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WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY

Rules of the Game

Collegiate cross-country is an outdoor fall team sport.  Courses vary between 5,000 and 8,000 meters, and are confined to fields, woods, and grasslands as much as possible.  They are to be free of danger, including undergrowth, ditches, and unreasonable inclines.  The running path must not be less than two meters wide, with five meters or more the preferred width.  Many cross-country race courses follow golf courses; the PennState women’s cross-country home course, which is 6,000 meters long, is the University Blue Golf Course, although occasionally the White Course is used.

Teams may field twelve runners (or more with prior agreement).  All runners who finish are assigned a finishing place.  The top five finishing runners on each team contribute points (equal to their finishing place) to their team score.  Also, if the sixth and seventh finishers of a team finish ahead of the top five finishers of another team, then that OTHER team get points ADDED to its score.  At the end of the race, the team with the FEWEST points is the victor; teams without at least five finishers are not included in the final team placement.

Penn State Women’s Cross-Country History

PennState fielded its first women’s cross-country team in 1975.  The team was an immediate success, winning regional championships from 1975 to 1985, and finishing in the top five nationally from 1975 to 1980, and the top ten through 1982.  In their first season, under coach Chris Brooks, the Nittany Lions finished second in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Championships.  Under Brooks, Kathy Mills, one of PennState’s all-time great runners, was a four-time All American, won the 1977 AAU National Championship, and was the winner of the prestigious Broderick Award as the best cross-country runner in the nation in both 1977 and 1978.

Greg Schwartz replaced Brooks in 1979, but the regional championships and superior national performance continued, first as part of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and then, starting in 1981, with the NCAA.  A highlight of his tenure was a number three finish at the national championships in 1979. 

Teri Jordan started her illustrious coaching career at PennState in 1984.  Over 16 seasons, she won numerous coach of the year honors, the team won three eastern regional titles, and then joined the Big 10 in 1991, finishing second or third from 1991-1996.  In 1996, Kim McGreevy was the Big 10 cross-country champion and athlete of the year. In 1999, Jordan was head coach of the USteam that competed in the World Championships. She is now Penn State’s Coordinator of Disability Programming and the Assistant Coordinator of the Ashenfelter Track Complex.

Penn State’s current coach, Beth Alford-Sullivan, was one of cross-country’s most decorated coaches when she came to Penn State in 2000 (she also coaches the women’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams).  She was national coach of the year in 1996, leading Stanford to the NCAA National Championship.  Under her guidance, the Nittany Lions won one Big 10 championship (2009), finished 5th in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals in 2001, 3rd in that meet in 2002 and 2011, and 4th in 2003, 2007, 2009, and 2010.  They also finished 14th in the NCAA Championships in 2009, 13th in 2011, and 14th in 2012.  Bridget Franek won both the Big 10 championship and Female Athlete of the Year in 2009, as did Caitlin Lane in 2011.  In 2011, Penn State finished 3rd in the Big 10, 4th in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals, and 13th in the NCAA Championships.  Big 10 Champion Caitlin Lane finished in 16th place in the NCAA Championships that year.  In 2012, the team finished 3rd in the Big 10, won the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Championship, and ended 14th at the NCAA Championships.  In 2013, the team finished 4th in the Big 10 and 25th at the NCAA Championships. 

Alford-Sullivan was an assistant coach of the 2004 U.S.women’s Olympic track and field team, helping distance and middle-distance runners.  In 2006, she was named head coach of PennState’s men’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams, in addition to her women’s coaching responsibilities.  In 2009, she was voted Big 10 women’s cross-county coach of the year, and in 2011 won the Robichaux Award for contributions to women’s track and field in the United States. 

In June, 2014, Alford-Sullivan left Penn State for similar duties at the University of Tennessee.  Assistant Coach John Gondak was named as her replacement as Head Coach and Director of Cross-Country/Track and field.

In 2015, the Nittany Lions won the Big 10 Championship and the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship, and finished 16th at the NCAA Championships.  Gondak was named Big 10 and Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the year; Tesdsa barrett earned All-American recognition.

In 2016, the Lions placed 2nd at the Big 10 Championships, and 18th at the NCAA Championships.  Jillian Hunsberger and Elizabeth Chikotas were 1st Team All-Americans, and Hunsberger and Tessa Barrett were 1st team All-Big 10 selections.  Penn state also won the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship (for the 2nd straight year) and John Gondak won his 2nd consecutive Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year Award. 

