The Penn State Abington men's cross country teams will celebrate a Nittany Lion athletic program milestone Saturday when they become the first Abington athletic teams to compete in a NCAA Division III post-season championship event since the college joined the association in 2008. The teams will toe the line at the 2012 NCAA Division III Mid-East Regional Cross Country Championships hosted by Dickinson College at Big Spring High School in Newville, Pa. with the 8,000-meter race starting at 11 a.m.
Alexander Kane, who was the North Eastern Athletic Conference's individual champion and runner of the year, will lead a pack of Nittany Lions runners consisting of Sufyan Musah, Nicholas Volpe, Nathaniel Wilson, and Austin Lichtman to represent Penn State Abington at the NCAA Regional event.
The significance of this milestone is an important event in the history of not only the cross-country program but in the history of Penn State Abington Intercollegiate Athletic Program.
“It’s very exciting to have our cross country team to finally participate in the NCAA event," said head coach Jose Rodriguez. “I did not think our program would have been able to compete this early as usually it takes five to seven years to build up a strong program, but yet in just three years, our men's team have been able to improve drastically, competing against highly competitive schools and finish strong in just about every race thus far.
After finishing its mandatory probationary period, this year marks the college's first year competing as a full-fledged NCAA Division III member; Penn State Abington athletic teams and individual competitors will now have the same opportunity as all other Division III member schools, to compete in post-season championship events sponsored by the NCAA.
“It’s an honor to be part of something big, a giant stepping stone for not just our cross country program, but to finally break the barriers for our athletic program to really accomplish our mission of being a member of the NCAA,” said Alexander Kane of Doylestown. "To just start with nothing and grow each year as a team and all of a sudden we're winning invitationals and hosting our own invitational for the first time, not to mention hosting the NEAC Conference championship in the same year is just amazing and impressive,” junior runner Nathaniel Wilson, of Antioch, Calif., said.
“It’s such an accomplishment to come from nothing and arrive to where we are today with the program," said Austin Lichtman of Philadelphia. "Being a student-athlete here at Abington means a lot to me, it made me who I am today as an individual, with the commitment, the sacrifice, giving me the beliefs and respect for my teammates and coaches and to just be part of that process of establishing our own identity as a program really made me feel that I helped towards that contribution of establishing our own identity of the cross country team and Penn State Abington.”
Check abingtonsports.com for updates on the men's cross country results at the NCAA Mid-East Regional Championship.
Information courtesy of Jeff Dobbin, Penn State Abington Sports Information director