We Are! (By Hope McKenney, Katie Dallas, and Annika Ermold)

Future teammates Hope McKenney (Mechanicsburg), Katie Dallas (Wilson), and Annika Ermold (Governor Mifflin) discuss what led each of them to committing to Penn State University. They also offer valuable advice for rising seniors hoping to compete in athletics at the collegiate level. Enjoy!

Hope McKenney:

I believe that the most important thing to consider when commiting to a college is to pick a school that fits what you are looking for athletically, academically, and socially. I am so thankful that Penn State perfectly fits everything that I am looking for! It is a college that I would choose even if I were to not be on the team, since even back in middle school I dreamed of attending PSU. Penn State also offers high level academics with professors that are willing and excited to help students succeed. It has a friendly atmosphere with thousands of students proud to represent their university.

The school pride stood out to me on my official visit. I loved walking around the campus and seeing almost everyone repping Penn State gear and socializing. This energy and life of the campus on my visit made me even more excited to commit! Additionally, when I met the team, I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of it. All of the girls were welcoming, hard-working, and fun people to be around! The coaches were also friendly and it was clear that they are dedicated to helping their athletes succeed and that they care about everyone on the team.

The athletic and academic facilities really impressed me on my visit! The indoor track is almost indescribable, with the history of hosting many of the top races in the country, the bank (Penn State is the only track in Pennsylvania with a bank), and the extensive lifting area, training room, and locker rooms. One of my favorite memories from my visit was when I tried on a Penn State uniform and wore it on the indoor track. I knew that I had to not only wear it again on that track, but race in it! I loved the Morgan Academic Center as well, where athletes are provided with a quiet and helpful place to study. There are tutors, private study spaces, and group study spaces, which I really liked because I worried about finding the perfect space to study in college. Between the track and the Morgan Academic Center, I feel confident that I will have the best facilities possible to become the best runner and student that I can be!

I love that Penn State offers 275 majors, allowing students to have seemingly unlimited options. My dream is to coach collegiate cross country and track and field. I plan to study Kinesiology at Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development to achieve this dream! However, if I were to change my mind at any point, I have 274 other majors to choose from, allowing me to keep an open mind as I see other possible career opportunities.

Overall, I think it’s important to find a college that fits everything you are looking for. I love the challenging academics, school pride, athletic facilities, team and coaches, and major options! When doing this college search and figuring out all of the aspects that you want in a school, it is important to stay organized. I created a spreadsheet with the colleges that I was interested in that included athletic and academic statistics, size, location, and distance from home, along with other notes. This may seem a little excessive (and it probably was), but organization helped me to keep track of which colleges had what I was looking for. Additionally, I believe that it is vital to reach out to coaches. Contacting coaches shows that you are interested in their program and helps to build your relationship.

I am beyond excited to be a part of the Penn State cross country and track and field teams this upcoming year! I hope that you are all able to find a college that is a perfect fit!

Katie Dallas:

Going into the spring of my junior year, it was time to start thinking about college- and I was very overwhelmed. There was so much to figure out: if I wanted a big campus or to live near a city, and the addition of trying to run in college made it that much more difficult. After a busy track season, my summer was filled with college visits and lots (and I mean lots) of pros and cons lists.

Ultimately, Penn State had everything I wanted in a college, and I know it sounds cheesy but after my visit, Penn State just felt like home!

Before my visit, I had never been to Penn State and after stepping on campus, I was surprised! The walkways and greenery were so beautiful, along with the open grass where students studied and hung out together. Not only was the actual campus and buildings amazing, I loved the downtown area as well- and of course, the fantastic indoor track and training facilities. Everything about the campus created an environment that was perfect for student athletes (not to mention, the creamery was a big plus).

One of the biggest factors that played a role in my decision was the team. I was going to be spending 4 years of my life with them and wanted to make sure it was an environment that I felt welcomed and safe in. Penn State’s team was incredible. All of the girls were so kind and helped me so much. They answered all my questions and showed me everything I wanted to see. The training environment was something I admired and realized I wanted for myself. During practice, I could tell that everyone truly was friends and worked hard while having fun.

Having such an expansive and innovative athletic side to the school was amazing, and the academic side was equally as great. The hundreds of majors and minors to choose from was something that attracted me to Penn State, along with their honors college. I plan on majoring in English and I am looking forward to exploring all the fun and interesting classes in order to figure out what I want to do later in life.

The recruitment process looks different for everyone but some ways I found that helped immensely was to stay organized. I had all my thoughts and information about each college written down and I made sure to keep everything updated as I needed. To any underclassman looking to navigate this process, I would advise to start with a list of a couple schools and add or take away schools once you learn more and explore. I would also say don’t be afraid to reach out to coaches! Most of the schools I ended up choosing between were ones I had originally reached out to. No matter what, just make sure that your decision is truly based on what you think and not anybody else’s opinions- after all, you’re the one who will be there for 4 years.

Overall, Penn State had everything I wanted and more. The school spirit is unlike any I’ve ever seen- no matter where you look, you can find somebody wearing a Penn State shirt and proud of it! I am so excited for next year and to call myself a nittany lion!

Annika Ermold:

Choosing a college is a very big decision. Especially for athletes, not only do they have to look at the academic and social aspects, they also have to look at the athletic aspect. When I first started the whole process, I honestly had no idea what I wanted in a school and I did not have a dream school at the time. But now that the process is all over, I am so happy to say that Penn State is my dream school!

My best advice is to reach out to schools as early as possible, this will show coaches that you are really interested and help keep you on their radar. Make a list of some schools that interest you and reach out in some way (social media, email, recruiting site, etc). After you reach out, if they respond then the best thing to do is to set up a phone call, you can get a feel for who they are and they can get a better feel for you as well. When having phone calls with coaches (especially the first call) always come prepared with questions, whether that would be about the school, academics, social life, the team, etc. This will show coaches that you are really interested in their program and want to learn more. After the phone calls, it is also very important to keep those coaches updated with either athletic or academic successes. Once the beginning of senior year rolls around, narrow your list and visit the schools that you know you are very interested in. When on the visits, make sure to take notes of everything and make a list of pros and cons of each school. After visiting all schools of your interest, look over your lists to determine which is your best fit all around, and not just in one aspect.

After my visit to Penn State, I knew right away that I wanted to go there. A lot of my boxes were checked off, and I just loved everything about the school.

First, PSU was a perfect distance from home. I knew that I did not want to be super far from home, but I did not want to be super close either. PSU is about 2.5 hours away from where I live, which for me was perfect.

Second, I loved the academics that PSU has to offer. First, they have so many different majors so if I decide to change from Health Policy and Administration, I have so many other options. I also loved the Morgan Academic Center, as it has so many different ways I can get help, and/or if I just need a silent place to do work or study. I know that I will be building better study habits once I get up to campus.

Third, I loved what Penn State had to offer athletically. The indoor and outdoor tracks are great training areas, and they both have everything I need to be successful athletically. I also loved that PSU track gets their own weight room, and that the weight room is with the indoor track. Also, the team was so welcoming and sweet on my visit that I knew this was going to be a perfect fit for me.

Overall, I knew that Penn State was the right choice for me because of how well the visit went and how I really enjoyed my time there too. I have some pretty big goals for college, and I am very confident that Penn State will help me to reach my goals athletically and academically. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I hope you all find your fits as well! Good luck.