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First-year Sophie Cantine’s college career is off to a speedy start. At the Paul Short Invitational last weekend, Cantine finished first among the Princeton Tigers, with an impressive time of 20:38 in the 6K race. All the more impressive, this was Cantine’s first-ever 6K, since high school cross country only features the 5K race.

Cantine’s stellar times speak for themselves: she is clearly full of talent and potential. Yet after a sit-down with the Daily Princetonian, it is apparent that Cantine is also passionate, dedicated, and impressively humble.

The Daily Princetonian: When did you start cross country?

Sophie Cantine: I started running when I was nine years old. I tried track out that summer, and then began cross country and loved that too — every year since, I’ve been doing both. [It brings me] fulfillment, endorphins, and joy!

DP: How has the transition to collegiate running been?

SC: It’s been very good! Our coach does a great job of making sure we’re happy and healthy and encourages us to manage our sleep and academics. The team has done a phenomenal job of making me feel included. The upperclassmen have been there through everything in the transition. It’s really nice to know that they’re always there if I need any support.

In terms of adjustments, the workouts are a lot of fun, but the training is an adjustment. The workouts are a lot bigger, mileage wise, than what I’ve done before. It’s not a bad thing, but it is an adjustment! 

DP: Talk about the transition from the 5K to 6K; how was your first 6K race last weekend?

SC: It really wasn’t that bad! I was really nervous about it. At Paul Short, I didn’t see any course map beforehand, so I had no idea where I was throughout the course, which was almost helpful, because I was just running based on effort and not worried about how much I had left or where I was in the race. It was better than I expected — I don’t consider myself a full-on “distance” person but the extra K wasn’t as intimidating as it seemed.

DP: Do you have a racing strategy? What was your racing strategy for Paul Short?

SC: For Paul Short, it was more just a “feel it out” kind of thing. I’d never been in a big race like that, with people around you for the entire race, so I came in thinking, “I’m going to do what feels right to me, and if there are teammates are near me through the race, we can work together to try and do the best we can. If not, I can try to stay with the other people around me.”

In general, going into races, [my mentality is to] run my own race, and if there are other teammates that I can run with, I work with them, so we can try and pull each other along so everyone can finish as high as possible.

I prefer to go out fast and not have to work my way up during the race. I like to get out into a position where I feel comfortable — I’d rather go up to where I want to finish and try and stay there. Also, I don’t like getting boxed in and I don’t like cramped spaces! Over the years, it has become habit to get out really fast and then settle in. 

Over the years, I’ve been working on how to go into a race feeling cool, calm, and collected. My mindset has changed a lot. I used to get really nervous, but now that I’m here, I feel like I’ve found the perfect medium: I get nervous, but not too nervous! I go into a race thinking, “I love to run, and I’ve trained hard.” I’m excited to put that training out there on the course. 

DP: Outside of practice, what do you do to prepare for meets?

SC: I commit to getting eight hours of sleep every night because sleep is really important. Although my days are really busy and I’m constantly working, I try to find time to just chill out for at least twenty minutes — whether it’s talking to friends or a little bit of television. Sometimes I do yoga with some people on the team — I love yoga! 

On the way to the meet, I listen to music that makes me feel competitive. I make sure every morning before a race, I have a gluten free bagel (I'm gluten free) with peanut butter, a banana, and honey. 

I’m still getting adjusted and creating a routine, but I think there’s a good balance right now. 

DP: What are your goals for the rest of the season? 

SC: I just want to stay healthy.  I like where my mindset is at right now, and I want to build on it. I’m still figuring out my goals, and I feel like they’ll become more apparent as the season progresses. I’m trying to get used to the 6K, get adjusted, and enjoy it and have fun! 

Right now, I’m just having a lot of fun — doing the best that I can, running for my team, and knowing that every opportunity is a blessing! 

Our team is really progressing. We have a lot of potential because we have so much depth —  there’s no person that’s necessarily faster than the other. We can all carry each other to really fast performances. I’m really excited to see what we can do; we’re under the radar nationally, and I think we can make a really big impact! 

Sophie has a packed weekend, with races on both Friday and Saturday. On Friday, her team travels to State College to compete in the Penn State National Open. Then on Sunday, Sophie will be competing at home as the Tigers host the Princeton Invitational over on the West Windsor circuit.

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