Brendan Colwell drove quite a bit up and down the east coast this summer looking for his future home, but he ultimately decided to stay in the place closest to home.
The Penns Valley Area senior committed to Penn State University on Tuesday evening. Colwell picked the Nittany Lions over Georgetown and Virginia, choosing to go to school just 20 minutes from his home.
"The biggest thing that I liked about Penn State is the excitement to become a better team," he said. "they want to make nationals and they felt like I was a big part of that."
Colwell's announcement comes about three weeks after his Penns Valley teammate Colton Sands committed to UNC. Together, Sands and Colwell are one of the nation's top team duos entering this XC season.
It was a busy summer for Colwell. He registered around 3,000 miles in the car, visiting 12 different campuses for unofficial visits. That helped him narrow his list down to five, and then three, before he made his final decision.
He was able to learn a lot about the schools through Zoom calls without being able to take traditional official visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I sat in a Zoom room with me and a couple other recruits or me and a couple of the team members," he said of the unique recruiting process. "It was really weird to pick a school based on not really meeting the team, but I felt like Penn State was the realest out of all of them and I felt like I had a good vibe with all of them."
Colwell enters the season at No. 4 in the Pennsylvania MileSplit50 Preseason Rankings. He had a big junior cross country season last fall. He ran a 5K XC best of 15:29 at Penn State's Spiked Shoe Invitational. He placed second at the PIAA State Championships in Class A, behind only his teammate Sands. He was 11th at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, just missing a top ten spot that would have qualified him for Foot Locker Nationals.
He ran 8:52 for 3,000 meters indoors this past winter before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the outdoor track season. He did, however, clock a 14:53 in the 5,000 meters on the track this past spring, a time that is the No. 5 all-time 5K performance on the track in state history.
Colwell has been a big Penn State football fan his whole life. That, coupled with a large alumni association were a couple factors in his decision. But what Colwell really liked about Happy Valley was the team's commitment to return to the national spotlight in cross country. Penn State has been quite the 800 meter factory over the past few years.
"Coach (Angela) Reckart and Coach (John) Gondak are super excited about men's cross country," Colwell said. "One of the things they told me when I was really struggling between the last three was they're focused on cross country at this point.
"Coach Gondak loves that people come for the 800, but he wants to be good in men's cross country as well," he added. "They are focused on becoming a national team in cross country, as well."
Check out an interview with Colwell after placing second at the PIAA State Championships last fall below and read our feature on Colwell and Sands here.