proud of Katie Rodden, as being a finalist for the Elite 89 Award," said Sullivan. "To be one of just four people in the entire meet with a 4.0 GPA really says something about the quality of our program, athletically and academically. It was also an honor to accept the Coach of the Year award. It is really representative of the efforts of our team, and entire coaching staff."

The Nittany Lions will take a short break, before hitting the pavement in preparation for the indoor track and field season, which is slated to begin with the Blue-White Intrasquad Meet on December 15, at Ashenfelter III Indoor Track.

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Last Updated November 30, 2012