Cross Country: Men place third at regional, return to NCAAs
After racing in the Mid-Atlantic Regional on Friday, the men’s cross country team is one step closer to its biggest meet of the season, the NCAA Championship. Stepping up in distance from eight kilometers to the 10-kilometer races of the postseason, the men had a tough grind over Penn State’s challenging course to finish a close third behind Georgetown and Villanova. While only the first two teams automatically qualified for NCAAs, Princeton still received one of 13 at-large bids later in the weekend.
“It’s a regional meet, the important thing was to punch the ticket to nationals, which we did,” junior Alejandro Arroyo Yamin said. “Obviously we were a little surprised that Villanova and Georgetown did so well. Not that we didn’t do well, but we didn’t have an amazing day.”
Working well together throughout the course of the race, the Tigers got out fast over the downhill first mile and packed together. Running the middle miles conservatively, the men got a feel for the extended 10K distance and practiced running strategically for the large championship race.
“The transition to 10K is always very interesting. How the race goes out, how the pacing changes and how the strategy plays out — these things all need to be modified,” Arroyo Yamin said. “The plan was to run as a pack, get a good workout from it and get going the last 2K. 8K is halfway there; 2K is when it is time to push and where the effort really starts.”
Running strongly in the lead pack, junior co-captain Chris Bendtsen, Arroyo Yamin and junior Tyler Udland led the Tigers, as Bendtsen finished third in 30 minutes, 35 seconds. Arroyo Yamin placed fifth, one second behind, with Udland following in 30:39 for sixth.
Coming in the top 25 individually, Bendtsen, Arroyo Yamin, Udland and senior Michael Franklin — who placed 21st in 30:58 — earned All-Region honors. No. 13 Princeton scored a total of 61 points to come in just behind Villanova’s 57, while No. 24 Georgetown won with 56.
The women continued to be on the upswing after their second-place showing at Heps. Moving up throughout the race, the Tigers placed three runners in the top 20 to take fourth with 101 points, behind No. 15 Penn State, No. 9 Georgetown and No. 25 Villanova, in order.
“We started off pretty conservatively, knowing we’d move up pretty steadily throughout the race,” sophomore Emily de La Bruyere said. “I hung with [senior] Greta [Feldman] until she crushed me in the last kilometer. It felt great; we ran how we had planned and picked people off every mile.”
Feldman kicked hard to place eighth, covering the six-kilometer course in 20:37. While her team will not advance with her, Feldman’s individual finish earned an automatic ticket to nationals. Hanging on behind her, de La Bruyere bounced back from a disappointing individual race at Heps to place 12th at 20:50, gaining All-Region honors. Having the unfortunate recognition of being the top individual non-qualifier, de La Bruyere narrowly missed joining Feldman in Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Championship. Sophomore Jackie Nicholas was also All-Region, finishing 17th in 21:09.
Nevertheless, the season is not yet over for the women. De La Bruyere and the rest of the team have another chance to compete at the ECAC Championship at Van Cortlandt Park in New York on Nov. 17.
“We’re in really good shape. [Head coach] Peter [Farrell] does a really good job at getting us prepared for this point in the season, so there’s no point in just throwing in the towel now,” de La Bruyere said. “I think we can have a very good race at ECACs. It’s not the nationals, but it’s still a competitive meet and a really great course.”
The Tiger men have a week to rest their legs before they toe the line in Louisville on Saturday for the finale of the season. With all the excitement and nerves surrounding the national meet, the Tigers must focus on keeping things controlled and businesslike.
“The nationals course is basically flat as a pancake and is an extremely narrow course,” Arroyo Yamin said. “With so many runners, things are going to get crazy. We have to stay calm and not panic. We have two extra kilometers in the race, so we don’t have to run a really fast 800 [meters] to get out there at the front. We have to be patient and stay focused for when it’s time to go.”
With the valuable experience of regionals behind them, the men are prepared to prove themselves against the nation’s best. With a deep, talented team and a tight pack, the Tigers hope to improve upon past years’ finishes, including their program-best 12th in 2010.
“We’re ready for it; we’re fit enough to handle all sorts of paces. It’s all about the team and benefiting the team by finishing as high as you can. Every runner counts,” Arroyo Yamin said. “We want to make a statement in the race, move forward and finish as high as we can. It will be a tough effort and will require amazing races from all of us, but we’re excited for it.”
The women’s race begins at noon on Saturday, while the men’s race begins at 1:15 p.m. Both races will be streamed on NCAA.com.