“Just keep improving and moving forward.” That is the philosophy of 18-year veteran head coach Artie Smith ’96 of the women’s cross country team.
In just two weeks, Cornell’s 46 member squad will head down to State College, Pennsylvania for its first meet of the season.
In the 2015 campaign, the women had flashes of greatness – winning several competitive meets and spending time in the nation’s top 30 of over 300 Division-I schools.
“There were a lot of great things last year… I mean being in the top 30 in this sport is a big deal,” Smith stated.
Certain steps along the way leave the team hungry for more, though. A disappointing sixth place finish in Ivy championships, which they had won in two of the previous four years, and a long offseason served as great motivation over the summer.
“We didn’t have the results we wanted in the championship part of the season, but there were still many good things to go off of from last year,” Smith said.
The majority of the team competes as distance runners on the track and field team in the spring, a unit coach Smith is in charge of. As a result, most of the runners get to compete for the whole academic year. Watching first hand, Smith was impressed by his runners’ springtime performances and is confident they will carry over into the fall.
“This past track season we really got to see some breakout performances for the distance runners,” Smith noted. “I think that their cross country performance last fall and the track season last spring is a really exciting indication of where the team will be this year.”
Over the summer, Cornell lost several key runners; Caroline Kellner, Kristen Niedrach and Claire DeVoe all contributed in a big way for the Red. Nevertheless, much of the core scoring group has returned for this season. “With all due respect to our former seniors, the returning group was probably the main core of the team,” Smith said.
Taylor Spillane, Shannon Hugard and Delphi Cleveland will captain the team and are expecting big seasons. Numerous freshmen additions also look to contribute as soon as possible.
When asked about goals for the season, the head coach tried to stay on message. “We want to create an environment where each women on the team is improving and moving forward competitively. I’ve always felt that if we have a deep and talented team – which we do – and if they’re all getting better since a year ago, then we’ll have great success.”
He did point to Ivy Heps as a tangible measure of the team’s success, though, and like every year, their goal is to win the Ivy League.
“We’re aspiring to win Heps this season,” Smith said. “We also expect to see ourselves competing in the national championships come November.” Cornell will likely need to be in the national top 31 in order to make this happen.
Again, it all comes back to improvement this season. “We were in the hunt last year, so if we keep getting better we’ll be even more in the hunt this year,” Smith said.
The women begin competition on September 10, at the Spiked Shoes Invitational in University Park, Pa.
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the three team captains. Those named captain are in fact Taylor Spillane, Shannon Hugard and Delphi Cleveland.