Penn State Women’s Cross Country Off To Strong Start
After two weeks of competition, the Penn State Women’s cross country team is ranked No. 11 in the NCAA and is undefeated heading into the bulk of their season. With only two more meets before the Big Ten Championship, the Nittany Lions hope to continue gaining momentum.
The women opened up their season September 1 with an impressive showing at Lock Haven; the team comfortably won the team title in a 4k race while taking the top ten individual spots. Penn State senior Jillian Hunsberger finished first overall and was closely followed by Greta Lindsley and Danae Rivers in second and third, respectively.
Penn State hosted the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational September 8 and the women took home the team title for the sixth straight year. Georgetown claimed the second team spot, and Syracuse followed closely behind in third.
Hunsberger claimed the individual crown once again in the blue and white, completing the 6k course in a quick 21 minutes and 7 seconds. Next for the Nittany Lions was sophomore Kathryn Munks, who finished fourth overall with a time of 21 minutes and 22 seconds. Alison Willingmyre, a freshman, and Greta Lindsley, a senior, finished eighth and eleventh, respectively.
Hunsberger has been a strong frontrunner for the Nittany Lions for several cross country and track seasons, now finding her stride for her senior season. She earned All-American honors after finishing 36th at the NCAA Cross Country Championship in 2016 and garnered those honors again with a 10th place finish in the 10k race at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She’s also been recognized as Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Week and USTFCCCA Division I Women’s National Athlete of the Week.
After an unparalleled freshman season, Danae Rivers is ready and rolling to start her sophomore year campaign. Rivers did not compete during the cross country season of her freshman year and made her debut on the track for the indoor season in early 2017. She competed in the opening 4 kilometer race this season but was noticeably absent from the roster at the Spiked Shoe Invitational. If Rivers is healthy and can translate what she did on the track last year to the course this year, she could be a valuable scorer for the Nittany Lions.
Another name raising question marks on the team is Tessa Barrett. Barrett did not compete in the opening two meets of the season, but could be another strong asset for the Nittany Lions if she’s healthy. In her 2016 cross country season, Barrett, a high school national record holder in the indoor 5k run, led the team for most of the season up until the NCAA Championship meet, where she pulled out of the race midway. After burning her freshman year redshirt, Barrett could be a huge boost to push the team up the national leaderboards if she returns to competition this season.
Cross country is unique in that coaches can decide what the majority of the team’s schedule looks like, as they pick where and when to attend invitational meets and there’s no regularly scheduled conference competition until the Big Ten Championship meet.
With two meets already in the books, Penn State will only compete in two more meets before the Big Ten Championship, which is slated for late October. The women hope to regain their title after winning the meet in 2015, but coming up just short in 2016 with a second place finish to Michigan.