The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) will hold its cross-country championships this weekend at Kutztown University.
This is familiar territory for The Rock, who took home 10th place at the DII/DIII Challenge held at Kutztown in September.
“It’s a challenging course like ours,” head coach John Papa said. “If you’re not ready for it, it’s gonna sneak up on you; it’s tough. Having run on it back in September is definitely advantageous for us.”
Papa was pleased with his team’s performance back in September.
“I’m glad we were out there and all of our guys know the course.”
There is no definitive favorite at the championships.
“A lot of it is speculation, we haven’t seen some of these teams yet. From my perspective, Lock Haven, Shippensburg and Edinboro are the top three. I don’t think any one of those teams is the most dominant. Any one of them could win it,” Papa said.
Slippery Rock goes into the event ranked eighth.
Junior Jeremy Parsons is the obvious leader for the Green and White. Last year, Parsons became only the fifth All-American cross-country runner in the history of Slippery Rock.
The Titusville native also was The Rock’s leader in every race the past two years. Papa said that he could never run out of great things to say about Parsons.
“He is a great competitor. He races hard. Even though he hasn’t been feeling 100 percent well, he has still dominated all season.”
Parsons did not run at Kutztown back in September, which leaves the door open for some doubt.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” Papa said. “If he is up to the challenge, he could potentially bring home a win.”
John Marenkovic has dazzled all season as a freshman. The native of Hubbard, Ohio never ran cross country in high school, but made a tremendous leap to break out as one of The Rock’s top supporters this year.
“He is a freshman who has been running great all year” Papa said of the young man’s great start to his collegiate career. “Usually you expect those kinds of performances from older guys; they have more muscle and experience and are tougher. He is one of only two or three guys that young that can run with the veterans.”
Marenkovic has a leg up on the competition, as he was the top performer in Parson’s absence at Kutztown in September, placing 23rd overall in his second career race. Papa continued to rave about his stand-out freshman.
“With a good performance, he could be all-conference. That is huge, because freshmen usually do not make all-conference in the PSAC.”
Runners start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Papa was very positive on his outlook for the team this weekend.
“My hope is that when get on the bus home, everyone is proud of their race and that they gave their all.”
After PSACs, Slippery Rock returns to action in two weeks on Nov. 5th at home for the Atlantic Regionals.