Here is a tale between two teams and their journeys this season. One team came into the cross country season with a pre-season ranking of 10th, due to the long-distance success the team has had the previous two years within the Ivy League conference and on the national scene. This team was the pre-season favorite to retain their conference title for the third straight year. The other team, despite having one of the best long-distance runners in the country and Ivy League history, was not even recognized. The year before, they did not have this star runner and finished only 7th at Heps XC.
Once the season started, these two teams raced twice on two different courses, and team #2 bested them both times. Now, going into Heps XC, both teams have national rankings but the team #2 has a good chance of winning the conference crown.
It doesn’t take that long to guess that I’m referring to Cornell and Dartmouth.
#24 Cornell has the best 1-2 punch in the conference: seniors Rachel Sorna (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) and Emily Shearer (Lafayette, Calif.) . These women are the top returning scorers from last year, where Shearer finished 2nd and Sorna 3rd in a race that was won by their now-graduated teammate. Both of these ladies like to control the early pace and have proven that they can race at/near front with some of the fastest women in the country. The question is for the Big Red is how strong can their 3-4-5 runners race in order for them to hold onto the team title. The Big Red has lost some of their key runners last year due to graduation or season-ending injury. Devin McMahon (Redmond, Wash.), Cornell’s #4 runner from Heps last year, is regaining her form after a slow season start. Claire DeVoe (Portland, Ore.), Elizabeth Simpson (Perkomersville, Pa.), Kristen Niedrach (Medford, N.J.), and Marianne Collard (Cyrstal Lake, Ill.) have stepped up throughout this season for the final scoring spots.
But Dartmouth has now presented themselves as more than just Abbey D’Agostino’s team. Yes, D’Agostino (Topsfield, Mass.) has had a remarkable season so far and is poised to win her second Heps cross country title (she won in the 2011 snowmageddon but did not race last year due to injury). But Dartmouth is not just ranked 11th in the country just due to D’Agostino. Sophomore Dana Giordano (Bernardsville, N.J.) (who was the top freshman at the 2012 Heps XC), Sarah Delozier (Nashville, Tenn.), Alison Lanois (South Hamilton, Mass.), and Hannah Rowe (St. Johnsbury, Vt.) have all stepped up their game. Over the course of two weeks, these ladies have improved their 6km times by 10 to 20 seconds, while maintaining a 45 second spread between the second and fifth scoring positions.
But as any HepsNation alumni can attest, the atmosphere and mindset at Heps is different than any other meet out there. D’Agostino has shared in interviews that the Dartmouth squad has been working on balancing out the excitement with team focus after each cross country meet. Can they keep their excitement in check for this Saturday? If not, Cornell does not mind holding onto their crown for another year.