In their first big meet of the season on Saturday at Lehigh, the Cornell women’s cross country team finished fourth out of 31 teams, placing in between the other two Ivies at the meet, Yale and Penn.
In the “Gold” race for the top ten runners, Cornell led the field for the first mile and most of the second mile, but other runners passed them in the second half of the 3.73 mile race. Junior Taylor Knibb, Cornell’s first finisher, just returned from winning the U23 World Triathlon Championship in Australia. This was her first race since getting back to Ithaca.
“We were running so well, we could have made a big breakthrough,” head coach Artie Smith ’96 said. “The women saw their teammates executing that way, and they have been executing in practice. If you asked any of the women if they went out too hard they would say ‘no.’ When people around you are making a move and going ahead, it is hard to know whether to make a move with them, our to pace yourself for the rest of the race. It is not just a fitness thing, it is a strategic thing, you have to know who to go with.”
To prepare for the team’s next match at Penn State, Smith will emphasize cohesion among his runners. While it seems counter-intuitive to teach two runners who finished apart to run together during the race, this can help runners pace themselves for the majority of the race, while allowing for a burst of speed at the finish, so that faster runners and take off, and slower runners can keep a consistent pace. Smith believes this will help the team maintain the strong placement that they started with throughout the whole race.
In the open race, for runners outside the team’s top ten, the Cornell team finished first with 32 points: an extraordinary score. All five scoring runners finished in the top eleven overall.
“The open race shows our depth,” senior captain and Sun sports writer Gracie Todd said.
Todd faced every athlete’s nightmare last year. She missed the entire season due to stress fractures. But that did not prevent her from being a huge positive force on the team and returning as captain this year.
Smith echoed Todd’s sentiment.
“It is great to see big breakthroughs from a lot of people, and to know there is more there.”
While the Lehigh race was a bit of a missed opportunity, the team is determined to succeed in their next race. As Smith describes it, these races are test runs for the Ivy championship on Oct. 27, and then the NCAA Regionals on Nov. 9.
The Red will run next Friday, Oct. 12 in the Penn State National.