NOTRE DAME — If nothing else, the Princeton University women’s cross country team is looking forward to today’s Notre Dame Invitational so they can get away from the food at the cafeteria.
“The team is having dinner at my house the night after the race,” laughs senior team leader Alex Banfich, who is bringing the No. 22-ranked Tigers to her family’s home in Plymouth for some real Hoosier eatin’ Friday night.
First things first, though.
Banfich, the phenomenal former state champ from Culver Girls Academy, is hoping to leave her mark on one of the nation’s premier collegiate cross country races.
Princeton will be running in the women’s blue division 5,000-meter race starting at 4:15 p.m. (EDT). There are seven nationally-ranked teams in the field, including No. 2 New Mexico.
There are four varsity races in all. Division II, III and small Division I programs
race in the gold division starting at 2 p.m. (EDT), while a men’s 5-mile race
finishes off the big school blue division at 5 p.m. All races are held on the
Notre Dame golf course.
Mike Fout, a former Indiana boys high school champion from LaPorte, will be running in the blue division men’s race as a senior at Florida State University.
Actually winning the race is a pipe-dream for most, but Banfich earned All-America honors last year and has earned a solid reputation as one of the nation’s top collegiate cross country runners. Taking the gold medal is not out of the question, even if it’s a rough road ahead.
“I have no idea what place I’ll come in, but place has never mattered as much in college meets to me, as opposed to high school,” said Banfich. “It’s more about remaining focused and competitive at every point in the race, and if I do that, the results will come.”
Last year, Banfich finished fourth in this same race, clocking 16:29. Obviously, knowing that she is running in front of the hometown folks for possibly the last time is a big motivator.
“Notre Dame Invitational is one of my favorite meets of the year. The course is impeccable, the competition strong, and the whole meet is always such a great experience,” says Banfich. “I can’t wait to get back home and have some time running back in the Hoosier state. Its always nice to come home.”