With a 50-15 win, the Cornell women’s cross country team thoroughly out-ran Army in a dual meet on Sept. 9, 2005. It was a dominating victory, but the score line was not even the most promising part of the win. In fact, for a team that has finished in the top-3 of the ECAC championships for five of the last six years, the victory probably did little more than boost the team’s confidence.
Without a doubt, the most promising part had to be the performance of the freshmen. Of the top-20 finishers in the race, 15 were Cornell runners, including the first eight runners across the finish line. And of the top-20, eight were freshmen, including Aeriel Emig (third place), Marie Parks (fourth), Danielle Schaub (seventh), Shannon Crane (11th), Katie Roll (16th), Sonia Haerizadeh (17th), Alicia Korol (18th), and Fiona Cundy (19th).
From coach to runners, the entire team was encouraged by the impact of the rookie class and its implications for the future.
“It was nice because we ran as a group,” Parks said. “It was kind of different because I wasn’t used to the kind of warmup we did.”
Crane agreed with Parks, saying that the everything from the pressure to the intensity of practices gave the meet “a totally different feeling than high school.”
“Obviously I was pleased that so many freshmen did as well as they did in their first college race,” said head coach Lou Duesing.
Duesing was also happy that their meet performances reflected their running in practice. After watching the freshmen class develop through preseason leading up to the meet, Duesing was not surprised by the showing from his rookies.
“Number one, I thought it was a good group of freshmen coming in,” he said. “Number two, in talks over the summer, it was clear they were doing well in their training.”
The showing against Army was quite a promising sign for the future success of the Cornell women’s cross country squad. However, when it comes to this season, their success is only one small step. There are a number of obstacles for these women to overcome, one of which is adjusting to the larger meets and longer courses. While the Army meet was only a dual meet with two teams, most future meets and invitationals will feature a larger number of competitors.
“How they adjust to the larger field, faster pace, and larger course … we’ll see how they do,” Duesing said.
Another factor will be how the team’s strategy of “group running” works out as the season progresses, which helped the freshmen do well at the Army meet. The rookies will also have to learn to execute running strategy and get to know courses before races.
A third factor will be injuries and fatigue. Experience has taught Duesing that some of his runners will improve, while others will fade. And of course, there are factors outside the sport.
“It’s very early,” Duesing said. “We haven’t even had the first round of prelims.”
Still, this rookie class of runners seems to have incorporated itself well into the rest of the team and bonded as a group, which bodes well for team chemistry.
“It’s a fun group,” Duesing said. “They’ve gotten to know one another better. They seem to have caught the flow and the rhythm of the team.”
The athletes have the same positive reaction to the progress of the Class of 2009 so far.
“The freshmen girls are all pretty close,” Crane said. “The upperclassmen, they showed us the ropes completely. … We can talk with [the coaches] about anything. They’re really open and are very flexible.”
Another help to adjusting has been the goal sheets the team must fill out after each race.
“I guess it all works out because we all have a goal and we all help each other,” Parks said.
Although there are so many freshmen competing against one another, Crane feels it has only helped them succeed.
“I think as far as pressure, we’re making each other better,” she said. “We’re all very supportive of each other. … I’m having a blast.”
Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Staff Writer