Head Coach Gwen Harris had high hopes for the Penn women’s cross country team and with good reason. Two of the team's top runners from the previous season returned with one year of experience apiece under their belts. A core of veterans were healthy and ready to return to action, and six newcomers were just waiting to get their feet wet.
Harris did not have to wait long to find out it was going to be an exciting and successful fall. Penn opened the season with a fifth-place showing at the Fordham Invitational at Van Cortlandt, the site of the conference championships which would take place seven weeks later. Stacy Kim and Claire Kim both finished in the top-20 to lead the Red and Blue.
The following week, five members of the team finished in the top-10 at the University of Delaware Invitational to lead the Quakers to a first-placeshowing. The Kim twins finished second and third, respectively, while freshman Leah Brogan finished fifth. All three ran times that were faster than the course record of 18:52, set in 2001 by Kelly Stewart of Shippensburg.
Penn held their own among the nation’s best at the Paul Short Run and the Penn State Open. Stacy and Claire Kim finished fifth and sixth at the Paul Short and 19th and 25th at the Penn State Open to help the team to a eighth-place and fourth-place showings, respectively.
Brogan was impressive in her first season with the Red and Blue, pacing herself right behind the twins, finishing 48th at Penn State and 22nd at the Paul Short Run.
The Quakers peaked at the Heptagonal Championships, finishing third in a very competitive field. Penn’s finish was the best since 1991 and a vast improvement from 2004’s eighth-place finish. Only No. 7 Columbia and No. 18 Princeton finished ahead of the Red and Blue. Three Quakers finished in the top-25, including Stacy Kim who took ninth and earned second-team All-Ivy League honors, while setting the Penn record on the Van Cortlandt Park course.
"Being at the bottom is tough," said Harris after the race. "And this was amazing. We knew we could do this, but we knew we had to do everything right. Everyone ran so tight in the pack. I was real proud of them. The girls could not have run a better race."
Penn finished seventh at the NCAA Regional Championships two weeks later behind Stacy Kim’s 19th-place finish and Brogan’s 27th-place showing. Jamie Liberti and Tina Morrison finished in the top-30.
The women’s cross country team has a great deal of youth, and with experience the will only get better. These student-athletes set the tone for the rest of the track and field season. And with the way things started, the Ivy League should watch out for what Penn has in store.