At the beginning of the 2003 cross country season, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, youth will carry the women’s cross country team.
At this early point in the season, only four of the top 12 runners on the team are juniors or seniors, and none of them have spent significant time in the varsity. In fact, none of the 12 finished in the top seven in any of last year’s postseason meets.
Study abroad and a few varieties of freak illness are largely responsible for the team’s lack of upperclassmen at the start of the season.
Juniors Amber McGown and Jenn Meil are both abroad for the semester, with plans of returning to the team next year, and classmate Kate Boyles and senior Jessica Parrott will both be limited in the early season as they recover from their various ailments. Boyles and Parrot are not gone for the whole season, though.
“We fully expect they will be back, and back in time to make a significant contribution,” said Cornell head coach Lou Duesing.
So far, Duesing noted, the top performers on the team are fittingly, two underclassmen — sophomore Mandy Knuckles and freshman Nyam Kagwima.
“Mandy,” said Duesing, “is running extremely well. She’s had a very, very good summer.”
And Kagwima, he noted, is well ahead of the average freshman.
“I’ve been delightfully surprised,” said the coach. “You don’t expect an incoming freshman to be doing what she’s doing in the workouts.”
Behind Knuckles and Kagwima, sophomore Emily McCabe leads a promising group of rising runners. Last season in track, McCabe set the school freshman record in the 10,000-meter run and comes into the season looking to bring some of that success onto the cross country course.
McCabe is joined by classmate Angela Kudla, junior Carrie Richards (a Heps finalist in the mile), and senior Natalie Gingerich.
Senior Kinsy Miller and junior Sarah Fischer round out the top group of returnees for the Red. Duesing made note of both of them for their hard work over the summer and their enthusiasm in practice.
Four freshmen round out the top 10 for the Red. Erin Linehan, Megs DiDario, Robin Ellerbrock and Christy Paul have all enjoyed solid summers, and Duesing is looking for them to contribute to the team early.
“They’ve all done quite well,” he said. “They don’t seem to be too intimidated [by the switch to college].”
Senior captain Christine Eckstaedt provides the motivation, as she works her way back from a stress fracture.
“Thus far, she’s done an excellent job as captain,” said Duesing. “She’s done a great job over the summer.”
Fitness-wise, noted Duesing, the team is doing just fine.
“People have really done a good job over the summer,” he said.
“If we were to have all the people we thought we were going to have plus this group,” Duesing continued, “I’d be worried, because I wouldn’t have a place for everybody.”
Of all the season’s meets, Duesing noted three that would provide excellent tests for the Red on the way to the postseason, the Iona Meet of Champions at Van Cortlandt Park in New York, the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Penn., and the Penn State Invitation in State College.
“All three will have very large fields, but also very competitive fields,” Duesing noted.
It all leads up to the Heptagonal Championships, on Oct. 31 at Van Cortlandt Park, and it won’t be an easy field.
“It’s an extremely competitive conference,” said Duesing. “They’re all teams in the top echelon of the nation.
While Columbia figures to have a stranglehold on the championship with a No. 9 preseason national ranking and almost all of last year’s Heps championship team returning, the competition for the next four spots in the field looks wide open.
“It’s going to be who runs well on the day of the meet,” said Duesing.
And where will the Red be? It’s hard to say.
“How well we do as a team is how we progress as a team,” noted Duesing.
That means, as he said, “People working together and people going into races not worried about pecking orders or where they’re supposed to be.”
It’s all about working together and each team member picking up her part.
And Duesing is confident his team can do that.
“What I tell [the team] is: ‘Don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control.’ The degree to which they follow that advice will define how good this season will be.”
Archived article by Matt James