News Item - Sports - Intercollegiate Athletics at Penn State Altoona
2014 Men's and Women's Cross Country Season Preview
8/27/2014 — This fall, the Penn State Altoona men’s and women’s cross country teams both seek to build on strong 2013 campaigns. The men’s squad finished as the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference’s runners-up in the championship meet last season, while the women’s team placed third at the event. This year, both teams hope to take a step forward.
Men’s Cross Country
Despite the loss of Jason Anna, the AMCC’s Co-Runner of the Year last season, the Lions feel confident in the ability of sophomore Nathan Repetz (New Cumberland, PA/Cedar Cliff) to step up. Repetz was the conference’s Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and placed third individually in the AMCC Championship 8K race.
“After the great freshman season that Nate had last fall, he knew that he would be playing a major role in the success of the team this year,” said head coach Matt Manfred, who enters his seventh season at the helm of the men’s and women’s cross country programs alongside his wife Heidi. “Not only is Nate a great runner, finishing just a few steps behind Jason’s school record run last fall, but he’s an even better man and leader.”
The Lions also boast five other returners from last season, including sophomores Andrew Craig (Greensburg, PA/Greensburg-Salem), Shawn Lichvar (Indiana, PA/United), and Patrick Parker (Milroy, PA/Mifflin County), each of whom join Repetz on the program’s top 20 8K times list. Junior runner Jim Orr (Homer City, PA/Homer-Center) and sophomore Matt Sobotta (Boiling Springs, PA/Trinity) round out the group of returners.
Manfred expects sophomore newcomer Colin Lingafelt (Altoona, PA/Altoona) and freshman Ryan Clark (Collegeville, PA/Pope John Paul II) to be potential standouts among the team’s new runners.
“Colin and Ryan put in a solid summer of hard work at home, and that will pay dividends for them this fall. Colin also has the voice and experience to be an immediate leader on the team in a number of ways,” Manfred explained. “Our workouts so far have shown us that this team is able to work well together to maximize everyone’s individual abilities for the team’s common good.”
Manfred hopes that the 2014 edition of his team will build off of last year’s accomplishments while also creating its own identity. The Lions were certainly not lacking in both individual and team accomplishments last fall. Collectively, the team came in second place in the AMCC Championship while also posting one of its strongest regular season performances ever, and the squad was honored with an AMCC Peak Performer Award for having the highest cumulative team grade point average among all men’s cross country teams in the conference. Individually, the team notched a Co-Runner of the Year who also set a new school record in the 8K (Anna, 26:28), had a Newcomer of the Year who posted the second-best 8K time in program histroy (Repetz, 26:36), and placed four runners on the All-Conference Team for finishing among the top 15 at the conference championship.
“You have to take each season as a unique situation and on its own merits,” Manfred said. “There will definitely be some carryover from 2013, but this team will make its own goals once they get a few races behind them. That said, a worthy effort at the AMCC Championship is something we always focus on.”
Women’s Cross Country
In 2013, the Penn State Altoona women’s cross country team overcame a small squad size to record a successful year and finish in third at the AMCC Championships. This season, the team will again be small in numbers with a roster of six runners, including five newcomers. But head coach Heidi Manfred sees the storyline for this fall playing out similarly to last year.
“Last year’s women really rose to the occasion despite being a small team. The top four had season-bests all within 15 seconds of each other, and that meant that workouts and races really were a team effort,” said Manfred. “We see the women this year being a very similar group. Once they come into form, they could be a tightly bunched group, which is not only a fun way to run, but also can be advantageous in certain types of races.”
The Lady Lions’ lone returner is Makayla Pearce (Lewistown, PA/Indian Valley/Mifflin County), who placed on the AMCC’s All-Conference Team by finishing 13th in the conference championship 6K race last year.
“Makayla was an accomplished javelin thrower in high school who also liked to run, but last year she definitely turned herself into a full-blown distance runner,” Manfred said. “She will be a valuable leader on her team this year and should be able to improve on her All-Conference performance from last season.”
Manfred sees two of the team’s newcomers, freshmen Hailey Cleveland (Boyertown, PA/Boyertown) and Morgan Pensyl (Altoona, PA/Altoona), as being potential standouts for their squad this season.
“Hailey has shown some tenacity in workouts, and Morgan ran some very good times on the track and in cross country during high school, and it’s likely she’ll have a lot of success at this level too,” Manfred explained. “All of our women have the right attitude and work ethic to get there, and they will set their sights on specific goals as the season unfolds. There will be some really strong runners to emerge from this group, but the nice thing is, it’s too early to say whom.”
Although most of the women’s team’s roster is comprised of runners who will be competed collegiately for the first time this fall, Manfred is confident that they will adapt quickly and excel.
“All of these women have a great deal of racing experience. The rhythms in training and racing are much different than they are in high school, but is lends itself to being a balanced student and athlete in college,” said Manfred. “This group seems to be well-grounded and is already coming together as a team, so once they get their bearings after a meet or two, they should accomplish some great things for themselves.”
Penn State Altoona men’s and women’s cross country both open their seasons on Saturday, August 30 in the Westminster College Fisher Invitational. The AMCC Championship meets will conclude their seasons on November 1.
Photo: The performance of returning sophomores Nathan Repetz (left) and Makayla Pearce (right) will be essential to their teams' success this fall.