New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU women’s cross country clinches second at national championship

The Violets marginally lost their No. 1 ranking at the NCAA Division III National Championship.
Ethan Rendon
Cross country athlete Morgan Uhlhorn racing at the NCAA Division III National Championship on Saturday, Nov 18. (Ethan Rendon for WSN)

Just three hours away from New York City in rural Pennsylvania on Nov. 18, the NYU women’s cross country team raced against the fastest in the country at the NCAA Division III National Championship. The previously No. 1 ranked women’s team finished second in the nation, falling short to Carleton College.

Last year, the Violets qualified for the national championship as a team for the first time since 2013. So this year, qualifying wasn’t just a dream; it was the expectation. The team’s first taste of national-level racing left them hungry for more, and they set a goal to place within the top 10 teams.

Three months after the start of the season, winning has become routine for the team. The Violets have placed either first or second in every race this season.

“I think we all know now though that we have a shot at a podium finish,” Ph.D. student Grace Richardson said just days before the national race.

On Saturday, the Violets were ready to compete for the title. Echoing how mundane victory has become for the team, head coach Tyler Deck Shipley kept his pre-race speech straightforward: “The van leaves at this time, eat breakfast at this time, etc. Pretty simple and basic stuff — they know what to do.”

The course was deceptively difficult, beginning flat and then quickly becoming a disorienting hilly backwood designed to test the best runners in the country. For most of the 6K championship race, NYU was in first as a team, with Richardson in second place individually, behind College of Saint Benedict’s Fiona Smith.

In the last kilometer of the race, NYU’s top four runners dropped a total of 15 places. With a mere 100 meters to go, Richardson’s legs gave out, and she fell out of second place and finished ninth in 21:18. The margin for victory was historically close, with the Violets finishing second with a total of 154 points and Carleton College securing first place with 151 points.

Finishing right behind Richardson were NYU first-year Morgan Uhlhorn and sophomore Viv Kane. Uhlhorn tactically moved up from 66th at the first-mile marker to 15th place at the finish line, setting a new personal record of 21:22, while Kane placed 37th in 21:45. All three runners earned All-America honors for their top-40 performances.

“I am so proud of the girls for giving it their all and so grateful for all of the support,” Uhlhorn said after the race. “Everyone traveled up and came decked out in costumes, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.”
The Violets’ fourth scoring runner was junior Kate Cochran, who finished 47th in 22:02. Cochran transferred to NYU from SUNY-New Paltz after seeing the Violets compete at the national meet when she qualified as an individual last year.

“It’s cool to get places by yourself, it feels really rewarding,” Cochran said, speaking on her experiences at each school. “But there’s just something so different about going somewhere with a team.”

The top four NYU women’s team runners this season were consistently Richardson, Uhlhorn, Kane and Cochran. The Violets counted on strong effort after strong effort, and the four invariably delivered.

The hip-to-hip finishes of sophomores Janie Cooper and Lucy Gott, who often placed within five seconds of each other, also remained consistent throughout the season. Cooper and Gott placed 81st and 86th, respectively, with only a three-second difference in their times, ensuring NYU didn’t fall to third.

A testament to the team’s growth, the last Violet runner was first-year Olivia Jackson who finished 108th in a time of 22:35 — faster than any NYU runner at the national meet the previous year.

In most ways, cross country is a sport that is clearly defined: everyone runs the same course, and the fastest person and team on a given day wins. But cross country is more than just fast times. It is a sport about people and how those people come together, persevere and grow, as the Violets have shown to be true.

Many tears were shed and hugs were had after the women’s team brutally finished second. They marginally lost the biggest race of the season. Even though the Violets didn’t win a national championship, the memories shared are a true win that cannot be measured in distance or time.

Contact Ethan Rendon at [email protected].

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