Despite six of women’s cross country’s first eight runners finishing with personal best times, the Red only managed to take seventh place at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Saturday — a meet widely considered to be one of the season’s most critical.
But even as Cornell missed meeting overall expectations, individual standouts nevertheless helped buoy the team’s hopes. Junior Taylor Knibb was the first Cornell runner to cross the finish line in seventh place, setting a personal best of 21:05.
“The Ivy League teams are all in the top 57 of 350 teams, with the Big Red ranked at 42 nationally. We wouldn’t be seventh in any other conference,” said head coach Artie Smith ’96. “We don’t want to be seventh, but it is hard to be frustrated when six of our eight runners have a career best finish at the cross-country Heps.”
Cornell finished the meet with 173 points — nine fewer than eighth-place Penn and 67 more than sixth-place Harvard.
While the Red disappointingly edged out only a single Ivy team, Smith was still particularly pleased that team happened to be the Quakers.
“We were excited to turn the tables on Penn, as they had beat us two weeks before,” Smith said. “In this league you could get slightly different results each week … it is such a competitive league that results can vary.”
Still, Smith acknowledged that the team has some issues to work on, particularly struggling to finish strong. Even Knibb, Cornell’s fastest runner in the meet, was in first place after 800m, but had difficulty maintaining that momentum through the remainder of the race.
“We’ve struggled this year with finishing,” Smith said. “It’s not because of a lack of effort or competitiveness. I think we’re going out really hard.”
To combat that issue, Smith emphasized the importance of solidifying cohesion among the team’s runners this season. While it might seem counterintuitive to teach two runners who finished apart to run together during the race, this can help runners better maintain their pace for a majority of the race.
“When people around you are making a move and going ahead, it is hard to know whether to make a move with them, or to pace yourself for the rest of the race,” Smith said.
While the team still had difficulties maintaining a consistent pace, that strategy largely succeeded at Heps, with the Red’s first five runners all finishing within a minute of each other. Following Knibb’s finish in 21:05 was senior Annie Taylor, freshman Melissa Zammitti, freshman Isabella Dobson, and senior captain Briar Brumley to round out Cornell’s top five.
“I loved seeing the competitiveness and conviction that inserted the team in the team title hunt,” Smith said. “We’ll keep working on getting stronger in the last half of these cross country races.”
The Red next competes Nov. 9 in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in Buffalo, NY, a qualifying race for the NCAA Championships.