Home Course advantage

Eric RupeThe Youngstown State University cross country team is looking forward to preforming at its best in front of the home crowd.

The Horizon League Championship is at Boardman High School this year, and the Penguins are looking to place in the top three.

“We have a good shot to go after top two, top three finishes on both sides, which would be pretty neat,” Brian Gorby, the team’s coach, said.

Brittany Stockmaster, sophomore, and Samantha Hamilton, senior, feel confident going into this we ekend’s conference championship race. The girls sense the home course advantage they have over the other teams.

“We know the area pretty well,” Stockmaster said. “Winning your home meet is very important because it shows we know the area, and we want to make our city proud and our school proud.”

Hamilton agrees with Stockmaster’s thoughts.

“It’s a big deal because it is considered home for us this year,” Hamilton said “It’s bittersweet because we all are familiar with it and it brings back those high school memories.”

Nicole Strollo, assistant coach, feels anxious and excited to come out and preform in front of the hometown crowd. She said she feels some pressure but feels confident in her team.

“To have families out there that don’t get to usually see their kids run is phenomenal,” Strollo said. “The whole package has really come together and we’re excited.”

Gorby has high expectations for the team going into the race. Juniors Nick Gliha and Eric Rupe and sophomore Austin McLean feel that the celling is high for their team at the meet.

“I know that if all of us run how we always run, we can probably take second,” Gliha said. “But if all of us have that excellent race and everything goes, well, there is not a doubt in my mind we can win it.”

The Penguins have a young roster on the men’s side, having no seniors and being made up of mostly underclassmen.

Although the men’s team is a young roster, they are a team that has performed well this season. The Penguins went to the Disney World Cross Country Classic, and — against 20 other teams — had a runner place first and number two in the top 15 while placing second in the entire race itself. The Penguins also placed in the top 15 out of 20 in the Pre-Nationals race in Terre Haute, Ind.

“I have a lot of faith in the team,” McLean said. “Hopefully, we can place top three as a team; it would be a great goal for a team as young as us.”

Rupe said that the team has worked hard to make this goal a possibility.

“We have worked pretty hard for months now and we expect to do well, and we will do well,” Rupe said. “We are in the best shape we have been in all season, and it will end well.”

The women have also put themselves in a good position this season to do well at the championship race. At the Disney World Cross Country Classic, the women placed sixth out of 20 teams, and two girls finished in the top 15.

At the Pre-Nationals, the Penguins came in ninth out of 35 teams while having two girls place in the top 10.

Hamilton also had the best placement in school history at the Notre Dame Invitational, finishing in sixth place with a time of 17:12.9.

“This is so far the best team in school history for the women,” Gorby said. “The girls have beaten some SEC teams, [the University of] Oklahoma, some Big Ten teams like Indiana [University]. It’s really taken the program to another level.”

Strollo feels like this team has been working hard and up to high expectations.

The Horizon League Conference Championship is this Saturday. The men start at 11 a.m. and the women start at noon.

“We have tons of experience, and it seems like they have embraced the situation,” Gorby said. “We’re hoping to get a big crowd out there because not too many times has YSU been after the top one, top two runner-up finishes in the Horizon.”