Coming into the 2013 cross-country season, both the men’s and women’s teams are bolstered by strong packs of freshman recruits. Spearheaded by experienced upperclassmen, the Tigers are poised to excel on the national stage — with the men ranked ninth and the women 29th. Buying into that mentality, the new runners are looking to add to Princeton’s depth, and several may soon break out into the Tigers’ top seven.“It looks to be a pretty good class; I am excited about the possibilities,” women’s head coach Peter Farrell said. “This is a class that has a lot of character, and I see them developing.”

With a total of nine fresh faces, a large and gifted freshman class augments the women’s team. Currently leading the group is Megan Curham from New Jersey, with Colorado native Rachael Chacko close behind. England’s Lizzie Bird is just as impressive on paper, and although still recovering from a long summer track season, the three should lead the class once Bird returns to full speed.

An accomplished high school athlete, Curham’s top achievements include a 14th-place finish in the prestigious Foot Locker Nationals cross-country race, as well as a 16:45.86 5K personal best to finish sixth in the country at the New Balance outdoor track national meet. Bird has strong personal bests of 4:25.52 in the 1,500m and 9:34.85 in the 3K. Tough in cross country as well, she placed eighth at the English National Championships.?Curham wasted no time in contributing to the team, winning the Delaware Cross Country Invitational, her first collegiate race, on Saturday. Bird placed seventh, and Chacko finished ninth.

On the men’s side, the Tigers are joined by a smaller contingent of just four freshmen, made even smaller by injuries to two. Nevertheless, the men receive a good amount of quality and talent from the runners coming in.?Traveling to Princeton from England, William Paulson has great middle distance strength.

With personal bests of 3:46.48 in the 1,500m, 1:53.70 over 800m and 8:24.91 for 3K, Paulson should have a shot at making an immediate impact. William Bertrand, a Maryland native, is also capable of making big strides. Starting cross country for the first time his senior year of high school, Bertrand wasted no time in becoming state champion in his division that season.?The Tigers took the first seven spots at the Delaware Cross Country Invitational on Saturday. Bertrand finished sixth.?Though they have proven themselves by their prior achievements and in practice, the newcomers are yet to be truly tested by racing a full collegiate cross-country season.

“I use this expression every year: ‘I don’t know anything until they fire the gun,’ ” Farrell said. “There’s working out, and there’s competing. You can be surprised by some people.”

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