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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Women’s Cross Country continues to triumph with help from talented first-years.

<rleton Women’s Cross Country team continues to dominate the MIAC, putting up excellent team results and showing impressive individual performances. Back in September, the team finished in second place out of 23 teams at the St. Olaf Invitational and proceeded to capture first place out of 12 teams at the Roy Griak Invitational the following week. Most recently, the team took first place out of 12 teams at the Running of the Cows meet, with sophomore Meg Mathison finishing first and senior captain Emily Kaegi following in at second place. Mathison and Kaegi have since both been awarded MIAC Athlete-of-the-Week honors for their outstanding performances this season.

Emily Kaegi emphasized the team’s focus on creating an environment that connects and supports every member. “While many people think of cross country as an individual sport, we really try to make it about the team. We talk about team performances and about how no matter where you are running on the team, you are helping achieve wins. Our strategy focuses a lot on running together,” said Kaegi. At the beginning of the season, the team established goals that will push the athletes to reach the high caliber of performance that they are capable of achieving. “We always hope to be top three at the MIAC Conference and then qualify for Nationals, ideally by placing top two at the Regionals race,” Kaegi said.

Looking to expand the roster, the team brought in 14 first-years from across the country.  While discussing the first-years, Kaegi enthusiastically credited the group for their contributions to the team. “Half of our active roster is first-years, which is pretty crazy. The amazing thing about this class though, is not only that they are talented, but each one wants to bring something to the team. They have meshed so well with the returners and are excited to share their ideas to improve the team. It’s been really fun as an upperclassman to see the first years taking ownership for the team,” Kaegi said.
 The leadership displayed by this year’s first-years emanates from the inclusiveness and comfort level the new runners experienced when first arriving on campus. Grace Leslie ’21 attributes team success to not only physically demanding workouts, but the mutual support that the team constantly exhibits. “The team feels like a second home and is very accepting. It was especially nice to have people that you were immediately connected to during the first few weeks on campus. When I first got here, I was surprised how positive and determined everyone is on the team,” Leslie said.

The effort and enthusiasm from the first years has been contagious, and the Knights continue to put up great results because of it. Discussing the newcomers, Leslie said, “having a large freshman group on the team has also been really fun for me. There is always a lot of energy and excitement going into races and I think that carries over in everyone’s individual performances. The other freshman are people that I can see myself being friends with for all four years here.”

There is clearly no shortage of team support, as demonstrated through the athletes and the coaching staff. Emma Greenlee ’21 said, “the coaches care about us as runners and as people, and are dedicated to helping us be the best we can. They train us smart, and it’s been working. The motivation and energy everyone brings to practice and competition creates an atmosphere that makes the whole group stronger.” With each new athlete bringing a set of unique talents and qualities, from meet to meet the team has proved their strength and dominance. “Everyone brings their own strengths, and comparing our different running backgrounds, experiences, and philosophies has been really cool,” said Greenlee.

In preparing for the upcoming MIAC Championships, taking place at St. Olaf this year, the team is hoping to stay active, healthy, and injury-free. While the championships are approaching soon, the team carries a mentality that prioritizes a focus on immediate competitions. “Right now we just focus [on] one race at a time. We are off from racing this weekend for the first time since the start of the school year, so we will do some very quality workouts this week. As long as we stay healthy and keep working hard at practice and taking care of ourselves during the week, we will be ready for MIAC Championships,” Kaegi said.

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