Cross Country: Juniors lead men's 2nd-place showing at Notre Dame
Racing in the 5K an hour earlier, the women took eighth place overall. In both races, the competition was fierce and physical; with its narrow paths and sharp turns, the Notre Dame course demanded that the runners were aggressive with their racing strategies.
“You definitely had to be defensive in the race,” senior women’s co-captain Greta Feldman said. “You had to push your way in there and be careful on the turns. You had to pay attention to the course, rather than be able to zone out and go with the flow like in a lot of races.”
Leading the Tigers in the men’s race, juniors Alejandro Arroyo Yamin and Chris Bendtsen trailed the lead pack closely for most of the 8K race. Sunny and dry, the weather on the course allowed for a blistering pace, as the front-runners went through the first mile in less than four minutes, 40 seconds.
“Coach [Jason Vigilante] told us that we had to get out quick and get into position, but not be leading by mile one or mile two,” Arroyo Yamin said. “People tend to fade, and especially at Notre Dame where it’s flat and fast, people tend to go out too fast before things settle down. I didn’t even ever settle down — it was always just go, go, go.”
Buckling down, the Princeton men kept pace and kept on grinding. Nearing the finish, Arroyo Yamin kicked into high gear, running down a few places to finish 10th, crossing the line in 23:57. Bendtsen followed just behind in 24:06 for 17th place.
Packing up behind Arroyo Yamin and Bendtsen, the rest of the top five for the Tigers finished in quick succession. Senior Michael Franklin was 28th in 24:19, followed by junior Jonathan Vitez in 36th at 24:22, while sophomore Matt McDonald finished in 24:31 for 48th. Sophomore Eddie Owens finished sixth for the Tigers, while junior Tyler Udland — despite losing a shoe early in the race — gutted out a 24:47 for seventh on the team.
“Honestly, we were thinking top five, but we never really thought we were going to get second, so it was a big surprise,” Arroyo Yamin said. “It was very exciting to see our name on the whiteboard in second place, ahead of teams like FSU that were ranked higher than us. But Coach Vig told us that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we got ninth or if we got second, we still have work to do.”
Stepping down in distance from 6K to 5K, the Princeton women got their quick turnover going over the fast Notre Dame course. Breaking hard off the line so as not to get crushed around the first hairpin turn, the Tigers got out fast. Feldman quickly assumed a position near the front, with sophomore Emily de la Bruyere trailing closely behind.
“For me, it was a bit of a shock to the system, just coming back and remembering how different cross is than racing on the track,” Feldman said. “But I’d say we were definitely ready and had done the work we had needed for a race like that — to get out hard from the start and maintain that pace for 5K.”
No. 2 Florida State also started out strong, with its top runners pushing the pace. Feldman and de la Bruyere kept in contact and stayed near each other throughout the race. Feldman crossed the line in 17:03 for 17th place, while de la Bruyere had a great race right behind her, finishing in 17:06 for 21st. A few seconds later, sophomore Jackie Nicholas had a big breakthrough, running a time of 17:15 in 28th place. Senior co-captain Alexis Mikaelian and junior Marisa Cummings rounded out the scoring for the Tigers.
“We really wanted a strong team showing, and it ended up being a mixed bag of sorts,” Feldman said. “We can’t be entirely happy with how we did as a team, but we did have some huge individual performances.”
While the top runners from the men’s and women’s teams were busy in South Bend, Ind., Princeton sent second squads to the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh. Competing in a talented field, senior Max Kaulbach placed first for the Tigers, finishing in 25:56 for 147th. Sophomore Lindsay Eysenbach led the women’s team in 17th place, finishing the 6K race in 22:27.
Like all early-season races, Notre Dame served as an important learning experience and checkpoint for the Tigers. As the season progresses, their fitness will continue to improve but more importantly, the men and women will keep working on consistency. For the Tigers to fulfill their goals at the major races to come, everyone will need to be ready to roll on race day.
“Our training has been going unbelievably well. We’ve had people training in big groups that we’ve never had before and hitting times in practice that we haven’t hit with as much ease as we have been,” Feldman said. “I think we have all the pieces, but the thing about cross country is that it’s so hard to have them all come together on any single given day. I think that if everyone is healthy and firing on all cylinders we can do awesome things, and do some damage.”
Both the men and women have a short two-week break before they toe the line again at the talent-loaded Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 12. There, Princeton will have another opportunity to try to solidify its standing as one of the country’s top programs.
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