After the loss of No.1 runner and senior co-captain Stephanie Pancoast due to graduation, question marks surrounded the Cornell women’s 2010 underclassmen-heavy cross country team; after all, youth is often considered fickle and unreliable in contemporary athletics (see 2007 No. 1 NFL pick Jamarcus Russell). But with just two upperclassmen in the team’s top seven, head coach Lou Duesing’s squad has flipped this popular belief on its head, riding a top five composed of three sophomores and a freshman to a Sept. 10 sweep of Army and a second-place showing to No. 10 Syracuse at this past weekend’s Colgate Invitational.
At Colgate, led by sophomore Katie Kellner, who finished in 21:55, the Red packed its top five runners between the seventh and 15th places, good for a 42-second spread between Kellner and No. 5 runner senior Kristin Sellers. Freshman Devin McMahon, who led the Red last week at Army, continued to excel with an eighth-place finish, just four seconds behind Kellner. Sophomores Kelsey Karys and Genna Hartung finished in 10th and 12th place, respectively, running a 22:12 and 22:24, while classmate Cara Costich finished in 16th. Senior captain Maura Carroll rounded out the top seven with a 22:44 performance, good for 19th place.
For Hartung, Karys, Kellner and Costich, Saturday’s race was their first of the 2010 season and was an eye-opener.
“It was a much harder course than most of us expected … at least for me it was kind of a shocker. It was kind of weird to remember how to race again; it’s such a different mentality than in a workout,” Karys said.
Kellner seconded the “mental” aspect of racing, stating, “For the first race, I think it’s really important to get in the right mental mindset …. even if you don’t place as well as you would like to, having that mindset can stick with you for the rest of the season.”
For the Red, Saturday’s race was also a mix-up of the order from the 2009 campaign; last year, Hartung, Kellner and Karys finished second, third and fourth generally for Cornell; this past weekend, Kellner led the way with McMahon second, Karys third and Hartung fourth. However, with just two races finished (one for Hartung, Kellner and Karys), a distinct order for the Red is still up in the air.
“All of the top five or so work out together, and it’s only been a few meets so we don’t want to impose a pecking order or anything –– all of the places can change around. But we’re very excited about [McMahon]. She’s been great,” Karys said.
Also, according to Kellner: “Genna’s been looking really good; she was a bit sick this weekend so she definitely has a lot more to offer.”
Thus, expect the Red to continue to jostle positions in upcoming races at Lehigh and Penn State as the Cornell women finalize a top five and top seven roster before Heptagonals and NCAA Regionals. However, no matter who ends up as the No. 1 runner, expect two adjectives to describe her: young and fast.