After Penelope Greene finished one of her last high school races of her career, Pierson girls cross country head coach Jim Kinnier said she was such a talented runner that, although she had been very successful, she still had a bunch of untapped potential.
Greene proved her now former head coach right this fall at SUNY Geneseo. The freshman capped a strong first season upstate by finishing 44th at the NCAA Championships on November 20, helping the Knights place third overall as a team, tying a program best from 2016.
On top of her finish at Nationals, Greene earned First Team All-Region honors for placing third at the NCAA Division III Niagara Regional Championships on November 13, after having also placed third at the SUNYAC Championships on October 30. By finishing in the top five of the SUNYAC Championships, Greene was inducted into the SUNYAC Championship Hall of Fame and was named SUNYAC Rookie of the Year for having the best overall season of any first-year runner.
Greene’s 44th finish at Nationals was just four spots — and 2.3 seconds — away from earning All-American honors.
“I think the season went great,” she said this past Monday. “It was a lot better than expected. I knew that I was going to have hopefully a pretty good season, but I did a lot better than I thought I would. Placing third on the team overall, that was not what I was expecting, but because of that I had a chance at going to Nationals. When I found out I was going, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to Nationals.’
“I wasn’t really expecting all of that, but was it was awesome,” she continued. “It’s been so fun and a great experience. Being on this team is so great, probably one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Overall, it was another strong season for Geneseo. On top of Greene’s accolades, Kathleen McCarey, the team’s top runner, was named SUNYAC Runner of the Year, and the entire coaching staff, which includes head coach Dan Moore and assistant Chris Popovici and Ashton Fischer, were named the conference’s Coaching Staff of the Year. The Knights earned their 10th-consecutive SUNYAC title then went on to qualify its entire team for Nationals by winning the NCAA Division III Niagara Regional Championships.
Moore said that the transition from high school to college, dealing with an academic course load, new teammates and workouts, adjusting to college lifestyle overall, can be challenging, but Greene’s transition was seamless, he said.
“She had herself a dream season,” he said. “Kudos to Penelope for making such a smooth transition, as well as her high school coach for preparing her so well with training, and of course to her family for preparing for the next step of going away to college.
“Penelope is a true blessing and asset on the Geneseo team,” Moore added.
Moore said that as Greene was coming on board to Geneseo this summer, he told her that she had the potential to run in the top seven starting spots of the team. During the first week of school, Moore had entrance interviews with all of his runners and that top seven goal remained the same. She exceeded those expectations, he said.
“Penelope ran like a veteran runner this fall season. Nothing seemed to faze her,” he said. “This season was an absolute success and Penelope was a huge contributor to the success of the team.”
Greene said the transition from high school to college running is difficult but also fun at the same time and she’s enjoying every bit of it.
“Because this is what I came to do at this school, I have to put more work in, be more focused and take everything more seriously,” she explained. “I was the oldest on the team in high school, so it’s nice to have upperclassmen on this team and have a lot of people to go to. And it’s great that the boys and girls are basically on a team together, it’s like one big family.
“Training-wise, it’s a little different and a lot more work, but I think I’m handling it well,” Greene continued. “I have a lot more coaches, I use the weight room more, I lift now, which took some time to get used to, but I think I’m good now. Honestly, having a bigger team, it’s so nice to have so many people that are there to support you.”
Greene is currently in between seasons. In a few weeks, by mid-January she said, she’ll be competing indoors as part of Geneseo’s track team. The training for that season will slowly ramp up during winter break, Greene said, and that she’ll be training with some of her fellow teammates who also live on Long Island.
Moore said Greene has big goals this upcoming winter as well, and she could continue to see success. He said he looks at three main variables when developing runners: Volume of training, which is the amount a runner runs per week; intensity of training, which is how fast or the pace a runner completes workouts; and strength of a runner as measured in the weight room with a strength and condition program.
Moore agreed with Kinnier, that Greene’s potential at this point is limitless.
“Most runners who run similar times as Penelope tend to run more mileage. Penelope is considered a lower mileage runner at this point in her running career and there is so much untapped potential only considering the mileage she runs,” he explained. “Coach Kinnear has set Penelope up to have an amazing college career and Penelope has done a remarkable job transitioning to college and putting in the work needed to be successful.”