Banfich leads Princeton at Notre Dame Invite

NOTRE DAME —  Alex Banfich says she has recovered from the illness and hamstring problems that disrupted her training much of the summer.
Now, if she could just get her stamina back, she’d be all set.
“Yeah, I didn’t quite have it today,” said Banfich, a Princeton University senior, following her 13th-place finish at Friday’s Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational.
The Plymouth native, who captured three high school state cross country titles and five track championships while running for Culver Girls Academy, had been considered one of the favorites to win the prestigious women’s blue division.
And midway through the soggy 5,000-meter race on the University of Notre Dame’s golf course, Banfich was running among the top five, looking for an opening to move up.
With about a half-mile to go, however, somebody handed her a piano. She slipped backwards and finished in 17:19.
Winner Silje Fjortoft of Southern Methodist University clocked 16:54.
“I felt like I was in position but I couldn’t hang on at the end,” she said. “I feel like I’m on the verge of running well, but I’m so far behind in my training, it’s taking a while.”
Banfich missed part of last spring’s track season with a hamstring injury, which was complicated by an illness making it difficult to breathe. She didn’t begin training in earnest until August.
“I’m all caught up, as far as the injury goes,” she said. “Now it’s a matter of doing harder workouts and getting ready for the big meets at the end of the season.”
Banfich led her No. 22-ranked Princeton teammates to an eighth-place finish with 268 points.
Notre Dame’s women were fifth in the blue division with 210 points. Florida State’s women won with 54.
The Irish ran in a nice pack, with Jessica Rydberg covering a soggy 5,000-meter course in 17:33 for 25th place.
Susanna Sullivan was 29th (17:38) and Alexa Aragon 32nd  (17:40).
“Nobody had a great race, but it was a nice group effort,” said Irish coach Tim Connelly.
Banfich, who earned All-America honors last season, was cheered by lots of friends and family members along the course. She said she could pick out their voices.
“I can always pick out (Culver Academies coach Mike) Chastain,” said Banfich. “You can’t miss it.”
Another former Culver Academies star, Alejandro Arroyo, ran in the men’s blue division 5-mile race and finished 128th overall, clocking 25:47.
Brigham Young won the men’s title, while Princeton was third. Notre Dame placed 11th.