The seniors on the women’s cross country team ran in a pack at their dual meet with Army on Sept. 8, and while this may seem unusual for athletes competing for individual glory, these runners are a tight-knit group looking to lead a young squad to success.
Three of the Red’s runners, senior Erin Linehan, sophomore Katie Roll and senior captain Robyn Ellerbrock, all emphasized the importance of a team mentality.
“Anyone who runs cross country is in season for the whole school year. It is hard sometimes to feel like you never get a break, or a time to relax, but it is also a lot of fun, and definitely plays a part in how close we are,” Ellerbrock said. “We spend three or more hours a day together every day, aside from the fact that all the upperclassmen live in houses together, and we get to know each other pretty well.”
Though pleased with the team’s first performance in a 15-50 win over Army, Ellerbrock says that the first race is rarely indicative of what the season will hold. It is several months long and with championship meets — Heptagonals, NCAA Regionals, and ECACs — wait at the end of the schedule. In its meet with Army, the Red had two freshmen finishers in the top-9 and one in the top-5. Freshmen Stephanie Pancoast (19:34.9) and Erin Roberts (19:55.9) finished in fifth and ninth place, respectively.
“Last year’s freshmen were a very good group,” said head coach Lou Duesing. “They adapted and improved quickly. I anticipate a similar outcome from this freshman class.”
Leading that group of former freshmen are sophomores Marie Parks and Ariel Emig, who traded 1-2 team finishes for the Red multiple times last season. Classmates Danielle Schaub, Katie Roll and Robin Daniels will also help push the pack.
Ellerbrock will lead a talented group of upperclassmen which include seniors Nyam Kagwima and Christy Paul. These experienced runners helped the Red to a win at the ECAC meet last fall and a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Regionals.
The team always looks forward to Ivy League competition, especially against Columbia and Princeton.
Columbia has beaten Cornell every year that this year’s seniors have competed. The runners’ performances at meets such as these often depend on whether they had a good summer of preparation.
“If you arrive in August after having a bad summer, preseason will be hard, and rarely do unprepared girls become fully prepared in time for the beginning of the season,” Duesing said. “Training too hard, with too much intensity during the summer, however, will make a runner peak prematurely in the season and [she] will be exhausted by the championships.”