Women’s cross-country anticipates a strong showing at tomorrow’s annual Paul Short race. The team is off to a solid start, with fast performances at its early season meets. The team took the gold in last weekend’s annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton (HYP) meet, with its five scoring runners all finishing within the top 10. Particularly exciting is the close spread of the times between team members, showcasing the team’s outstanding depth and potential.
Hosted by Lehigh, this weekend’s Paul Short race offers a moderately hilly course with variable terrain. The Tigers will compete later this year on this same course in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet, providing a beneficial preview for the team’s five racing freshman. However, one freshman who will not be racing this weekend is Clare Martin, who is currently out with an injury sustained earlier this season.
The meet features four separate races for collegiate women: the Open, Gold, White, and Brown divisions. In 2016, Princeton had an impressive showing in the Gold division, taking first place with a score of 44. Last year, however, the team did not compete in the Open division, due to the attendance of other Ivy League teams who competed in that division instead. With Brad Hunt as a new coach and a large Class of 2020 group, the team had wanted to evaluate its own abilities without the sight of familiar runners.
The 2016 meet was a marked success and a huge turning point in the team’s season. Senior captain Melissa “Mel” Reed recalls last year’s Paul Short race as a crucial moment when the team began to successfully run in packs.
“Last year, Paul Short really pulled our team together, in the sense that we didn’t really know who we were before. Since we didn’t really know our identity and how fast each other is, running in pacts is something we really want to work on. At Paul Short last year, that’s when we perfected that… it was literally magic how it happened. It brought us a lot of success in that race, and we are trying to find that again,” said Reed.
This year, the team will race its top seven runners in the Open division, and twelve runners will compete in the Gold division. “This year, we feel a lot more confident in our ability to compete with the rest of the league,” noted Reed.
The Class of 2021 will also play a key role in the team’s performance; in particular, freshmen Sophie Cantine and Melia Chittenden, who have previously showcased impressive times and finished second and third, respectively, at the HYP meet, should be strong performers.
“The freshman have incorporated in the team really well and have been a really positive impact, both in their attitudes and in how fast they are. I’ve been so impressed with how the freshman have been taking everything in stride: hot days, hard workouts, starting classes. They’ve kept calm and collected through it all, so I think that will be really important in ensuring the upperclassmen are doing the same. On the senior side, we graduated a huge class and there’s a smaller group of seniors currently, so we’ve really had a lot of the younger girls, including the junior girls, step up to be leaders on the team,” commented Reed.
This past week, the team has been challenged with some brutal workouts and long runs in Princeton’s sudden September heat wave. The team is not tapering off its mileage in anticipation for this race. Reed referred to the race as a “building block” in the season – while the meet may not feature individuals racing personal records, it will be crucial in “fostering good teamwork.”
“I think we’re all excited – maybe a little too excited – for the season!” said Reed, with a laugh.