MOUNT VERNON – Despite the graduation of two all-conference runners, Dan Schofer is not forecasting a drop-off in performance from his 2013 Cornell women's cross country team.
"We are determined to be even better as a team this year," said the eighth-year head coach. "If that is going to happen, we'll need our returners to show strong improvement and our first-year student-athletes to contribute immediately."
The Rams have a proven leader in Laura Ettlin, an all-Midwest Conference (19th place) and all-Central Region (31st) honoree a year ago. She appears poised for a strong senior season after an impressive run at last week's team time trials.
Senior Claudia Gonzalez joins Ettlin as a three-year letterwinner. Gonzalez placed 49th at conference last season. Sophomore Sam Martinez is back in the lineup after taking 26th at her first conference meet.
"Seniors Laura Ettlin and Claudia Gonzalez both worked really hard this summer and are primed for their best seasons," Schofer said. "Sam Martinez had a breakthrough spring track season, so we will rely on her as well."
Abrah Masterson heads a solid group of four incoming freshmen looking to make an early impact.
The Rams open competition Friday at the Grinnell Triangular. They'll be back in Grinnell for their next meet, the Les Duke Invitational, on Sept. 14. Grinnell is also the site of the MWC Championships Nov. 2.
Cornell made its return to the MWC last fall and placed fourth in the team standings. That tied the program's highest conference finish since 1992. The Rams must replace all-conference runners Leslie Smebak and Maria Helgeson from that 2012 squad.
Schofer has landed nine all-conference performers in cross country the last seven years.
"We are process oriented," Schofer said. "Our goal is simply to train well and make progress each week, so that we can put our best races together at the end of the season."