CORNING - In only its second season since being revived in 2018, the Corning Community College Red Baron women’s cross country team is already turning into a junior college powerhouse. The team won the Region III title and the Mid-State Athletic Conference as well as earning a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 3 National Championships where they finished eighth this season after sending two to nationals in their inaugural season.

Tabbed to coach the Red Barons after a 16-year hiatus was the last woman to qualify for the NJCAA Division 3 national meet before the revival of the program, Rebecca Copp.

Copp’s athletic resume is impressive to say the least. At Corning, she was a two-time cross-country NJCAA All-American, Mid-State Athletic Conference Cross-Country Champion, MSAC Runner of the Year, part of the MSAC All-Conference Team, and Region III All-Region team member. After Corning, she earned an athletic scholarship to run at Division II Felician University. Copp is also a member of the Corning-Painted Post Sports Hall of Fame, class of 2006.

Copp found out in April 2018 the program was coming back only four months until the start of the season in August of 2018.

Luckily for Copp and the Corning Community College cross country program, the area is ripe with talent in the sport. From perennial state champion Corning to very quality programs in Elmira, Elmira Notre Dame, Horseheads, Addison and Haverling among others. Four girls found their way to Copp to compete for the Red Barons

With a team assembled, Copp’s next obstacle was to figure out a training regimen after only having to worry about training by herself as she had never coached the sport before.

“That was the toughest thing about becoming a first-year head coach,” said Copp. “Just figuring out what works best for multiple people.”

Copp reached out to Corning head cross country coach and state champion Ray Lawson for advice.

“I just got a feel for what he does and I just based our program around what I know works,” Copp said.

Copp's training regimen with the help of Lawson's advise paid off with two individuals qualifying for the national meet which gave the Red Barons momentum heading into the second season.

“The success the first year set the tone for the second season,” said Copp. “Having that little bit of success. Part of the success we had this season is more people knew about it. People wanted to be a part of it.”

The only returner for the Red Barons was Anna Lares of Elmira, who qualified for nationals in both of her seasons at CCC.

“She was always a team player,” Elmira head coach Ben Cardamone said of Lares in her time with the Express. “I could let new athletes run with her and not be afraid that she would crush them on training runs making them want to quit. A very nurturing attitude with those athletes. If I had a team of Anna Lares I could coach forever.”

Finding runners like Lares has been key in the success of the program thus far.

“I try to find girls that fit with the group of girls I have,” said Copp. “And finding the ones I have that will succeed and do well.”

Despite the success early in the program’s history, Copp has clear cut goals for her athletes every season even if it doesn’t include making it to a national championship meet as a team or Copp herself winning an individual award.

“Whether we win it or not, my focus is more on making sure my runners stay healthy and improve throughout the season,” said Copp. “If we do those things, it’s an awesome season anyway. It’s awesome to win [the award], but it’s not the most important part.”

One of the examples of the success of this mindset was freshman runner from Tioga Cameron Mushock. Mushock finished 24th for Corning at the national meet, shaving nearly a minute off of her time when she was a runner at Tioga.

“Cameron was a 23 [minute] runner in high school and broke 22 [minutes] at nationals,” said Copp.

After the successful campaign, Copp was awarded Region 3 coach of the year, conference coach of the year as well as USTFCCCA Northeast region coach of the year which she will use as a recruiting tool going forward among other things.

“I’d tell recruits we were Conference champions, regional champions, taking whole team to nationals, placing 8th at nationals, 3 all-conference runners in only second year as program,” said Copp. “From four to seven runners in our second year. We want to continue to grow our program and have a lot of fun. I enjoy coaching cross country because you can have a lot of fun.”

One thing is for certain, if the Corning cross country team has as much success as it has its first two seasons it won't be going away again any time soon.