Freshman Ramsey getting kicks for Penn State Greater Allegheny

| Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

Every so often, Mark Bacco would catch a glimpse of someone running through his North Versailles neighborhood.

It was Rachel Ramsey.

“We live in the same vicinity. I knew she was on the East Allegheny track team, and I knew she ran the one- and two-mile (races),” said Bacco, the cross country coach at McKeesport High School and neighboring Penn State Greater Allegheny.

Ramsey now attends PSUGA, where she keeps busy running cross country for Bacco and also plays on the women's soccer team, both during the fall season.

“Even though cross country is different than running track, Rachel was putting in three miles almost every single track meet in high school. I knew she would translate into what we wanted,” Bacco said.

The majority of college women's cross country meets are 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) runs.

Ramsey settled on attending PSUGA, and she's making a name already in her freshman season, setting records in the team's first two meets.

She recently won the Westmoreland County Community College Invitational in Hempfield, with a course-standard time of 20 minutes, 53 seconds.

Following the meet, she returned to PSUGA and traveled with the women's soccer team for a game later that day at Chatham in Pittsburgh.

“It's all about time management with me,” Ramsey said. “Attending Greater Allegheny, I'm able to stay at home instead of going back to a dorm. I can manage the distractions.”

Ramsey's first college cross country performance earned her U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association Runner of the Week honors. On Saturday, in her second competition, she finished first in a course-record time of 21:59 at the PSUGA Invitational as the Lions placed second as a team.

“At our level, she's more talented than the majority of the field,” Bacco said. “Playing soccer is giving her a good workout and helping her to stay fit. I just try to cut back on her miles in practice. It's a little unfortunate, in a way, that she plays two sports in the fall season. She's doing well, though. She's not overwhelmed.”

Ramsey, whose main interest in the classroom is biology, is undecided on whether she'll stay at PSUGA for four years. She is considering a transfer after two seasons to Penn State's main campus.

“It's been nice to stay at home,” she said.

Running cross country after a high school career in track and field — East Allegheny does not sponsor a cross country program — has been an adjustment for Ramsey, but she doesn't seem to mind.

“It's definitely different,” she said. “In track, you can rest between events, but in cross country, you're running the entire time, and the terrain is much different. It's not just a flat surface. Sometimes, you don't know what to expect.”

Ramsey will look to continue her torrid cross country pace Saturday at the annual Penn State University Athletic Conference meet at Penn State Fayette. All Penn State campuses with cross country programs will be represented.

“This will be a true test for Rachel,” Bacco said. “We'll see just where she stands.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

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