2019 XC Top 25 Teams (Women): #18 Princeton Tigers

Updated: Jan 13

Graphic by Logan French

If you've been reading our team rankings on the women's side, then you may have noticed a trend in terms of what we value or place emphasis on. For us, it seems relatively clear. Teams with reliable scorers who also have room for growth/improvement - which typically centers around an accomplished young core - are key aspects that we look for when creating our Top 25. And the Princeton women? Well, they have both of those strengths.

The women of Princeton are the second Ivy League team to break into the rankings, thanks to a group of young returners and a talented recruiting class. While the team lose a few senior scorers, much of their young core returns this fall and will be coming in with a full year of experience under their belts.

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Junior Sophie Cantine looks to be on of the top Tigers heading into 2019 after a strong track season. This past spring she qualified for her first NCAA regional meet on the track, finishing 18th in the East region 1500 meter final. Her cross country season last fall was a bit up and down, struggling early on but seeming to find her stride late in the season. She was the top Princeton runner at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, placing 8th overall. That low-stick performance, in an underrated region that was crowded with standout individuals, helped lead the team to a runner-up finish to qualify for NCAA's.

At the national meet, Cantine struggled a bit, placing 117th overall in her first appearance on a national stage. The experience should give her plenty to build off coming into this fall as she will be looked on to fill the leadership role left by the graduating seniors. Cantine struggled with consistency in 2018, but it's clear that she can provide legitimate up-front scoring for the Tigers this fall when she us running at her best.

On the flip side, one of Princeton’s most consistent runners last fall was Melia Chittenden. The junior placed between 8th and 20th at every meet except NCAA's and was the top Tiger at both Heps and the Penn State Open. Chittenden’s best showing of the season came at the conference championships, placing 8th overall and leading the team to a 3rd place finish behind nationally ranked Columbia and Dartmouth squads. The one blemish on her season in 2018 was her performance at NCAA's where she faded to 147th. Outside of that day, Chittenden looked like Princeton’s top runner and will be a key factor in where the team lands this season. When paired with Cantine, the Tigers could quietly have the best 1-2 punch in the Mid-Atlantic region this year.

This past winter and spring were two very successful seasons for the Princeton junior as she set personal bests in the mile, 1500, 3000, and 5000, along with a 4th place finish at Indoor Heps. Chittenden looks to be trending in the right direction and could be someone to watch at Heps this fall.

Along with bringing back a strong core of runners, the Princeton women have a phenomenal recruiting class this season. Abby Loveys may be one of the best freshman in the country and could potentially finish as Princeton’s top scorer when everything is said and done.

Loveys is coming off of one of the best prep seasons in New Jersey history. The Randolph High School alum set the state record in the 3200 meters this past spring, clocking a 10:10 for the distance. She owns a personal best of 4:46 for 1600 meters on the track, and finished 11th overall at Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals last fall. Loveys has also run 17:07 for 5000 meters (XC) as well as 14:03 for 4000 (XC).

Based on her high school marks, Loveys has the makings of an NCAA star. There will be some added pressure this fall to boost a team that lost a couple veteran runners, but if her transition to the NCAA goes well, Loveys could be pushing for a top 50 finish at the national meet. She will be one to watch in the early races of the season to get an idea of where she might land come November.

Loveys is not the only big name coming to Princeton this fall. Maggie Liebich of Boise Senior High School will be joining the Tigers and adding to their stellar young roster. As a senior, Liebich led the Boise Senior High School cross country team to Nike Cross Nationals where the team finished 10th overall and Liebich crossed the line in 58th.

On the track, Liebich has been equally successful, clocking personal bests of 2:11 and 4:46 for 800 meters and 1600 meters, respectively. She has demonstrated impressive range, also notching a best of 10:42 over 3200 meters. While Liebich is slightly more speed oriented than Loveys, the freshman duo should provide extremely valuable scoring to this Princeton squad.

While the Princeton women do not necessarily have any singular woman who stands out as an elite scorer, the team as a whole features a deep roster which could finish well at NCAA's.

With both Columbia and Dartmouth losing a handful of talent to graduation, the Tigers could be making a push to win the Ivy League title and even challenge for the Mid-Atlantic title as well. The biggest question for Princeton will be how well their new freshmen adapt to the NCAA and whether or not their rising sophomores can make the expected jumps in fitness.

If the transition into 2019 goes smoothly, the Tigers will be well on their way towards improving their finish from last year's national meet.