RIT’s women’s cross-country team made a lot of noise last season, but they won’t be quietening down anytime soon. The stakes may be higher, but the pressure has only given the team another reason to achieve their goals.

For the past two years, the ladies have been ranked top six in their region.

“The Atlantic Region is probably one of the most successful and most competitive in the entire nation,” explained head coach Dave Stevens.

Their success, talent, and hard work showed in their ranking. Last season, for the first time in program history, the team made a trip to the NCAAs, where they finished 17th in the country.

“[There] has been a huge change in our program,” said second year Marketing and Hospitality double major Rebecca Schwan. “And I hope to continue that.” The team had been working hard at making history, and this year will not be any different.

Despite graduating four of their seven top runners, the team is anticipating a very successful season. “A lot of runners are stepping up and filling in some of our scoring positions,” Stevens mentioned. “We are more than capable of filling in the gaps.” The roster may not have the same names, but the talent and potential is there.

As fifth year Chemical Engineering major and this year’s captain, Emily Knaul, explained, “The team feels really mature and motivated. There is no one who is unsure of what to do or hasn’t run before.”

So far, Stevens sees this strength and potential in his roster. “We had a fantastic freshman class last year,” Stevens described. “I think that they’re definitely ready to step up.” The same was said about the sophomore and junior classes. The strength and motivation is not lacking anywhere on the roster.

“The middle of the pack wants to make a difference,” noted Knaul.

Reaching their set goals and answering the calls of success will not be an easy task, but both the coaching staff and runners know they can do it.

“We know we’re capable of it,” stated Knaul. “Everyone is working hard.”

While workouts and training are controlled by the coaches, the results depend on the runner and what she puts into it.

“We work harder, do more work outs, [and] do higher intervals to really prepare ourselves for what the rest of the season is gonna give us,” explained Schwan.

“We definitely are feeling a little bit of the pressure,” admitted Schwan. Taking one meet at a time helps relieve some of the pressure of the bigger picture, but it does not take away from it. Knaul explained how the races are spaced out, giving the runners two weeks or more in between. The focus is to improve each time, and keep improving as time goes on.

There’s more than just championship titles at stake though. The coach and athletes are both focused on what they leave behind for the program, not just what they are achieving now.

“The idea that we’re leaving behind a legacy for women that come after us,” Stevens stated when asked about the long-term goals for the program, “I think that’s important to everyone, our women, to succeed on an annual basis.” Knaul discussed how she hopes the program earns the reputation of constantly being nationally ranked. She explained, “I want that to be the mindset each season.” As she puts it, she hopes “to set that standard of a high quality team.”

“Our program is based on individual character development for each woman,” described Stevens. He wants to see them run faster and become stronger physically, but he also wants them to become stronger mentally and grow as individuals. One of the long-term goals for the runners is, as Coach Stevens explains, “Having them be stronger, more mature women, more complete women, more well-rounded women when they graduate.”

Cross-country is, as Stevens puts it, “one of the more demanding sports to participate in.”

It takes more than strength and speed to take on this challenge. The level of motivation and mental discipline needed is just what RIT’s team has. As Schwan said, “We runners do enjoy that, to see what our bodies can do before they pass out.” With their hard work, skills, and pure iron will, the women’s cross-country team have already wowed the competition in the past couple years, and they will continue on doing so. 

The next step for this team is coming up on October 1, as they compete at the Mike Woods Invitational at Letchworth State Park. Then on October 15, the team will be racing in their pre-regional meet. This will take place at Rowan University, in New Jersey. This meet will help the team become familiar with the course and see their competition, since the regional championship will be held here later in the season.