By Jeff Brown
The Youngstown State University men’s cross-country team finished with five runners in the top 25, including three in the top 10, as the Penguins cruised to a first place finish in the Disney World Cross Country Classic, which consisted of 25 teams and 256 runners.
YSU edged out the victory over rival Malone University, who defeated the Penguins a year ago in the event. Malone is considered one of the top cross-country programs in the nation.
“We sort of have a little rivalry with Malone College. As far as the Disney Classic goes, they’ve beaten us the past three years or so,” YSU sophomore runner Ryan Sullivan said. “It was kind of almost a head-to-head match between us and them and it was great to come out on top.”
Austin McLean led the way for the Penguins finishing in second place, after winning the event a year ago. McLean was named Horizon League Runner of the Week for his performance.
“I love bringing the representation back to Youngstown, the fact that people are looking at a guy from Youngstown as ‘a guy to watch,’” McLean said. “Being able to help bring this team to a championship, and that’s what I love — the recognition Youngstown gets for it.”
YSU sophomores Alan Burns and Ryan Sullivan rounded out the top 10 with ninth and 10th place finishes. Not only did YSU have three runners in the top 10, but junior Ethan Wilson finished 13th and senior Jon Hutnyan finished 22nd.
Even though the cross-country program had success in the past, the men’s team hasn’t received the accolades the women’s team has earned over the years. Sullivan believes that the depth of this year’s team is something that was lacking in years past.
“It’s phenomenal as far as the team aspect goes. We came from having such a large spread last year. Having front runner or so and then a few people kind of behind him,” Sullivan said. “Definitely a big reason we’re able to win was our depth this year. Cross-country is so much of a team sport. You can’t have your all-star like you do in football. In cross-country you need to have your top five, and even your top seven, be as close to the same caliber to even be able to call yourself a great team.”
Up next for the Penguins is the Penn State Invitational this Saturday in State College, Pennsylvania. The invitational will provide the Penguins with one last tune up before the Horizon League Championship on Oct. 31.
“It plays a big role because now is our chance to fix things,” Hutnyan said. “So now we can take notes from the fourth-place finish at All-Ohio [Championships] and the first-place finish in Disney and tweak things that need to be fixed and run that out at Penn State.”
Hutnyan and McLean are optimistic about the Penguins’ chances at the conference championship this year, and both believe this to be the best team YSU has had since they joined the program.
“Best by far,” Hutnyan said. “A very fit team that’s running fast, that’s running tough. By far the best we’ve ever had.”