In 20172018, Penn State finished 4th at the Big Ten Championships, won their 3rd consecutive at the Mid-Atlantic Region titleChampionships, and sent 5 runners to qualified for the NCAA Championships (their 18th place finish  was their 3rd consecutive top-20 finish).  John Gondak was named Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year for the 3rd consecutive year, where they finished 20th, their fourth consecutive top twenty finish.  Danae Rivers and Julia Paternain, were made the All-Big Ten 2nd team.

Team Accomplishments 

Final Top 25 National Team Finishes
AAU 1975 (2) 

AIAW 1976 (5), 1977(2), 1979 (3), 1980 (4)
NCAA 1981 (10), 1982 (6), 1983 (12), 1984 (14),1985 (10), 1987 (14), 1991 (13), 1992 (23), 1996 (11), 2002 (25), 2003 (23), 2009 (14), 2011 (13), 2012 (14), 2013 (25) 2015 (16), 2016 (18), 2017 (18), 2018 (20)

Regional Championships
AAU - 1975 

AIAW 1976-1980 
NCAA 1981-1985, 1987, 2012, 2015-2017 
NCAA Mid-Atlantic - 2012, 2015, 2016  

Big 10 Championships
2009, 2015

Notable Players

Kathy Mills (1976-1979) 

1976-1979 AIAW All-American
1977 AAU National Champion
1977 AAU National Champion
1977, 1978 Broderick Award 

Kim McGreevy  

1996 Big 10 Cross-Country Athlete of the Year
1996 Big 10 Conference Meet Champion  

Bridget Franek

2009 Big 10 Cross-Country Athlete of the Year
2009 Big 10 Conference Meet Champion
2006-9 Participant in NCAA Championships

Caitlin Lane 

2011 Big 10 Cross-Country Athlete of the Year 
2011 Big 10 Conference Meet Champion
2011 16th place at NCAA Championships
2009-11 Participant in NCAA Championships

Coaches

Teri Jordan (1984-1999)

1985, 1986, 1990 Eastern Track Coach of the Year
1984, 1985 Eastern Cross-Country Coach of the Year
1999 U.S. World Championships coach
2000 Kansas State Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee

Beth Alford-Sullivan (2000-2013) 

1996 Coach of NCAA Women’s Indoor Track Champion (Stanford)
1992 Ohio Valley Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year (SE Missouri St)
1992 Missouri Track and Cross-Country Coach
1976-1979 AIAW of the Year (SE Missouri St)
1996-98 PAC 10, Cross-Country Coach of the Year (Stanford)
1996-97 District Cross-Country Coach of the Year (Stanford)
1998-2000 President NCAA Women’s Cross-Country Association
2004 Big 10 Indoor Track Coach of the Year
2004 U.S. Olympic Assistant Coach
2009 Big 10 Women’s Cross-Country Coach of Year 
2011 Robichaux Award
2012 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year

John Gondak

2015 Big 10 Coach of the Year
2015-2017 Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year

Player Recognition

AIAW All-Americans – Kris Bankes (1975); Liz Cunningham (1975); Liz Berry (1975); Kathy Mills (1976-1979); Kris Bankes (1995-1977); Heather Carmichael (1979)

NCAA All-Americans – Doreen Startare (1982); Stacy Prey (1985, 1988); Kim Kelly (1992); Kim McGreevy (1996); Susanne Heyer (2000); Bridget Franek (2008, 2009); Caitlin Lane (2011); Tessa Barrett (2015), Elizabeth Chikotas (2016), Jillian Hunsberger (2016)

Academic All-Americans – Kelli Hunt (1992-1994); Kim Kelly (1992-94); Kris Kelly (1992, 1994); ErinSt. John (1994); Kim McGreevy (1996); Allison Glitz (1997); Susanne Heyer (1997, 2000); Donna Fidler (1998); Stacy Bouchard (1999)

Broderick Award (nation’s outstanding cross-country runner) – Kathy Mills (1977-1978)

AAU National Champion – Kathy Mills (1977)

Big 10 Cross-Country Athlete of the Year – Kim McGreevy (1996), Bridget Franek (2009), Caitlin Lane (2011)

Big 10 Freshman of the Year – Colleen Glyde (1992), Nicole Lord (2009), Elizabeth Chikotas (2014)

Big 10 Conference Meet Champion – Kim McGreevy (1996), Bridget Franek (2009), Caitlin Lane (2011)

Mid-Atlantic Region Athlete of the Year – Tessa Barrett (2016)