Cross-country outrun at championships

Bobby Scott, Sports Editor

The Pitt-Johnstown men’s and women’s cross country teams could not keep up with the rest of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in the conference championships Oct. 26.

The women finished in last place in the team standings and the Nguyen brothers (the only two student athletes on the men’s team) finished in the bottom six of the individuals standings.

The championships were contested at Kutztown University instead of the original site, Slippery Rock University.

The race was also postponed to a week after its original date.  The course at Kutztown is one that was unknown to the team until last Saturday.

The team may have struggled both individually and together but the conference is arguably the strongest in Division II cross country.

“What people do not realize (is that) the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference is ranked first in the nation as having the most teams ranked in the top 25,” head coach Shane Valko said.

Valko said that he was proud of his team for the whole they compete against stern conference foes.

“We ran against some extremely talented women and our women did not get discouraged or scared,” he said.

“They ran their butts off and I could not be a prouder coach.”

The women finished in 17th place out of 17 teams, finishing 81 points behind Mercyhurst University in 16th place.

Sophomore Marissa Albert finished the highest individually of the women, finishing in 113th place out of 160 women.

“My performance was pretty good, I was pretty happy since it was really intense competition,” she said.

“The team ran to the best of their abilities but now that we know what we are up against I think we will place a lot better next season.”

Albert said that the team struggled because they were unsure of what to prepare for from their new conference.

“It was hard because this is the first year being in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference so we did not really know what to expect,” she said.

Sophomore Anthony Nguyen and freshman Matthew Nguyen, the brothers that are the only males on the team finished in the bottom six with Anthony finishing in 120th place Matthew finishing in 125th place.

“We both put our best foot forward, our goal was to run a little reckless and  being that our team was underdogs and little was expected,” older brother Anthony said.

The brothers could not compete in the team standings because you need at least five student athletes to make a team as per NCAA rule.

“We both ran a good personal performance,” he said.

“I was close to my personal best time and my brother beat his personal best.”

Nguyen said that there are still things for his brother and himself to be proud of despite a disappointing finish.

“(I am proud of) being the first (male Pitt-Johnstown student athletes) to run in a conference championship against four of the nation’s best teams (in division II),” he said.

The team will next compete in the NCAA regionals as individuals at Lock Haven University Nov. 2.