The Red returns 10 of its top 12 runners from last year.

Cameron Pollack | Sun Photography Editor

The Red returns 10 of its top 12 runners from last year.

August 27, 2017

Women’s Cross Country Aims for National Championships, Ivy Title in Smith’s First Year

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In its first year under a new head coach, the Cornell women’s cross country team has an optimistic outlook on the upcoming season.

Entering his 19th year with the Red, Artie Smith ’96 was named head coach for the women’s track and field and cross country team. This change in leadership has the team excited, and Smith plans on upholding their long-standing tradition of success and hard work.

“I feel like I’ve been handed this really valuable, precious gift,” Smith said. “I just want to make sure I take good care of it.”

In Smith’s seven years as associate head coach of the women’s cross country team, the program has claimed two Ivy League titles and qualified for the NCAA championship twice. In addition, the Red has been ranked in the top 30 in national polls for the past five years, with the team placing fifth in Northeast Regionalsthe largest of the nine NCAA regions — just last fall.

Cornell returns 10 of its top 12 runners, including the top four from last year. In particular, this year’s three team captains — seniors Shannon Hugard, Jackie Katzman and Erin McLaughlin — are quite the accomplished group. Katzman and McLaughlin both earned all region honors last fall, and Hugard claimed all-American honors in the 1500 in track this spring.

Others returning include junior Briar Brumley, a consistent top five scorer from last year, and sophomore Taylor Knibb, a world champion in the triathlon.

In cross country, the top five score, but seven places can factor into scoring. Smith believes his 11 incoming freshman are a talented group that will continue to add to his team’s depth.

“Every year since I have been here, there has been at least one freshman in the top seven,” Smith said. “It sure looks like we have a lot of suspects to continue that tradition.”

The experience of the returning group combined with the new energy the freshman bring should be a recipe for success. Veterans of the team have proven themselves and accomplished a lot, but what Smith highlights is their competitive nature and talent for racing.

“It’s one thing to run fast which they have but not everyone that runs fast knows how to race,” Smith said. “This returning group is just really good at racing.”

As a team, the Red have established several goals for the upcoming season. First and most importantly, the team aims to take advantage of every opportunity to get better. In addition, the team is aiming for a spot in the national championships and a claim to the Ivy League title. And while these are goals the Red has every year, this year’s team is particularly invested in achieving them because of past accomplishments and the collective experience it shares.

The Red’s first meeting will be a tri-meet with Brown and Columbia on Sept. 8th at Van Cortlandt Park in NYC. Because the Ivy League Championships (Heps) will be held at that same location in October, the team will also focus on familiarizing themselves with the course in order to be confident and well-prepared when championships come around. Knowing and having a feel for the course will give them an edge over their competitors.

As one of Smith’s trademark sayings goes, “Cross country is a summer sport that you play in the fall.” The majority of the work that leads to a successful season is accomplished in the summer, and Smith is confident that his team has put in the necessary training to return and hit the ground running.

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