ROAR LION ROAR
Bierbaum Earns Cross Country All-America
Men, women sweep Heptagonal Ivy Championships for first time
By Alex Sachare ’71
Carolyn Bierbaum ’06, in only her fourth varsity race at
Columbia, finished third among 248 runners in the NCAA Cross Country
Championships on November 22 at Terre Haute, Ind. It was the finest
finish ever in the NCAAs by any Columbia cross country runner, male
or female, and led the Lions to their second straight 13th place
finish in the 31-team field.
This event capped a brilliant cross country season in which Bierbaum
earlier became the first Columbia woman to win an individual title
at the Heptagonal Ivy Championships, where Columbia’s men
and women swept the team crowns for the first time.
“This has been an amazing season for Caroline,” said
head women’s cross country coach Craig Lake. “In just
two months, she won the Ivy League championship in a strong field
and finished third in the NCAA Championships, making All-America.
Caroline has really come far.”
Bierbaum was running between 15th and 20th place at the midway
point of the Nationals. “I was making my way up to the front
gradually,” she said. “I had a lot left as people were
“She ran a smart race, ran with confidence, and people just
kept coming back to her,” said Lake. “She was passing
Providence senior Kim Smith, undefeated in track or cross country
for the past year, won the women’s title in 20:08.5, 18 seconds
ahead of Renee Metevier of Colorado, who finished four seconds ahead
of Bierbaum. Tenke Zoltani ’06 was Columbia’s next highest
finisher, at 90th, followed by Lisa Stublic ’06, 99th; Carmen
Ballard ’08, 129th; and Delilah DiCrescenzo ’05, 168th.
One week later, Bierbaum was named one of four finalists for the
Honda Sports Award as the nation’s outstanding women’s
collegiate cross country competitor.
Bierbaum, who grew up on Manhattan’s East Side, is a transfer
student from Duke, where she finished 34th in the 2002 Nationals
as a first-year student, good enough to be named All America. She
transferred after that year — “I didn’t want to
go to school in the city since I grew up here, but I guess I realized
that I needed it,” she told the Columbia Daily Spectator
— but was sidelined for the better part of a year by low iron
counts, running only junior varsity races in 2003. She missed the
2003–04 indoor and outdoor track seasons and was not expected
to compete in cross country this fall, but after working out on
her own during the summer and early fall, she joined the team in
time to win the Lafayette Invitational on October 16.
Two weeks later, Bierbaum led the Lions to their third consecutive
Heptagonal women’s championship at Van Cortlandt Park in the
Bronx. Meanwhile, Gerry Groothuis ’05 and Karl Dusen ’05
led the men to only their second Heptagonal crown, marking the first
time in the 27 years since men and women both began racing for the
title that Columbia has enjoyed a sweep.
“It’s been our goal to win the women’s and men’s
races for a couple of years,” said Lake. “We were so
close each year, but we couldn’t do it until now.”
“This year was a different environment, a different feeling,”
said Willy Wood, director of men’s and women’s track
and field. “You could sense it on the first day of practice.
[The runners] had a different focus this year. They were on a mission.”
Cornell’s Kate Boyles led the women’s field for most
of the race, but Bierbaum rallied and passed her to win, covering
the 3.1-mile course in 17:12.2, the fastest time in the Heps since
1982 and only 2.4 seconds off the meet record. Six other Columbia
runners finished in the top 17 — Zoltani was ninth, DeCrescenzo
12th, Stublic 14th, Ballard 15th, Hilary Bontz ’06 16th and
Laura Meyers ’07 17th. In the team scoring, which is based
on one point for each placing by a school’s top five finishers,
Columbia won with 51 points; Princeton was second with 64 and Yale
third with 73.
Groothuis finished seventh in the five-mile men’s race with
a time of 24:57.9. Dusen was 12th, followed by Mark Olivier ’07,
14th; Steve Vilt ’06E, 16th; and Brian Horneck ’07,
21st. The team had to wait a few moments before the final standings
were determined. “Coach Wood started walking over toward us,
his head down,” said Groothuis. “I see him, and then
he gives us a little smirk. As soon as I saw his smile, I knew it.
I erupted. This was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Columbia had scored 70 points for the victory, beating Dartmouth
by nine points, the same margin by which Brown had topped the Lions
— and prevented a Columbia sweep — a year ago.
Alex Sachare ’71 is the
editor of Columbia College Today.