At the NCAA Cross Country Championships last November, women’s track and field head coach Peter Farrell waited by the 5,000-meter marker, wondering if Megan Curham ’17 could stay in the top 40 for the last 1,000 meters. He got his answer when she ran by.
“I looked in her eyes and there was not fear,” he said. “There was awareness — she was just looking at her competitors.” Curham passed three more runners, finishing 34th in the country and becoming the first freshman in Princeton’s women’s cross country to earn All-America status.
She kept turning heads on the indoor track, where she placed second in the Ivy League in the 3,000-meter to Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino, the defending NCAA champion in the event. Curham has kept up the pace this spring, winning the 10,000-meter race as the Tigers captured 13 events at the Disney Invitational March 22.
“What she did this fall that defies logic,” Farrell said, “is she would train on a level with other athletes on the team, and then compete on a level way above that.”
All this from a freshman who had not run competitively until her sophomore year of high school, and devised her own workout schedule: “I would get on the treadmill in the basement and I would just run as fast as I could every single day,” she said.
It paid off, as the young runner who never imagined herself at Princeton became one of its biggest contributors. Curham said that training with a group was difficult at first, but has forced her to keep improving.
“I definitely don’t think [being an All-American] would have been possible to do without a team to run with, because you pretty much just plateau” when running on your own, she explained.
That team includes running partner Kathryn Fluehr ’16 and Molly Higgins ’14, who finished second and third as Curham won her first–ever college 1,500-meter race April 12.
As the Tigers take on a tough pack at the ECAC Regionals May 16–18, they also will look for strong performances from Julia Ratcliffe ’16, recently selected to represent her native New Zealand in the hammer throw at the Commonwealth Games; and Imani Oliver ’14, who set a Princeton record with the seventh-best triple-jump in Ivy history April 12.