By BRITTANY BIGGS
This Friday, the Cornell women’s and men’s cross country team looks to meet the goals they set at the beginning of the season and try to punch themselves a ticket to NCAA Cross Country Nationals. To do this, the team would have to perform exceptionally well at the Northeast Regionals in Boston, There, they will compete with top teams from their NCAA region for coveted spots in the championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
After an entire season of growth and accomplishments, the team enters this Regionals in a different place than they did last season.
“We were a good team last year, but I think we are stronger and deeper going into Regionals this year. We are closer to the mix of the top teams,” said men’s cross country head coach Zebulon Lang. “We have been preparing for this meet all summer & fall and we are excited about the opportunity to race with some of the nation’s best. This Friday we will race 4 nationally-ranked teams. (No. 2 Syracuse, No. 9 Iona, No. 16 Columbia, No. 29 Providence).”
Artie Smith, the head coach for the women’s cross country team also feels the change in tides for his accomplished team.
“The team has had a very good vibe the last two weeks,” Smith said. “Training continues to go very well. In fact, I think we’ve had some real breakthroughs in recent weeks and it is clear the team feels like November will be their best month of racing yet. We’ve been preparing for this part of the season all year and I think they are very ready to have their best race of the season this Friday.”
Knowing that they face stiff competition, the athletes are focused on what they bring to the table at this year’s regional.
“Going into Regionals, I think my teammates and I have a lot of determination to finish the season with our strongest races yet,” said sophomore Erin McLaughlin. “We’ve been running really well in workouts lately, so we have confidence in our ability to compete at the national level. At the same time, we’ve kept a sense of fun throughout the season, which I think has contributed to the fact that we’re excited to race hard for our teammates as well as ourselves.”
Close to the finish line, the athletes said they know just how close they are to the goals they strive to achieve.
“We all know how close the last meet was,” said senior co-captain Brian Eimstad. “If we can all perform at the level we are capable of, there’s a very good chance that we can make it to nationals. Columbia has a lot of points this season, so if we beat them at regionals, they will likely “push our team in” with the way qualifying work.”
With so much on the line, little tweaks and adjustments could make all the difference for the Red.
“They really and truly don’t need to change anything in terms of effort,” Smith said. “The competitiveness and strong finishes to our races have been terrific. The team has made it a focus to get better positioning early in the race and we’ve also addressed some things that should help with that. The key is to bring the same type of effort while executing a bit differently earlier in the race and to compete with confidence.”
Regardless of what happens on Friday, it has been a season of growth and success for both teams.
“It’s hard to pin one favorite moment from the season, because I think this season has been special in the way that we’ve come together as a team, especially in workouts,” McLaughlin said. “Before the Heps meet, we did a long run together out on the trails, which was fun because we normally do our long runs by ourselves. It was a great team bonding experience coming into the Heps.”