By Dave Hunter ’72
Louisville, Ky. — Saving its best for last, the Princeton men’s cross country squad ran a brilliant and heady race when it counted most. Closing hard over the final kilometers in Louisville’s E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, the Tiger runners moved smartly through the field and captured their prize: an 11th place team finish – the best NCAA championship performance by any men’s cross country team in the school’s history. A beaming Jason Vigilante – the Tigers’ new head coach – described his charges’ big race performance as “beyond exceptional.”
The Tigers were led by Heptagonal champion Chris Bendtsen ’14 who raced over the 10-kilometer course in 30:07 to finish 43rd. Chasing him into the finish chute were Heps runner-up Alejandro Arroyo Yamin ’14 (58th in 30:24) and Tyler Udland ’14 ( 79th in 30:33). Mike Franklin ’13 (134th in 31:06) and Matt McDonald ’15 (151st in 31:06) rounded out the scoring.
Nimble preseason adjustments were necessary to preserve the team’s opportunity for success this fall, and Vigilante cited the resiliency of his athletes. They were compelled to adapt to the late summer departure of Tiger head coach and distance guru Steve Dolan – who left Princeton to take on the director of track and cross country position at Penn – and to Vigilante’s arrival as the new coach.
“The guys who had moved on from the program had really established a phenomenal culture. For me coming in, it wasn’t difficult. I was accepted,” Vigilante said. “The runners here wanted to be part of a new program, a new page.”
But the head coach is quick to acknowledge this season’s boost from the legacy of excellence established by Dolan and his accomplished athletes, many of whom had graduated. “Coach Dolan had done a tremendous job. Donn Cabral, Joe Stilin, and Trevor Van Ackeren [all of the Class of 2012] really were the foundation for developing this new program. This is the byproduct of that.”
In the women’s 6-kilometer championship race, senior Greta Feldman – who earlier this year earned All-America honors for her sixth-place finish in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships – ran 20:42.5 to finish 88th.
Dave Hunter ’72, the 1968 recipient of Princeton’s Rosengarten Trophy, is a lawyer and a banker in Akron, Ohio. He ran his marathon PR of 2:31:40 in the 1983 Boston Marathon.