The Stateswomen competed at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country championships at Lakeside Park in Pawling on Saturday, finishing seventh overall in Class D competition with Kate Shults’ 42nd place finish in 22:10.5 the team’s best. Shults is the younger sister of former Coleman standout Ann Shults, who graduated last year and is running at Wheaton College.
“She was my true cross-country runner,” said Coleman coach James Cauldwell, who just wrapped his 22nd season at the helm of the small school program. “Her sister Kate is my number one girl, and I have a group of other girls who just by sheer determination have gotten better.”
Coleman’s girls’ program doesn’t even go into double digits, and because there are few Class D teams in the area, they’re often forced to face off against much larger schools.
“It’s very difficult as you can imagine, but I’ve been lucky,” said Cauldwell. “The past five years, we’ve always had state competitors, and three out of those five years the team has competed.”
This was one of those years, with the team performing well enough against larger schools to earn a bid in the state championships. It’s competing against tougher competition that Coach Cauldwell said was part of what made his team better runners.
“It’s been very difficult to compete against the bigger schools, but once we get down to the competition level where we’re supposed to be, we’re that much stronger,” he said. “Even though our win-loss record is not that terrific in our league, we do have a decent team.”
In truth, some programs would be perfectly happy with a “not that terrific” 9-5 overall record, one which placed Coleman 5th out of 16 teams.
“The four teams that beat us are really big running schools,” said Coach Cauldwell. “Rhinebeck, Red Hook, New Paltz and Onteora. They have programs that far outweigh ours.”
Coleman’s runners all found their way to the sport along different paths. They’re either relatively new to distance running or have been doing it for years. They’re different in many ways as high school kids always are, but they’re drawn together by a sport and a team they share a unique bond with. They also appreciate the inherent complexities of cross country.
“I love the fact that it’s a team sport, but also the fact that it’s about individual achievement,” said Angelina Baker, a junior who began distance running a year-and-a-half ago at the encouragement of her fellow field hockey teammates. “I love everyone on my team, we were really close the whole season, and we helped each other to improve and we all supported each other and worked hard together during practice. However, cross-country is also a sport that has a lot to do with personal achievement, and I love that I can focus on my own improvement and individual set of goals.”
Junior Taylor Tschinkel also said she appreciates the layers of what on the surface appears to be a fairly straightforward sport.
“There is a lot more to cross country than running,” she said. “I think cross-country is more of a mental sport than anything else.”
Tschinkel echoed Baker’s sentiment about the team and the individual.
“To me, I felt better winning as a team rather than winning individually,” she said. “When we won Sections for class D as a team, it was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had. If I would have made it to states individually, I would still be happy, but it’s a better feeling when you are able to share the victory with your teammates.”
Senior Carlena Reagan agreed.
“I’ve never competed for myself,” she said. “I always go out onto the course working hard for the team. I find that I don’t truly get the satisfaction unless my girls are with me. I’m blessed to have them as friends and teammates.”
Saturday’s season finale saw the Stateswomen compete against many different runners from many different schools. That’s not unusual, as every team in the MHAL winds up facing off against multiple schools in a few meets during the regular season. For some athletes, that can be something of a mixed bag.
“Competing against multiple schools can be very nerve-wracking, but also very exciting at the same time,” said junior Imma Rutigliano. “There’s more competition and you tend to have more girls in your race, which could help you run faster, and in the end you would get a better time.”
There’s also the camaraderie to consider.
“I like competing in events against multiple schools,” said Baker. “We get to see so many great athletes and meet a lot of different, interesting people.”
With their season in the rear view mirror, the girls of Coleman’s cross country team were feeling reflective.
“I feel that our season went very well this year,” said Baker. “The first week of practice all of us girls got together and talked about how much we wanted to win sectionals this year and make it to the state championships and make our coach proud. It was our goal the whole season, to work really hard, all try our best, and win sectionals. We had a great season, and winning sectionals and going to states was the best way to end it.”