Four miles into the 5-mile men’s race at the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships Oct. 29, Donn Cabral ’12 was feeling good about his chances. The lead runners had taken a cautious pace, giving an edge to Cabral, a track-and-field All-American who prides himself on his closing speed.
After passing Cemetery Hill, the last major climb on the Van Cortlandt Park course, Cabral made a strong downhill run and found himself a few strides ahead of Harvard’s Dan Chenoweth, the defending champion — “somewhat by accident,” he said. He decided to make a 3 ⁄4-mile push to the finish line.
In cross country, looking over your shoulder is taboo, but Cabral, who has won his share of meets, admits that he was “definitely trying to steal some glances” at Chenoweth. “I’ve been in some races with him where the last hundred meters are neck and neck,” he explained.
This time, the challenge never materialized. Cabral won by a comfortable 10-second margin, finishing in 24:03.8, the second-fastest time in Heps history. Four teammates followed in the top 13, ensuring a Princeton victory and a sweep of this year’s team and individual honors. Earlier, the Tiger women, led by champion Alex Banfich ’12, earned their fifth straight Ivy title.
In the men’s race, Princeton’s scorers included the team’s usual top three — Cabral, Brian Leung ’12 (fifth place), and Mark Amirault ’11 (eighth) — and two runners who outpaced expectations. Kyle Soloff ’11 placed sixth overall and third on the team, his top result this season, while Max Kaulbach ’12 outsprinted a challenger from Cornell to come in 13th.
On the women’s side, coach Peter Farrell said the Princeton team has been led by “three luminaries” — Banfich, Sarah Cummings ’11, and Ashley Higginson ’11, who earned the top three scoring spots in every major meet during the regular season.
The Tigers’ top Heps challenger, Columbia, placed two runners in the top three, but in the final standings, no team came within 25 points of Princeton. Higginson (fourth place) and Cummings (ninth) turned in strong performances, while Mel Newbery ’13 (eighth) and Abby Levine ’13 (11th) earned the Tigers’ third and fifth scoring spots.
“We were waiting for the younger runners to mature and pick up the slack,” Farrell said, “and I think today we had that.”
The day’s star was Banfich, who had turned heads two weeks earlier with a second-place run at the Pre-Nationals Invitational, finishing less than five seconds behind University of Texas-El Paso standout Risper Kimaiyo.
At Heps, Banfich ran the 3.1-mile course in 16:58.9 — 14 seconds faster than her previous best — and became just the second woman to break the 17-minute mark in the meet’s 34-year history. She also joined Princeton stars Lynn Jennings ’83, Laura (Cattivera) White ’89, Emily Kroshus ’04, and Liz Costello ’10 on the list of Heps champions.“It’s definitely very humbling,” Banfich said. “There have been some really great runners before me, so it’s nice to be in their company.”