Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finish Line

If TigerBlog was looking forward to any single event on the fall schedule, it was the Iy League Heptagonal cross country championships.

The races, usually held at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, were moving to Princeton's West Windsor field course for the 2011 race only, while construction was being completed at Van Cortlandt.

TB hadn't missed a Heps cross country race in years. Always the Friday before the Cornell football game, TB had gone to maybe eight straight - and the weather had been perfect each time.

One of those years, TB let Gary Walters drive, only to see Princeton's Director of Athletics briefly drive the wrong way down a one-way street and then in through the exit of a McDonalds, pulling up to the drive-through window facing the wrong way, leaving TigerBlog to try to explain it all to the very confused kid at the drive-through who gives out the food, not takes the money. Eventually, it all worked out fine.

This year, it was going to be easy to get there.

TB had it all figured. Park for football. Walk over to cross country. Walk back to football.

So what happened?

Of course, it snowed. On Oct. 29. Before Halloween.

TigerBlog remembers a time when there'd be a few months of fall, a few months of winter and a few months of spring. Now, it seems like there are the same number of fall days, winter days and spring days, only they're not in the same order that they used to be.

The snow back in October turned this area into a nightmare for a few days. In the three-plus weeks since, the weather has been nearly perfect, with more days in the 60s than not. Of course, this is November.

Anyway, TB got cheated out of the cross country race, or at least didn't bundle himself up to watch it in the snow and wet and cold. Instead, he went straight to the football game and the warmth of the press box.

Cross country season ended yesterday, with a distinctly Ivy/Heps feel to the women's race and the No. 19 as the key number for the men.

For the women, Princeton's Alex Banfich finished fifth overall, which is only two spots behind where she finished at Heps. Think about that. The No. 3 runner at the Ivy League race finished fifth at the NCAA race.

The Heps winner was Dartmouth sophomore Abbey D'Agostino, who finished third at the NCAA race. Columbia's Waverly Neer, who was second at Heps, finished 40th at the NCAAs.

As for Banfich, her time of 19:45.0 was 51 seconds faster than her time a year ago on the same course, when she finished 20th.

TigerBlog has no idea if weather conditions or anything else impacted her from last year to this year, but his sense is that shaving 51 seconds of her time is pretty impressive.

On the men's side, Donn Cabral finished 19th, earning (like Banfich) another All-America honor. Cabral's 19th-place finish helped the Princeton men finish 19th overall, and also like Banfich, he had a huge improvement over a year ago, running 42 seconds faster and going from 34th to 19th.

In addition, Cabral's showing was the best by a Princeton runner since Paul Morrison finished ninth in 1999.

Paul Morrison was an unassuming young man who worked in the OAC as a student worker who never said a word, let alone that he was a dominant long distance runner, and it wasn't until after Morrison's first major impact in a race that TB put it together that the kid in the back was the great runner.

Of course, the end of cross country season doesn't mean the end for the runners, who go into indoor and then outdoor season.

For Cabral, hopefully it won't end until the Summer Olympics in London in the steeplechase.

And then it'll start again, next cross country season, when the Heps go back to Van Cortlandt. TB's predictions - it won't snow, and he'll be there.

1 comment:

Brett said...

So... I had not been to Heps XC in the last eight years or so.... until this one. I am out for XC until 2019.