The Owls’ youth leads the pack for women’s cross country.
The women’s cross country team wrapped up its season at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships on Nov. 19 at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y., earning a program-best 15th place finish.
Freshman Jenna Dubrow led the team with a 41st place finish and a time of 19 minutes and 18 seconds. After the race, Dubrow had officially finished the season as the top runner on the team at all six meets. She said it might not be easy to maintain her presence at the top next year.
“It definitely has given me confidence,” Dubrow said. “But I know that next year if we get better recruits, and my teammates continue to get better, it’s going to take more work to stay up there if I want to be there.”
Coach Matt Jelley sees a lot of promise with the emergence of Dubrow and other young runners on the team this season.
“Our women’s program is definitely on the rise,” Jelley said. “We continue to improve above where we’ve been in the past. To have so much youth on the team and to continue to improve over last year’s finish at the race, that really shows just how good their future looks.”
Sophomores Taylor Goldsworthy (75th, 19:42), Stephanie Dorantes (94th, 19:55) and Anna Pavone (120th, 20:14) followed Dubrow.
Although Pavone said she doesn’t necessarily think she had her best run, she said the race served as a good stopping point.
“It wasn’t my best race because my legs are just tired out from the season,” Pavone said. “But it was a good way end to the season.”
Pavone said that as the team bonded and became stronger as a group.
“In the beginning of the year, we didn’t really know the freshmen all that well,” Pavone said. “So we worked together more and we were more of a team. That definitely goes a long way in how we do in a race.”
Dubrow said a lot of the team’s success came from its ability to feed off of each other’s success.
“I think everyone got a lot more competitive,” Dubrow said. “At the beginning, it was kind of an unspoken thing. Everyone just kind of went out and raced where they were supposed to be. But at the end, everyone started to get more competitive and started using each other to get better times.”
Dubrow is anticipating next year to be “completely different.”
“This year was really hard, considering all of the traveling we did, which I had never done before,” Dubrow said. “And every other week would be a different race distance and different competitions.”
“Now that I’ve been put through all these new things, next year I’ll be ready to actually go out there and be more competitive,” Dubrow added.
Dubrow led the team from the get-go this year, helping the team earn a 14th place finish at the Brother Doyle Meet of Champions in her first collegiate meet. At the Paul Short Invitational, the team earned a program record-breaking 32nd place finish.
Dubrow led the Owls with her 107th finish at the Penn State National Invitational as the team placed 27th overall. The team finished 12th at the Atlantic Ten Conference Championships and 22nd at the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Like the men’s squad, Jelley said he has seen a lot of improvement with his women’s team. When he first got here, he had just five runners to coach and now the roster has tripled.
“Now we’ve got a solid base,” Jelley said. “Next year we’re going to do even better things.”
“When you see the kind of success like that, it just helps along the recruiting trail,” Jelley added. “Those athletes will want to see that they’re going to a program that they’re going to be successful at.”
In the recruiting process, the cross country program has the benefit of looking at track and field statistics which depict more accurate representations of talent. But Jelley said the best recruits have even more than just pure talent.
“You’re looking for an athlete that is coachable,” Jelley said. “You’re looking for an athlete that has certain intangibles that you can’t teach. You’re looking for an athlete that fights with everything they have to change the outcome of a race, even if they don’t win.”
As for next season, Jelley is optimistic that an extra year of experience for the girls will go a long way in shaping a bright future for the team.
“Coming from high school programs, it takes the body time to adjust,” Jelley said. “But it’s a building process, and we’ve taken big strides this year. Hopefully next year, we’ll be able to make the jump from being a pretty good program to an elite and ranked program.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com.