Coach Daniel Ireland and the women’s team made their goal very clear from the beginning of the season. After finishing eighth last year at Princeton, the Lions want to go from last to first this weekend, a feat that has never been accomplished.
The group looks very different from 12 months ago and are riding a wave of momentum from the Nuttycombe invitational at Wisconsin, which led to an appearance in the latest national polls for the first time this season, checking in at No. 24. Columbia is also ranked No. 2 in the Northeast region, as the Lions are the only Ivy squad ranked in the top 30.
A big reason for their season success has been Nell Crosby. The lacrosse player turned runner and steeplechaser splashed on the cross country/ track and field scene last season and made an immediate impact. She finished the outdoor track and field season with a second team All-American nod in the 3,000m Steeplechase at the NCAA Championships in Oregon. She’s been Columbia’s top finisher in every race she’s run in, including a first place finish in the first race of the year, and most recently a 35th place finish as the top Ivy runner in Wisconsin.
Junior Erin Gregoire has been the model of consistency as well for the Lions. She's been Columbia's second finisher in each race she's run in this season, taking third at the Columbia XC Invite and posting a 10th place finish at the Sam Bell Invite.
It's the last chance for seniors Chloe Binczyk, Sarah Hardie and Erin Melly to capture an Ivy League cross country title. Binczyk is coming off a great performance at the Princeton Invitational where she took 12th overall and paced Columbia to a first place finish.
Hardie and Melly have played a crucial part in Columbia's rise all season. They've been Columbia's third and fourth runners in back-to-back races, including the Sam Bell Invite and Nuttycombe Invitational.
The women's team has been on a upward trend all season long - and they are hoping it all culminates with a trophy on Friday.
The last time Columbia hosted Heps, the men's team defended home turf and hoisted the 2015 Ivy League Championship trophy. Coming back in the friendly confines of Van Cortlandt Park on Friday, on the course that they know best, the Lions are looking to do the same.
Columbia has been ranked among the top-30 teams for the most of the season, falling out of the polls for the first time in the latest NCAA rankings. They come into this weekend with a very experienced bunch.
This season, Thomas placed first individually at the Iona Meet of Champions and led the Lions to a first place team finish. At the Sam Bell Invite, Kenny Vasbinder led the way for the Lions with an eighth place finish, and the Lions took second place.
The men will race second this year, just like they did in 2015 and are hoping for the same result.
The Columbia Athletics department is sponsoring a free fan shuttle bus up to Van Cortlandt Park for the first 54 individuals that arrive at 118th and Amsterdam on Friday morning at 10 a.m.