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After a tough workout, long run, or stellar race, men’s cross country head coach Jason Vigilante often repeats a phrase to his team: “We’re right where we want to be.” Going into the Heptagonal Championship, this sentiment holds up.

So far in the season, the Tigers have taken care of business. Princeton is in a solid place to capture a repeat Heps title this Saturday. The NCAA nationally ranks the Tigers at No. 28; no other Ivy League team has made its way into the rankings.

Two weekends ago, the team captured a first-place finish at the Princeton Invitational. Junior Conor Lundy blew away the competition, winning the race and demolishing in the home stretch with an eight second lead. Junior Gannon Willcutts and sophomore Matt Grossman also had strong performances, finishing fifth and sixth overall.

On the Princeton Invitational, senior Jeremy Spiezio commented, “We were happy with the performance. It was the first race where [Vigilante] let us go and let us race. We’d been running pretty controlled up until that point, trying to run together and get a group mentality going in races. Obviously, Conor ran exceptionally well, and Gannon ran exceptionally well. But the most encouraging part was we have three or four guys who on any given day could be a scorer for us.” These runners are sophomore Ed Trippas, junior Perrin Hagge, junior Viraj Deokar and Spiezio himself. 

Spiezio spoke highly of his teammates’ work ethic and improvement: “[They] have made the biggest steps, and they have really transformed themselves into some of the best runners in the league…. They give us depth that many of the teams in the league and region don’t have,” said Spiezio, “It’s very encouraging going into Heps and regionals.”

Going into Saturday, the team will try to use the group mentality that it has fostered all fall to carry it to success. “Usually, most teams try to stay together as much as they can throughout the 5K. As the race develops, the top guys make their moves and start pushing the pace … the race tends to string out,” said Spiezio. With several mid-distance runners competing for the Tigers at Heps, the Tigers are hoping to start the race with “as many orange jerseys as we can near the front, [for] as long as we can.” 

Spiezio was certain to not overlook the Tiger’s ambitious but attainable goals for later this season. “What matters is still weeks down the road. We want to take care of business at Heps, get through regionals, and get to nationals. That’s where the big money is at. This year, we’ve got the talent to be right up there. I think top 15 would be awesome.”

Leading into the postseason, if the Tigers can seize the Heps title this weekend, they’ll be right where they want to be.

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