NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Besides electing their next captain, the members of the Yale women's cross country team also honored their strongest athletes at the annual banquet. Each year, the Mike Stanley-John Cleary Award is given to "the most outstanding member of the Yale women's cross country team who excels in Dedication, Commitment, and Inspiration to the sport of cross country."
For the 2016 season, the Cleary Award was bestowed upon both captain Frances Schmiede and senior Emily Waligurski, both of whom were pivotal in helping the team reach its first NCAA Championship in 15 years.
Schmiede was nothing short of brilliant in the fall of 2015. During her breakout season, she earned First Team All-Ivy Honors and All-Region Honors in cross country, as well as All-American honors and Second Team All-Ivy Honors during the past track season. This was in addition to the pair of records she broke last year.
This year, Schmiede kicked off the season strong with a second-place finish at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet and eighth-place finish in the Gold Race at the Paul Short Run. It was at this contest that the Bulldogs were bumped up in the national rankings. She finished off what has been a commendable legacy with a seventh-place performance to earn yet another First Team All-Ivy honor, as well as All-Region honors for her 15th-place finish at the Northeast Regional. At Nationals, Schmiede led the team through a very tough contest.
Throughout the season, Schmiede led the team with such grace that it is no surprise that she shares an award with an equally strong athlete in Waligurski.
Waligurski on her part had a breakout last season for the team. All of her performances this season blew her past performances straight out the water. After a third-place finish at Harvard-Yale-Princeton, she led the team at the next three major meets: the Paul Short Run (she placed third), the Nuttycombe Invitational (41st) and the Heptagonal Championships (third). Her best performance by far was her third-place performance at Heps. She has excelled by every stretch of the imagination, pairing well with Schmiede as the two helped propel the team to the National Championships.
At the National Championships, Waligurski was able to push through a tough pack to take 157th out of the nation's top 253 cross country runners. Schmiede, on her part, finished ten seconds ahead of her for 119th.
The two will surely be sources of strength for the track and field teams as they look to close out their collegiate track careers with a strong finish. Given their past successes, it would be hard to imagine that they couldn't.
Report by Ariel A. Sánchez '19, Yale Sports Publicity