By Marissa Masano
The Youngstown State University men’s and women’s cross country team started its 2023 campaign at the Penn State Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational Friday, Sept. 8 at University Park.
On the men’s side, seniors Tyler Coon and Tyler Clark return after finishing in the top 11 at the Horizon League Championships in 2022. Coon led the Penguins at last season’s Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. He finished 27th to help the men’s side finish seventh overall.
After winning the Horizon League Championships in 2022, the men’s cross country program was named the 2023 Under Armour Horizon League Cross Country preseason favorite with nine first-place votes.
For the women’s side, graduate student Morgan Cole is returning after an impressive season last year. For assistant coach Eric Rupe, Cole’s return benefits the team immensely.
“[Cole’s] leadership and her approach to training and what she does day to day really helps. Especially the younger [players] can see that and emulate that. She is definitely a leader by example, so having her back this year for not just what she can do on the course, but also off the course is a huge help,” Rupe said.
In 2022, Cole was named Women’s HLXC Athlete of the Year, Horizon League Champion and the Penguins’ top finisher in each race she competed in. Last season, she finished 26th at the Penn State National Open, clocking a 6k time of 21:21.8.
The lady ‘Guins were picked to finish third, receiving 101 points and one first-place vote. Last season, the women finished third behind Oakland University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
At the Penn State Spiked Shoe Invitational, 20 Penguin athletes competed and both teams finished sixth in their respective races.
Redshirt freshman Owen Brady led the men’s side in the 5.2 mile with a 33rd-place finish. In his Penguin debut, Brady clocked in at 26:36.0.
Three other Penguins placed in the top 50. Junior Tobias Jones placed 35th with a time of 26:39.9; followed by Clark, who ran 26:43.2 for 39th place. Rounding out the top 50 for the Penguins was junior Thomas Caputo, who finished in 42nd place with a time of 26:46.3.
The lady ‘Guins competed in the 6k at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. Cole, leading the team, placed 10th and clocked in at 21:35.1.
Next to cross the finish line for the Penguins was senior Alyssa Deeds. Deeds placed 47th with a time of 23:19.6; followed by senior Aiamyia Dudley, who finished 56th at 23:53.0.
The Horizon League recognized three YSU cross-country team members after their performances at the Penn State Spiked Shoe Invitational. The league announced Tuesday that Cole, Brady and freshman Grace Rhoades earned Horizon League Under Armour weekly honors.
Cole was named the Women’s Runner of the Week after finishing 10th in the women’s 6k at the Penn State Spiked Shoe Invitational. She faced Power-5 teams such as the host team and event winners The Pennsylvania State University and runner-up Syracuse University.
Brady earned the Men’s Freshman Runner of the Week. During his collegiate debut, he led all other Penguins in the 5.2-mile and finished 33 out of 72 runners. Runners from other teams included event winners, 11th ranked Syracuse and second place University of Pittsburgh.
After leading her freshman class, Rhoades was named the women’s freshman of the week, placing 65th at the invitational. The Ohio native ran a time of 24:42.4 in her Penguin debut and first collegiate race.
Rupe said he believes this is just the beginning for the younger runners of the team.
“It’s just nice to have guys and ladies that you can rely on that are younger that maybe aren’t as experienced but still able to be in the top five on the team, so we are going to rely on them heavily throughout the year,” Rupe said.
On Sept. 29, the Penguins will travel to the Joe Piane Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational.
To watch the meet, check out ESPN+ and for stats, highlights and more, visit ysusports.com.