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Men’s and women’s cross country teams shine in Nuttycombe Invitational and ECAC Championships

Nine Princeton members of the men's cross country team, dressed in an orange tank top and black shorts, running during warm-ups.
Men's cross country warms up before Nuttycombe Invitational.
Photo Courtesy of

The men’s and women’s cross country teams exhibited strong performances this weekend at the Nuttycombe Invitational and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships, respectively, showing promise as the season continues to ramp up.

Men place 12th in competitive pre-NCAA meet in Wisconsin


Facing cold, muddy conditions, the No. 29 men’s cross country team raced to a 12th place finish out of 36 teams on Friday, Oct. 13th. 

This race was by far the Tigers’ most competitive field of the season, with 23 ranked teams participating and seven of the top ten teams in the country present, including national leaders Northern Arizona, who finished in a commanding first place. However, it was Harvard runner Graham Blanks who won the individual title, in 23:23 overall for the 8k race.

Princeton finished 12th overall, outplacing eleven teams ranked above them nationally, despite starting at a projected 33rd place in the first two kilometers of the race. After burning out towards the end of the last race at the University of Virginia, this was a calculated strategy to save energy for the finish.

“We were definitely much more deliberate about this time,” senior Connor Nisbet, who placed second on the team and 81st overall, told The Daily Princetonian. “It’s a lot easier to race if you feel like you’re doing better throughout the race than if you’re hemorrhaging points throughout the race.”

Ahead of Nisbet on the team was junior Nicholas Bendtsen, who placed 42nd overall with a time of 24:03, compared to Nisbet's 24:17. Princeton’s three through five were sophomore Myles Hogan, junior Daniel O’Brien, and senior Jarrett Kirk, who placed 90th, 91st, and 117th overall in 24:20, 24:20, and 24:27, respectively.

The Tigers’ relentless pace through each quarter of the race paid off as the the team’s standing progressed from 33rd to 22nd to 16th to 12th by the end. Head Coach Jason Vigilante was proud of the effort as a strong result and a reflection of the team's dedicated training over the last three weeks.


“The guys ran really well at the most competitive meet of the season so far,” Vigilante told the ‘Prince.’ “They are beginning to believe in their fitness and develop faith in one another, Friday was a step forward.” 

Fitness doesn’t come easily, and the team's growing trust in each other, according to Nisbet, grew from pushing both physical and mental boundaries day after day at practice.

“We got [in] some of our biggest workouts the last few weeks. I think that helped us get a bit of confidence [and] make it feel like our legs are really under us at this point,” Nisbet said. "[At the Nuttycombe meet], we were a lot more controlled.”

The team is eager to take on upcoming challenges this season, with the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships now two weeks away.

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“I can’t wait to see what’s ahead!” Vigilante concluded.

Nisbet expressed similar sentiments, adding that, “this is the first time in a while that I felt like we really have momentum getting into the end of the season, so we’re all super excited.”

Women earn second at Van Cortlandt Park

In a field of 36 teams, the women’s cross country team raced to a second place finish at the ECAC Championship on Oct. 13th, narrowly finishing behind Northeastern by a score of 55–57. 

Cross country is scored on a points system as an aggregate of the first five runners, with a lower score indicating a better place. Iona finished a distant third with 141 points. 

After a disappointing performance in Boston two weeks ago, the team was much happier with this race.

“We’re quite pleased,” Coach Brad Hunt told the ‘Prince.’ “More of the team we believed we are made an appearance at the ECAC Championships.”

Leading the way for the Tigers was senior Tsion Yared, placing third overall in a time of 20:50 in the 6k. Placing second through fifth for the Tigers were seniors Maggie Liebich and Fiona Max and juniors Mena Scatchard and Lucca Fulkerson, in third, sixth, 11th, 14th, and 23rd overall, respectively. Liebich finished four seconds behind Yared in a time of 20:54, followed by Max in 21:09, Scatchard in 21:19, and Fulkerson in 21:32.

Hunt stressed the team’s strong dynamic and strategic racing as key contributors to the Tigers’ improvement, noting how the team meeting prior to the race helped motivate and focus the runners.

“We had a great two weeks of practice, and ultimately had a little bit more of a team mentality — as we had a team meeting the night before and just mentioned that we belonged in the front of the race,” Hunt said. “They executed [the plan] beautifully and they performed really well.”

Among the cross-country community, Van Cortlandt Park is infamous for its rolling hills, especially the “back hills” section which has derailed many races. However, Hunt ascribed the team’s success more to the team’s relentless determination than course-specific training. 

“We’re always gonna mimic what’s coming in regards to various courses, but honestly I think it was a little bit more of just an assertive attitude, and really being aggressive in our workouts,” Hunt said. He emphasized the importance of a guiding principle of the team, to “practice the way we compete and compete the way we practice.” 

The Tigers had a tough battle with Northeastern, a team consistently ranked top 5 in the region. While the Northeastern Huskies eventually triumphed, the Tigers still put forth a dominant performance. The team was able to run in the front the entire race and demonstrated comfort across the entire six kilometers, not losing steam towards the end. 

Now, all eyes turn toward the future, with conference, regional, and national meets to come. 

“The unique part about cross country at the NCAA Division I level is technically all that really matters is the last two weeks of the year, which essentially is your conference meet … and then two weeks later at the regional meet,” Hunt said. “Everything we’ve been doing essentially is dress rehearsals for the big show,” he added.  “And that’s why we’re really pleased with where we are.”

Next up for both teams of Tigers is the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in Boston, Mass. on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Max Hines is a contributing writer to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

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