This past Saturday, two Tigers representing the men’s and women’s cross country teams took part in the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Facing brutally cold and rainy conditions on a mud-soaked grass course, senior Conor Lundy and junior Melia Chittenden battled against the fiercest competition from across the country.
Both Tigers, along with first-year Camren Fischer, received an auto-bid to Nationals after a phenomenal race at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional held at Lehigh University, including a first-place finish by Fischer, with a time of 29:58.8. Following close behind him at Regionals, Lundy finished sixth overall with a time of 30:05.9. In the women’s race, Chittenden finished eighth overall with a time of 20:28.7.
Representing Princeton on the national stage, Chittenden made her second appearance at the NCAA Championships this past weekend after placing 147th in Wisconsin last year with a time of 21:25.4 over 6K. With a series of strong races under her belt, including a sixth-place First-Team All-Ivy League performance at the Heptagonal Championships earlier in the month and an eighth-place finish at Regionals, Chittenden was confident going into the national championships and “grateful for the opportunity to have represented the team this year.”
Melia improved upon her performance from last year, placing 120th with a time of 21:23.4. Even though the results were not quite what she was looking for, Chittenden was “happy for having improved” upon her 2018 finish, saying she “learned a lot from [the] experience, and it definitely left [me] excited to keep racing throughout indoor and outdoor.”
Reflecting on the season as a whole, Melia believes it was “overall a huge step forward and a learning experience for everyone” that the Tigers can use to “propel the team forward through indoors and outdoors and into the next cross season.” With amazing improvements among team members over the past year and strong performances from this year’s first-year competitors, Chittenden is excited to be part of “such a young team with so much potential.”
In his fourth appearance at the NCAA Championships, Lundy finished 70th, with a time of 31:41.0 over 10K, improving on his 101st finish at last year’s NCAA Championships. “The weather made the course incredibly wet and muddy, making for interesting race tactics,” says Lundy. “I was happy with how I moved up throughout the race. I was hoping for a little bit better finish, but I’m content with how I competed and closed out the season.”
In discussing goals for his final indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, Lundy hopes to “become an Ivy League Champion in the 5K and qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 5K as well.”
Unfortunately, Fischer, the third Princeton student to qualify for this year’s national championships, did not participate in the meet after learning only several days beforehand of a likely stress fracture in his femur. Fischer refrained from competing “in hopes of recovering sooner.”
With several weeks before the start of the indoor season, the Tigers will now reflect upon their performances from the 2019 cross country season as they prepare for the competition in the months to come.