As the men’s cross country team set out to defend its Ivy League title at Saturday’s Ivy Heptagonal Cross Country Championships, the women set out to return to the top. It was an unseasonably warm day at Princeton’s West Windsor Fields, which seemed to suit freshman Megan Curham, the Tigers’ top finisher for the day.
Curham placed fourth for the women with a time of 20:26.1 to earn first-team All-Ivy League honors and lead the women’s team to a fourth-place finish overall. This marks the best individual finish by a Tiger since Alex Banfich ’12 placed third in 2011. Curham, a freshman from Warren, N.J., came onto the cross country scene late in high school, but has made the most of her short career. She won the 2-mile run at New Balance Indoor Track Nationals during her senior year, and since coming to Princeton, Curham has led the Tiger women, finishing first on the team in all four races in which she has competed.
“To see how [Megan] has developed here has been amazing,” senior Molly Higgins said. “She’s an incredibly hard worker and … it’s just been unbelievable to train with her and also to watch her race.”
Also scoring for the women were junior captain Emily de La Bruyere, who finished 10th and earned second-team All-Ivy League honors, as well as sophomore Kathryn Fluehr (18th), junior Lindsay Eysenbach (26th), and sophomore Kathryn Little (37th).
Dartmouth won for the women with 38 total points, while Cornell placed second with 66 points, Harvard came in third with 73 and Princeton placed fourth with 95 points.
The No. 15 Tiger men, hoping to defend their title for the fourth consecutive year, fell short in a tight race against No. 10 Columbia. Seniors Tyler Udland and Chris Bendtsen finished sixth and seventh respectively with times of 23:48.6 and 23:49.7, both earning first-team All-Ivy League honors. Senior Alejandro Arroyo Yamin finished 12th, earning second-team All-Ivy League honors. Juniors Sam Pons and Matt McDonald (16th and 17th, respectively) rounded out the scoring, and junior Eddie Owens was close behind in 19th place.
“We ran even with them through most of the race, through about 6k, but then they started to separate a little,” Udland said of the competition with Columbia. “We tried to move up around the last 700-800 meters, but it was just a little too much to overcome and close the gap.”
It has been seven years since Princeton football fans have seen their team win at least three of the first four games of the season, and when the Tigers began the season 4-0 in 2006, it turned out to be an exciting year that included a bonfire and an Ivy League championship.
Saturday’s 42-26 win over Lafayette gave the Tigers a three-game winning streak as they begin the hardest part of their schedule. Princeton’s impressive offensive attack has been led by its quarterbacks, specifically Quinn Epperly ’15.
Sharing time at the quarterback position last season with Connor Michelsen ’15, Epperly’s most well-known pass came with 13 seconds left to play in the 2012 Harvard game to receiver Roman Wilson ’14 — a touchdown that capped Princeton’s comeback win. This season has been an extension of that success. In the Georgetown game, Epperly became the Tiger to rush for four touchdowns in a game since Keith Elias ’94. Against Columbia, he became the first Tiger to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Chad Roghair ’91. And in the win over Lafayette, he was responsible for five more touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).
“Quinn did some really good things,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said afterward. “I thought he really executed well.”
Epperly and Wilson connected six times for two of Epperly’s passing touchdowns. He also threw scoring passes to receiver Connor Kelley ’15 and tight end Des Smith ’14.
“I think the way our offense is designed a lot of guys are contributing, we’re working extremely hard all practice or all week long in practice, and that’s just how it works. One guy one week will have a breakout game … and anybody can have that type of game at anytime,” Kelley said. “That’s what makes our offense really great.”
Michelsen also has contributed significantly to the offense, leading the team in passing yards this season and driving the Tigers down the field on six of their seven scoring drives against Lafayette. Epperly, a dual running and passing threat, often comes into the game when Princeton reaches the red zone.
“I think that definitely a lot more credit should be given to [Michelsen] than probably is,” Epperly said. “A lot of those drives that I’m scoring on he’s leading down the field and I’m just kind of running it in at the end, so he definitely probably deserves more credit than he’s been given.”
Coming into the Lehigh game Sept. 21, one of the major questions Princeton football fans had was who would be starting under center. Despite a full 60 minutes of play in a tumultuous 29-28 loss, that question has yet to be resolved. Quarterbacks Connor Michelsen ’15, Quinn Epperly ’15, and Kedric Bostic ’16 each played a role in the offense during the opener.
With a 22-3 lead at halftime, the Tiger offense seemed to be clicking, and the defense able to contain Lehigh’s explosive offensive ability. The second half, on the other hand, told a different story. The Princeton defense was unable to stop the Mountain Hawks from reaching the end zone. The Tigers took back the lead on a 17-yard touchdown rush by DiAndre Atwater ’16 with 8:03 left in the game, but they were unable to convert on 2-point conversion. Lehigh would come back down the field to score once again, giving them the 29-28 lead with 2:45 left on the clock.
Princeton’s last possession ended when a Michelsen pass attempt was intercepted at the Lehigh 37 with 1:50 to go in the game. The Mountain Hawks were then able to gain a first down and run out the clock.
Michelsen, the returning starter, was not the only one taking snaps for the Tigers. Debuting a formation they call Ninja, in which they spread the tackles out to the wide-receiver positions while keeping the center, two guards, and a quarterback and running back in their normal spots, the Tigers aimed to use the abilities of several players to pass, receive, or run. At times the offense positioned Michelsen, Epperly, and Bostic as quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. (Receivers Seth DeValve ’15 and Connor Kelley ’15 also were high-school quarterbacks.)
“I think the nature of the quarterback position is changing a little bit, and the high-school athlete is back, whether he’s a runner, passer, all those things,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said. “We don’t want to have those guys standing next to me the whole game, so let’s utilize them.”