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Both the men’s and women’s cross country squads turned in impressive results at their weekend performances in the Princeton Invitational and Penn State National Open, respectively. This sets a strong precedent for what many consider to be the most important meet of the season, the Ivy Heptagonal Championships. 

The men’s team played host this weekend, as sixteen teams converged on West Windsor Fields to race the Tigers. Princeton benefitted mightily from strong performances from its veterans. Senior Noah Kauppila, a regular scorer at Heps, led the Tigers with a third place finish with a strong 24:08, while sophomore Conor Lundy, who placed third at Heps last year and went on to run in the national championship in Terre Haute, Ind., nabbed fourth just behind his teammate. Princeton had four other top twenty finishers, with seniors Garrett O’Toole, a formidable force in the indoor mile and NCAA regional qualifier; Will Paulson, another perennial Ivy League Heps scorer; Rob Stone; and Wolfgang Beck, all clocking in under 24:40. Such strong performances netted the men’s team a decisive first place finish in the meet, with all eyes looking toward the pivotal Ivy League showdown next weekend. Though the men’s team will undoubtedly face some formidable battles — Columbia is ranked in the national top 25, while Penn is not far behind — there is no doubt the Tigers are well-trained, well-rested, and dangerously experienced.

While five runners on the women’s team also ran in the Princeton Invitational, the bulk headed out west to State College, where they competed in the National Open hosted by the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions. In the face of strong opponents — in addition to Penn State, three of the other squads racing were also ranked in the top 30 — the Tigers performed strongly, with four runners placing in the top 30, and six in the top 50. Princeton was anchored by the resurgent return of five-time All-American senior Megan Curham, one of the most decorated cross country runners in Princeton history. A U.S. Olympic Trial qualifier in the marathon, owner of three Princeton long distance records, and two-time NCAA championship participant, Curham had not run competitively in the Princeton uniform for two years until she claimed 10th this Saturday with a time of 20:42. Also finishing under 21:00 was junior Gabi Forrest, who placed 15th, while junior Allie Klimkiewicz and freshman Melia Chittenden were both able to nab spots in the top 30. The Tigers walked away from the meet with a solid fourth-place finish, falling short of Penn State, No. 15 Villanova, and Ivy rival Dartmouth. While they, too, will face tough battles next week — Yale, Columbia, and Dartmouth are all highly touted squads — there’s no doubt that Princeton has what it takes to make a lasting impact on the field.

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