By JOSH SOMMERS
The Cornell women’s cross country team takes to the road today for its biggest test of the season at the Paul Short Invitational, hosted by Lehigh. The Red has had an auspicious start to its 2015 campaign, earning decisive first place finishes at both the Brother Jasper Invitational and the Yellowjacket Invitational. The team placed six and nine runners, respectively, in the Top-10 of those two races.
Head coach Artie Smith credits the team’s success to its effective preparation and focus.
“I’ve been very pleased with the consistency of everyone’s training, beginning in the summer and continuing with our first month of training since the school year began,” Smith said. “The team has done a great job of simply taking things one day at a time and not getting ahead of themselves.”
As the Red enters its third race of the season, the team is likely to face stiff competition. The runners will be competing against 36 other schools in the 6K Gold Race, the most competitive division offered at the Paul Short Invitational.
However, senior captain Kristen Niedrach said they are optimistic that they can continue their success.
“This is just another step up the ladder,” Niedrach said. “It’s a bigger race with some bigger competition so we just need to continue to stay composed and be confident.”
Junior captain Taylor Spillane, who has placed first individually in each of the first two races, has a similar view heading into the event.
“Paul Short is one of our first big meets of the year,” Spillane said. “We have done some really exciting things so far and we are ready to see what else we can do.”
Spillane also underscored the importance of teamwork towards helping the Red sustain its momentum.
“In order to continue the team’s success we are putting a lot of emphasis on working together,” Spillane said. “Throughout the season, we have done a really good job encouraging each other and pulling each other along in the workouts.”
While the race is certainly important one for Cornell, it will not be the team’s defining race, as the Red’s foremost goals involve its performance at the end of the season.
“I know we’ll take some good steps forward toward our ultimate goal of being at our best in the championship portion of our season a little over a month from now,” Smith said. “I also expect that we’ll learn some things that we’ll need to work on. That’s good at this stage of the season.”
Neidrach and Spillane emphasized that the race will be a learning experience for the team — an opportunity to practice strategy.
“Our primary goal for this race is to get some experience racing in a large and fast field and to stick to our race strategies even if things don’t go perfectly according to plan,” Spillane said.
Nonetheless, after finishing fifth in last year’s Paul Short Invitational, the Red should be able to have similar statistical success in this year’s event, while the runners keep in mind the loftier goals they hope to accomplish in the coming weeks.
“They’re doing a great job, and [they’re] on a path towards being very successful at the most important time of the year,” Smith said. “We’re not all the way there yet, but I’m very excited to see what this weekend will bring.”