Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 45
 
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

RECORD FLIGHT: Princeton University women’s cross country star Liz Costello flies to the tape last Friday on her way to winning the individual title at the Ivy League Heptagonal Women’s Cross Country Championship. Costello, a junior, clocked a record-setting time of 16:59.9 over the 5k course, breaking the previous mark of 17:01.4 posted by Columbia’s Caroline Bierbaum on 2005. Fourth-ranked Princeton took seven of the first nine places at the meet as it set a new record for the lowest score in the meet with 17. It was Princeton’s third-straight Heps women’s crown.

PU Women’s Cross Country Dominates at Heps, Revamped Tiger Men’s Team Also Comes Through

Bill Alden

There was no need for tricks but there were plenty of treats along the road as the Princeton University women’s cross country team spent their Halloween competing at Ivy League Heptagonal Women’s Cross Country Championship.

Ranked fourth in the country, powerful Princeton figured to cruise to a third straight Heps team crown last Friday at the famed course in New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park.

But the highly touted Tigers outdid themselves, finishing first, second, third, fifth, sixth, and seventh as they set a new record for the lowest score in the meet with 17, besting the previous mark of 23 set by Dartmouth in 1995 and 1997.

Junior star Liz Costello led the way for the Tigers, clocking a record-setting time of 16:59.9 over the 5k course, breaking the previous mark of 17:01.4 posted by Columbia’s Caroline Bierbaum in 2005.

Costello topped runner-up, senior teammate Megan Brandeland, by 34.9 seconds, the largest margin of victory in race history.

Following Costello and Brandeland for Princeton were junior Reilly Kiernan in third, junior Alexa Glencer in fifth, sophomore Sarah Cummings in sixth, and senior Jolee Van Leuven in seventh.

Princeton head coach Peter Farrell wasn’t surprised that his team took care of business in such a rousing fashion.

“This is not a great year for the league and based on past performances, we knew we could dominate,” said Farrell, whose team had nine of the top 11 finishers as it far outdistanced runner-up Columbia.

“You don’t want the kids to be overconfident but they knew the situation, they knew going in what they could do.”

The longtime coach, who is in his 31st season guiding the Tiger cross country program, was taken aback by Costello’s stunning effort.

“Her training has jumped up a significant notch in the last two weeks,” said Farrell. “I knew she was ready for a big race but that was amazing.”

The Tigers have been getting some amazing work on and off the road from Brandeland.

“She is a team captain and leader in every respect of the word,” asserted Farrell of the Prior Lake, Minn. native. “She was picked to finish second and she did.”

Maybe the most heartwarming performance of the meet for Princeton was produced by Kiernan.

“Reilly has had an up and down career due to her physical situation,” added Farrell. “She has had bad breaks literally, dealing with a broken foot. She is so spirited and competitive. It is great to see her bounce back because her career almost ended a couple of times. She really appreciated coming in third at the Heps.”

Farrell has appreciated the progress that Glencer has made. “She has really turned the corner; she has established herself as part of the team,” said Farrell. “It is tough to acclimate to college; it takes some longer than others.”

With Princeton having established itself as a one of the best-ever Ivy cross country teams, it has its sights set on repeating as the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional champs.

Farrell and his runners know that they won’t be able to dominate in that meet, which they are hosting on November 15.

“It will be a tough race, four of the top 11 teams are in our section,” said Farrell.

“Right now it’s Princeton, Villanova, West Virginia at four-five-six. On any given day, we can switch places. Georgetown is 12th and Penn State is 18th. We are set up to qualify for the nationals based on teams we beat at Notre Dame and in the Pre-Nationals. We could put egos aside and take fourth and easily qualify for nationals. But these are competitive kids so we’ll see.”

After suffering a rough day in taking 14th at last year’s national meet, the Tigers are determined to be competitive at that level.

“We have talked about nationals since the first day of practice on August 28,” said Farrell. “We have revamped our training and focus, it is not so much about the league meet like in the past.”

Men’s Cross Country

For the Princeton men’s team, however, the Heps meet was no given even though the team was the two-time defending champions.

“When the season started, we knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Tiger head coach Steve Dolan. “We lost five of our first eight guys from last year.”

Overcoming those losses, the revamped Tigers proved to be up to the challenge, posting a score of 58 to win the title as it edged Columbia by three points with Cornell taking third.

In winning its third straight team crown, Princeton ensured that the Tiger programs would be the first ever to post a three-peat sweep of the meet.

The Tigers were led by senior star Michael Maag, who took second in the individual standings in a time of 24:32.4 over the five-mile course, with junior Ben Sitler in fourth, freshman standout Brian Leung taking sixth, senior Cameron Marantz in 22nd, and sophomore Rob Speare placing 25th.

In order to make that history, the Tigers executed their race plan to a tee. “The race unfolded the way we had hoped,” said Dolan.

“We wanted to have three in the top 10 and five in the top 20. We did a little better than we thought in the top 10 and were just a little off with the next two. We knew we couldn’t have a score of 38 like we had last year, we came in thinking we needed a 60 or better. It was a good run.”

Princeton has been getting good runs and more from Maag over his stellar career.

“He is a leader on and off the field for us,” asserted Dolan of the Lake Oswego, Ore. native who won the Heps individual title last year.

“He does a good job in the classroom; he does a good job training. He is organized; he sets the tone with the team. He is a tough competitor. He is dependable; he just doesn’t have bad races. We knew he would be in contention for the title.”

Dolan wasn’t sure that the oft-injured Sitler would be a title contender.

“Ben did a good job,” said Dolan. “Since he has been at Princeton, he has had trouble with injuries and has not been able to train the way he would like to. He has had extra days off, been involved with the cross training. He may be undertrained but when the gun goes off, he performs.”

Former WW/P-S superstar Leung has proved to be a superb performer from the moment he walked in the door at Princeton.

“He is really tough; he will compete with anyone,” asserted Dolan. “Brian hasn’t had a bad workout or race since he joined the team. He’s a pleasure; he is an exciting part of our team.”

The development of senior Marantz has been a pleasure for Dolan to witness.

“Cameron is the story of the year,” added Dolan. “He came in unheralded out of high school and he was not too consistent in his freshman or sophomore years in terms of training. He has gotten so much better, it’s exciting to see a senior break into the A-group. He took some time off. He didn’t compete last fall and he ran on his own. He missed the team and came back and did well at track last spring. He put in the work he needed to over the summer.”

The Tigers will have to work hard if they are to be a factor at their Mid-Atlantic regional meet, which is also being held at Princeton on November 15.

“Georgetown is the favorite; they won it last year and they just won the Big East,” said Dolan.

“Villanova was third in the Big East and Penn State is making a push, taking fourth in the Big 10. We have our work cut out for us. It is helpful to have a lot of friends, family, and alums to support us. We know the terrain, you can’t quantify what that means.”

Dolan is hoping that the synergy the men’s team has with the Tiger women’s squad will help lead to another sweep.

“It’s great being around them; there is a good chemistry between the teams,” said Dolan.

“We want to do well, they want to do well. I don’t think that it’s an accident that we have each won three in a row at the Heps. Each team makes the other better.”

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