In the capstone race of the season, Princeton men’s and women’s cross country will compete at the 2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships at the University of Wisconsin this Saturday.
Based on their stellar finishes in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship last weekend, both teams earned bids to the championship race. Nationally, only 31 teams are granted bids; in order to guarantee a bid, a team must finish top-two in their region (13 teams are also given at-large bids.)
Princeton women’s cross country placed second in the Mid-Atlantic region, securing a bid to the championship race by beating out Penn State. The Tigers were projected as underdogs, but in an epic race, they came out on top. With a less than 20-second spread between the top five scorers (all of whom earned all-region honors), Princeton’s finish was nothing short of a full-team effort.
“We put ourselves up at the front from the beginning and tried to hold on for most of it,” said sophomore Melia Chittenden. Chittenden, who finished first amongst the Tigers at Ivy Heps, has been instrumental to the team’s success this season. “At the end of the race, we were in awe. That was what we were waiting to do all season.”
Going into Saturday, women’s cross country plans to approach the race in the same way, looking at what lead them to success.
“We’re going to try to do exactly what we did last week — we’re going to try and put ourselves up and the front, run like we’ve got nothing to lose, and stay together as a pack,” said Chittenden. “If one of us can make it up to the front, we all can. We’re such a deep team this year, and we know that if any one of us can run a certain time, the rest of us can too.”
The women’s team is bolstered by its strong senior class, four of whom will be travelling to Wisconsin. The team is ranked at 17 nationally; this will be the team’s first appearance in the championship race since 2015.
After capturing the Heps title, Princeton men’s cross country continued its winning streak, coming in first at the Mid-Atlantic regional championships. Four runners (sophomore Matt Grossman, junior Conor Lundy, junior Gannon Willcutts, and junior Viraj Deokar) received all-region honors. The team is ranked at 25, but is confident that it can finish higher and hopes to place in the top 15. In 2017, the team finished 28th overall.
The race is forecast to have brutal conditions, with temperatures reaching the twenties. This certainly won’t faze Princeton, and may be even be an advantage over their competitors, many of whom hail from the West Coast. Princeton has become accustomed to racing in terrible conditions, as Heps and the regional championships were rainy, cold races.
The NCAA championship race can be streamed on flotrack.com. Women will race at 11:45 a.m. and men will race 12:45 p.m. EST.