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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Cross Country looks to senior leadership

Four short years ago, the women's cross-country program could be characterized as average -- a team with some talent, but not enough to break into the big leagues. But four years later, with two back-to-back Heptagonal Cross Country Championships, the women's distance program not only leads the Ivy League, but sits confidently among the top teams in the nation.

The reason for such a huge change -- a new coach and two incredible runners.

Along with Coach Ellen O'Neil '87, Mirabel Sanchez '96 and Kristin

Manwaring '96 began what would be their illustrious Dartmouth running careers.

"They have been instrumental in bringing us up in the ranks," O'Neil said. "Their first year, we placed fifth at the Hepts, then second. And now we're looking for our third straight title."

In getting the Big Green to where they are now, both athletes have won numerous honors, recognizing their success. Sanchez owns four school records, four All-Americans and many All-Ivies as well.

Equally impressive, Manwaring holds seven school records, a couple All-American titles and many All-Ivy distinctions, not to mention qualifying for the U.S. Olympic trials this past summer.

Ironically, both hail from the same town of Ossining, N.Y., where they competed against each other. However, neither runner came here a superstar ready for instant success. College distance running is at a much more competitive level than the juniors. Winning requires fast times, tremendous work-ethic and confidence. So the two dropped their times, hit the weights, and pushed the limits each day.

"We've improved [our] times every year and we're in better shape," Sanchez said.

And with better performances, came the confidence. "They have really be able to master they workouts and are much more confident than when they got here," O'Neil said.

The driving force behind the two's dramatic improvements is coach and Dartmouth alum Ellen O'Neil. O'Neil, arriving at the same time as her two star runners, has put together a program which takes strong runners and molds them in top-notch competitors.

"She's a great coach, always adding to the workouts and pushing us," Manwaring said. Consequently, she has a team of hard working, dedicated athletes

Because of their focus and success, Manwaring and Sanchez are natural team leaders, motivating the other runners to improve their times as well.

"They are great listeners and very dedicated to the team, always guiding and helping the younger runners deal with the challenging workouts," O'Neil said.

And as a result, Big Green handily dominates the Ivies. Last year, making history at the Heptagonal Cross County Championships, Dartmouth took the top three positions with Sanchez and Manwaring coming in number one and two, respectively. The Green's team score at the meet was also the lowest in its history.

At this year's Disney World Invitational, last Oct. 5, the women's squad ran a tremendous race with Sanchez finishing fourth and Manwaring following at fifth. Teammate Jenna Rogers '98 came in 19th, and the team took second place overall, behind a very tough number three nationally ranked Villanova crew, catapulting the Big Green to number eight in the nation.

This year's Heptagonal Cross Country Championships should not be too difficult for the Big Green as the women are just short of being guaranteed the tittle because of their quick times.

For Sanchez and Manwaring in particular, a sub-top ten finish at the NCAA would be a great end the two's final season. Individually, Sanchez hopes to retain her All-American status by being in the top 25, hopefully bettering her 16th place finish last year. Manwaring is vying for her first All-American honor in cross-country and with any indication of how she's running this year, she should get it.

Tomorrow the women will look for their third straight Heptagonal title at Van Courtland Park in New York City.