The Cornell men’s and women’s cross country teams have flown through the first half of their season with flying colors. This past Saturday, the men finished ninth out of 34 teams while the women finished eighth out of 48 at the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University.
The women’s team recorded the second best run in Cornell history at the Paul Short, with its top five runners finishing within a remarkable 19 seconds of each other. This was the shortest spread for any school participating in the run. Twenty of the 24 women competing recorded personal bests in the six-kilometer race, giving head coach Artie Smith good reason for cheer.
“I was most excited with how [the women] were able to push each other and how in the championship Gold race we established our scoring five in the top 20 of the race early on,” he said.
Yet, despite their apparent significance in the sport, the numbers and statistics don’t do justice to the extent of women’s successes in this run. It was the presence of a highly competitive pack of Cornell women in the lead group of the 400 women’s field that Smith saw as crucial throughout the early and middle stages of the race.
Because she was able to stay in the highly competitive pack, junior Erin McLaughlin shaved 20 seconds off her previous personal record. She attributes her success to being within sight of her teammates for the entirety of the race.
“I’d attribute my PR yesterday to consistent training under Artie’s plan and the support of my team,” McLaughlin said. “I think it’s important to prioritize staying healthy, and to trust in the hard work that we’ve been doing since the start of summer training.”
Junior Jackie Katzman was part of the group that made up the top five for the Red, dictating the pace of the entire race. Katzman shattered her personal record by 52 seconds and finished with a time of 20:42 to finish 33rd. Kaztman reflected on recording the sixth best finish in Cornell history, calling the personal record “extremely exciting.”
“We’ve all run so many races in our lives, so the fact that so many of us ran the fastest that we’ve ever run is a really big deal,” Katzman said.
The men’s team enjoyed similar success.
Star junior Dominic DeLuca led the Red in the eight-kilometer Gold Division and finished in 24th with a time of 24:09. Freshman Connor Horn also had an excellent race, finishing in 36th place and second for the Red with a time of 24:20. While Cornell was ousted by Ivy opponents Dartmouth, Columbia, and Penn, the team finished comfortably ahead of Harvard with a point total of 225.
Head coach Zeb Lang called the event a solid performance, but one that did not quite reach the heights of that at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational three weeks ago.
“We performed solidly but not quite where we wanted to be,” he said. “Individually, freshman Connor Horn ran like a beast out there; he was very impressive.”
Smith hopes the momentum from the Paul Short Run will carry over to the trip to Penn State in two weeks time, but recognizes there is work to be done if the team wants to keep on improving.
“We weren’t able to hold [up] for the last mile,” he said. “The only way to [perform well] in the championship meets later in the year is to practice putting ourselves in those positions at this stage of the year.”
Mclaughlin hopes to improve in the middle section of the race, by staying connected to the runners in front of her. She described the middle section of the race as “often the hardest section physically and mentally.”
“Team-wise, I think we can capitalize on our pack-running by maintaining good team positioning through the second half of the race,” she said.
The men’s team will also head to Penn State, but only half of the program will make the trip. The rest of the team will focus on preparing for pre-nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana on Oct. 15. Lang emphasized that this rift in team preparation will not impact his training routine for the program.
“We have to adapt better [and] not let distractions get in our way and focus on running well,” he said.