For the second consecutive season, Princeton women’s cross country was among the nation’s top five teams at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. The Tigers placed fifth at the Nov. 23 meet, and co-captain Liz Costello ’10 finished 20th individually, earning All-America honors for the second straight year.
Costello ran the six-kilometer course in 20:24.3, a time virtually identical to her 2008 mark. Teammates Alex Banfich ’12, Sarah Cummings ’11, and Ashley Higginson ’11 placed among the top 60 in team scoring, and co-captain Reilly Kiernan ’10 completed the Tigers’ top five, finishing 84th.
The strong showing capped a spectacular season in which Princeton swept the top five spots in the Ivy Heptagonal Championships, placed second in the Mid-Atlantic Regional behind Villanova, the eventual national champion, and climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings.
The 2008 Tigers were a tough act to follow, but despite losing two strong seniors, veteran coach Peter Farrell saw great potential in his 2009 squad at the season’s start. “I knew a lot of the women had matured, and they understood cross country better now,” Farrell said. “We were not as deep as last year, but stronger up front.”
In two prominent races this year — the Notre Dame Invitational and the Pre-Nationals Invitational — the Tigers established a pattern of success. Costello ran in front, challenging some of the nation’s other elite runners and finishing in the top six of both meets; Banfich, Cummings, Higginson, and Kiernan followed in a tight, fast pack. Farrell dubbed his team a “box and one,” borrowing the term for a basketball defense used to neutralize a star player.In an illustration of heightened expectations, the Tigers left Terre Haute disappointed about placing fifth. They had set a goal of reaching the top four and earning a spot on the NCAA awards podium. But within a week, the runners had begun to take a more positive view. “When the smoke cleared,” Farrell said, “we were proud of where we finished.”