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Women’s track and field looks to run towards championship glory

From+left%2C+junior+sprinter+Natalie+MacArthur+and+sophomore+hurdler+Rachel+Larson+aim+for+success+this+season%2C+as+head+coach+Jennifer+Potter+encourages+her+roster+to+trust+the+process.+
Maddy Tanzman, Rayahna Tryka
From left, junior sprinter Natalie MacArthur and sophomore hurdler Rachel Larson aim for success this season, as head coach Jennifer Potter encourages her roster to “trust the process.”

The Ithaca College women’s track and field team is “trusting the process,” a motto head coach Jennifer Potter believes is core to the program. With 26 first-year students joining the Bombers’ squad, there is a new wave of excitement and energy heading into the Spring 2024 outdoor season. 

Although they still have their eyes on the prize for the indoor season — the NCAA indoor Championships are March 8–9 — Potter said she is excited about what these next few months will bring for this young team in the outdoor season. 

“These [first-year students] are a breath of fresh air with a good head on their shoulders,” Potter said. “They’re a really great group and with the leadership that we currently have, I think it’s been a really great marriage.” 

Part of this leadership is junior sprinter Natalie MacArthur. MacArthur said that she sees herself ready to help her teammates throughout the season and that being a part of this leadership group is an honor.

“Being able to really be in a position where I can help people, be there for my team and watch them achieve their goals as a captain has pushed me to become a better person and a stronger athlete,” MacArthur said.

This year, Potter has reshaped her leadership team to be more encompassing of the vast nature of the team — which is made up of approximately 50 female athletes — creating a leadership group with two athletes from each grade class picked by their peers. Potter said this new configuration provides the opportunity for athletes from each year to lead conversation and focus on the team’s driving theme this year: empowerment. 

“For our team, it is about empowering people to advocate for themselves and I tell all the women, ‘everyone’s equal on the team so if you have something you want to say, you should  feel empowered to say it,’” Potter said.

Sophomore hurdler Rachel Larson noted there is a uniqueness in track and field because the athletes are often competing all-year round from indoor to outdoor seasons. Throughout these seasons, Larson said the theme of empowerment serves as a constant reminder and source of motivation.

“We kind of always get to be training and growing, so I always feel prepared for the meet, and I’m confident of what I’m going into,” Larson said. 

The constant nature of the sport also allows Potter to focus on connecting and building relationships with the athletes on and off the track, which she said is another key goal of hers. 

“It’s about getting to know your student athletes and finding out what are some of the challenges or excitements they have going on in their semester,” Potter said. “As a head coach, I make a point to get to know them, and not just as athletes, but as people.” 

MacArthur said this people-first approach to coaching is one that, despite the individualized nature of the sport, is appreciated team-wide and contributes to a unifying team culture.

“It’s a big part of the team culture to just really advocate for ourselves and not be afraid to ask for help,” MacArthur said. “One of the first things the upperclassmen told me was, ‘If you ever need to talk to someone, we’re all here for you,’ and I think that’s just part of the team, this ingrained culture of mental health awareness and advocacy.”

Larson said this culture of support has helped her transition into her sophomore season, and she said she hopes to spread it to this new batch of first-year student athletes.

“Looking back in my [first year], I definitely was a lot harder on myself because it was college [and] just the new level of pressure, but kind of throughout the season as I got closer to my team and my coaches, I felt that level of support, and now as we go into the Spring 2024 season being there for the [first-year students] and seeing everyone flourish,” Larson said. 

With a sense of confidence and determination, Potter said she has her eyes on the Liberty League Championship and the continuation of bettering the program. Last year, the Bombers placed second place in the Liberty League Championship, trailing the University of Rochester by 3.5 points.

“Our goals are always for postseason and to get as many people to the NCAA Championships, which is getting harder and harder every year,” Potter said. “It’s getting really competitive, and I think we’ve brought the best out of programs, which makes us a better program. I’m excited to see them finish out indoors, and then go outdoors with confidence and again trust the process.” 

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