By Jeff Brown
Sophomore Ryan Sullivan recorded his first collegiate victory and led the Youngstown State University cross-country team to its second consecutive win at the Penn State National Invitational. The Penguins were able to hold off Big Ten foe Penn State University by a slim margin to ensure victory.
Sullivan credits his victory to a more aggressive approach he took this week, as compared to the past when he’s gone conservative and tried to save his energy for the later parts of the race.
“The goal for everyone this week was to go out and try something new,” Sullivan said. “It was my turn to go out and be aggressive and see what I can do going out with that top pack.”
YSU finished with four runners in the top 10. Sophomore Alan Burns placed third, junior Ethan Wilson took sixth and senior Jon Hutnyan finished seventh.
For Burns, this ties his second-highest finish in his career at YSU. He also took third at the Tommy Evans Invitational earlier this season.
“I was really happy with it because, even with Penn State, it’s a much bigger race compared to Akron [Tommy Evans Invitational], so for me I was really happy with a third place finish,” Burns said.
Perhaps most impressive is that the Penguins were able to grab the victory without top runner and last week’s Horizon League Runner of the Week Austin McLean.
“To be able to win without him, it is a big confidence booster,” Burns said. “It shows how strong our team is and how deep we are compared to how we used to be. We can take our top guy out and still go places and get the win — which I think is pretty impressive on our part.”
Burns credits head coach Brian Gorby to building the team’s depth, which he said is a crucial part to the team’s success so far this year.
“A lot of the credit I give to Gorby. He’s the one making our workout plans and letting us know what to hit,” Burns said. “He’s very knowledgeable about the sport and he helps everybody out. He doesn’t train us as just one program, he trains us as individuals, which is a huge part of why I think we’re becoming so successful.”
The Penguins have a bye this week before having a chance to complete their ultimate goal, winning a Horizon League Championship. Burns said that having a week to prepare for the championship is huge to get the team in the right mindset.
“I think it’s good to have the week off. It let’s everybody relax,” Burns said. “It lets everybody get prepared and fully 100 percent recovered from Penn State.”
In last year’s conference championship the Penguins finished third behind the University of Detroit and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but they won’t be satisfied with a third place finish this year.
“Anything other than a first place finish at Horizon League would be a disappointment. We were planning on trying to win last year and that didn’t happen,” Sullivan said. “ Literally anything other than first place would be a disappointment.”