Women’s Cross Country at Shacklette Invitational (Manchester, NH (image courtesy: Jim Stankiewicz)

The SNHU women’s cross country team has been on the rise. With no freshmen on this year’s squad, the veteran presence has been one of the biggest reasons for this incline.

Graduate student Jill Couto (’22) has been on the team since the 2016 season and has seen the development of the team first-hand.

“The team has developed greatly,” said Couto. “When I came in, we weren’t very fast, and we weren’t very high in the rankings at all. We were building the SNHU [cross country] program up from the bottom. Each year we have progressively gotten better. This is the best team that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

While cross country may seem like a purely individual sport, teamwork is the essence of it. The relationships built outside of practice have led to the growing success of the squad.

“We’ve all been able to work off of each other with the relationships that we’ve built outside of cross country. When we come to races, we are able to work together to achieve our team and individual goals,” said Couto.

Graduate student Ashley Corcoran (’23) was a captain last season, however, this season a title was no longer necessary.

“This year we decided to do away with captains because our coach felt that we had leadership on the team that didn’t need to have a title,” said Corcoran.

Corcoran and Couto feed off of each other’s energy on the course. This is because it stems from their relationship off the course.

“I think we have grown close because we are roommates. This is really our first season together because COVID threw a wrench into things. When I first got to SNHU, Jill redshirted, then COVID happened so this is the first year that we are running together. It’s been nice to have Jill there because we are at the same level and she always keeps me going,” said Corcoran.

The Penmen finished in fourth place at Regionals and, unfortunately, will not go to Nationals as a team. Corcoran, however, has qualified as an individual for the second time in her SNHU career.

“My best personal race ever was Nationals in 2019. That’s where I had my fastest 6k and became an All-American,” said Corcoran. “It was the best day of my life and was very emotional for myself and my team.”

The opportunity to run at the Division II level is one that not many people get. This being Couto’s last season, emotions are high.

“There’s so much I can say,” said Couto. “I wouldn’t be the person or athlete I am today without being in this program with my teammates and my coaches. This program has been the best part of my life.”