Sunday, August 4, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #19- Penn State

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Penn State
Head Coach: Beth Alford-Sullivan (15th Season)
2012 National Finish- 14th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Tori Perri (Sr., Injured Track '13, 47th XC Nats '12)
  • Rebekka Simko (Sr., 2:03 800m, 4:20 1500m)
  • Emily Giannotti (Sr., 16:36 5k, 34:54 10k)
  • Abbie Benson (Jr., 9:37 Open 3k, 10:26 3k Steeple)
  • Tori Gerlach (So., 9:31 Open 3k, 16:28 5k)

Season Preview

Confidence abounds in Happy Valley for this Penn State Women's team as they come back in 2013 ready to defend their Mid-Atlantic Regional title and make an even bigger splash at the Big Dance. Coach Sullivan is doing an impressive job developing these girls into strong cross country runners which has been noticed by USA Track and Field. Sullivan will be spending the next few weeks in Moscow as the Head Women's Coach for the USA World Championships team. 

After a 14th finish in Louisville, Penn State now has three top 15 finishes in the last four years. Following that kind of momentum into 2013 is doable with the help of a lot of the girls that got them there in 2012. 

Tori Perri is the team's no. 1 runner from NCAAs last season and although she was not able to compete on the track this spring, she should have plenty of time to build a great base this summer and prepare to be the leader of this solid Nittany Lions group. Perri is a potential All-American in 2013, if her progression continues, she can improve upon her 47th finish in Louisville.

The most interesting runner in this group is Rebekka Simko. She is a great example to all of the middle-distance women in the country who think they are not able to run well over 6k. Simko proved it can be done last season as she was Penn State's no. 3 runner at the Regional where they won and received an automatic bid to NCAAs. If Simko can repeat what she did in 2012 for the Nittany Lions in 2013, she will be an indispensable asset.

Penn State also brings back a handful of girls that are good at keeping the 1-5 spread close and providing consistency in their pack. Leigha Anderson, Emily Giannotti, and Abbie Benson are vital to their depth and will be called upon if needed to push Perri and Simko up front. 

Another Tori (Gerlach), is coming off of a very impressive freshman year, especially on the track this spring, and is the darkhorse on this team. Gerlach posted nice PRs of 9:31 for 3k indoors and 16:28 for 5k outdoors and qualified for the East Regionals in the 5k. By NCAAs Penn State could be led by a 1-2 punch of women named Tori. 

Winning back to back Regional titles could prove difficult this season as Georgetown and Villanova are very strong this year. However, this team has the makings of a top-10 team, if they can stay healthy and find some help from their returning depth. 

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