Rookie of the Year Goes the Distance

When first arriving at college, it can be difficult for a freshman to get acquainted with an entirely new lifestyle. That is not the case for Hawks first-year Emily Cavanagh, who finished an unprecedented rookie season as a member of the women’s cross country team. 

It was announced on Dec. 2 that Cavanagh was named the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Rookie of the Year. She is the first athlete in program history to receive this honor.

“She had the best first season of any freshman in the history of this school, without a doubt,” Hawks head coach Mike Trunkes said. “Nobody has done what she did as a cross country runner in her first year. It was phenomenal.”

Cavanagh was the first freshman to cross the finish line at the SUNYAC Championships back on Oct. 29. Her time of 22:35.2 earned her a 15th overall finish out of 113 participants, as well as All-SUNYAC Third Team honors. 

She then concluded her season in historic fashion, setting a new program record in the 6k with a time of 21:57.6 and 30th overall finish out of 303 runners at the NCAA Div. III Atlantic Regional Championships on Nov. 12. Cavanagh broke the previous record of 22:09.00 that was held by Nichole Wischoff, ‘13, which she set in 2012 during her senior season. 

“One of my most distinct memories from this season was racing regionals,” Cavanagh said. “Finishing my first cross country season with a whole new team was super exciting. Also, I felt good during that race. Finishing with my personal best was an amazing feeling that literally every runner on the planet loves.”

Due to her success, Cavanagh became the fourth-ever New Paltz female runner to receive All-Atlantic Region honors. She is the first freshman in program history to receive either an All-Conference or All-Region award. 

Despite her impressive athletic achievements, it took Cavanagh a while to find her calling in cross country. She originally played a number of sports, including soccer and softball as well as performing in dance. But Cavanagh eventually settled into cross country thanks to her mother and older sister. 

“Looking back at it now I was not, and am still not, a very coordinated person, so I think running appealed to me for that reason,” Cavanagh said. “Primarily, I started cross country because of my mom and my older sister’s influence. My mom has been a runner for many years, so she had always encouraged my sister and I to do it too. Once my sister joined the high school cross country team, I saw how close she was with her team and how much she loved the sport that it really inspired me to do it myself.”

Trunkes is thankful that Cavanagh eventually decided on cross country, and believes that this season is potentially just the beginning of a special collegiate career.

“I think Emily [Cavanagh] can achieve extraordinary things,” Trunkes said. “She can certainly be a multiple time national meet qualifier as an individual. Her demeanor alone will help encourage other girls to be part of a championship team, that is something she can certainly play a crucial role in. The sky is the limit for her.”

For Cavanagh, she is simply trying to better herself and continue to develop as a runner during the rest of her tenure at New Paltz. Her historic first season with the program is not one that she will soon forget, and she credits her teammates for the great memories. 

“My first season running for New Paltz cross country was an unforgettable and exciting experience,” Cavanagh said. “The transition into a new place was definitely scary, but running with a bunch of amazing, energetic and kind girls made me feel a lot more at home.”