IVY CHAMPS! Menís Cross Country Takes Title, Womenís Team Places Third
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars

BRONX, N.Y. - "If you had beaten that last Princeton runner, you would have won by two points instead of one." With those words, head coach Willy Wood told his men's team that they had just won the title at the 2009 Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships in Van Cortlandt Park.

The Columbia men's cross country team ended Princeton's run at a fourth straight Ivy League title, as the Lions beat the Tigers by a point, 60-61, for the closest Heps finish in 37 years. The women's team had a spectacular showing as well, placing third, just six points behind second-place Harvard, with Princeton taking the team title.

Men's Race

30 years ago, in 1979, Columbia men's cross country captured its first Ivy League championship title in program history.  It seems only fitting that 30 years later, those alumni were on hand to watch the Lions win the school's third-ever Heptagonal Championship in spectacular fashion.

The 8k race, which had a slightly altered course due to construction at Van Cortlandt Park, started precisely at 12:15 p.m. With fans watching, Columbia ran in a pack, their new blue uniforms visible from across the expanse. At the one-mile mark, the race was still tight, as nearly 100 runners stayed close together, making it clear this was anyone's shot. But as the teams rounded the final curve, it was obvious that the pack had thinned. Junior Brendan Martin was the first runner in Columbia blue to cross the finish line, as he came in fifth, in 25:31.2, nearly simultaneously with Cornell's top runner. Next in for the Lions was sophomore Kyle Merber, who finished eighth overall, with a time of 25:41.9. Junior Terence Prial had an outstanding showing, coming in 12th, with a time of 25:47.7, while sophomore Justin Heck cross the line in 25:51.5. The last of the top five was junior Anthony Merra, who came in 20th, with a time of 26:00.3. Junior Matthew Ciambriello and sophomore Andy Buchanan rounded out the top seven for the Lions, coming in 25th (26:18.0) and 28th (26:20.2).

Senior Robert Hartnett finished in 33rd, with a time of 26:32.9, followed by sophomore Gary Brownell, in 27th (26:39.6). First-years Mike Murphy and Benjamin Vellieux finished in step, as Murphy took 39th (26:41.6) and Vellieux took 40th (26:41.8). First-year Leighton Spencer was the last Columbia harrier across the line, at 44th, with a time of 26:43.9.

Women's Race

On the women's side, the Columbia cross country team fared well, coming in third overall behind Princeton and Harvard with 75 points. Junior Jacqueline Drouin was the top finisher for the Lions, as she placed eighth overall, in 17:37.4 in the 5k race. Right behind her was junior Julianne Quinn, who came in tenth in 17:46.0. Senior Christina Henderson was next, in 14th, with a time of 17:57.0. First-years Emily Lanois and Camille Murphy rounded out the top five scorers for Columbia, coming in at 18th (18:03.2) and 25th (18:19.1). First-year Caroline McDonough (30th - 18:23.0) and junior Hannah Fligman (37th - 18:32.2) completed the top seven for the Lions. Also competing in Columbia blue were first-year Clare Buck (53rd - 18:56.8), senior Irena Ossola (67th - 19:00.2), juniors Jillian Goodwin (68th - 19:16.0) and Erin Hays (69th - 19:21.0), and first-year Erica Pearson (71st - 19:24.5).

Up next, the two teams will gear up for the NCAA Regional Meet, and try and earn a spot at the 2009 NCAA National Championships. The meet will take place in Boston, Mass., Saturday, November 14.