Carleen Jeffers ’19 led women’s cross country to a seventh place team finish out of 28 squads last weekend at the Penn State National Open. A senior from Ridgewood, New Jersey, Jeffers finished tenth individually in a field of 289 runners in the six-kilometer dash with a time of 20 minutes, 53 seconds. Building on her strong finish as well as a 17th place effort at last month’s Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown, she looks to lead the Bears to success in conference competition at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship Oct. 27.
For her standout performances on the course, she has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: You finished tenth overall and led the team at the Penn State Open. How did it feel to place so highly?
Jeffers: It felt really good. It was one of those races where we had nothing to lose so we were kind of just going to see how we stacked up against our competition. I think as a team, and for a lot of us as individuals, we surprised ourselves with what we were able to accomplish.
You also posted a top-20 time at a race last month in Boston. Do you feel like you’re finding a groove?
Definitely. I felt like Boston was kind of a rust-buster, in a sense. It had been like seven or eight months since I had last raced because I was injured in the spring. I thought that Boston was solid, but I definitely felt like at Penn State both myself and our team as a whole took a big step forward, which is really great because we have our conference meet coming up in two weeks.
The team has gotten some big contributions from first years so far. Does that give you more confidence going into future meets?
Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that we’re so deep right now and that our spread is really tight. Meaning that from our first runner all the way back to like eight or nine we have a really, really tight spread, which is great for cross country. I think that’s the biggest, most important thing for our team right now.
The team is hosting the Rothenburg Run on Friday. Entering the meet, what are you looking forward to?
I’m not actually racing in that, but that meet serves two purposes. One is like, for people trying to make the conference roster to kind of see what they can do and prove themselves in that way. Then, the second thing is people who are on the comeback train right now coming back from injury or illness or whatever it is, still building their way into cross country … they’re able to get a race opportunity that way.
Last month, the team climbed to second in the Northeast rankings. How do you feel about the rest of the season?
I’d be lying if I said we weren’t really excited about that, but at the same time I think our entire season’s motto has just been even keel, don’t get too high, don’t get too low. And at the end of the day, those regional rankings don’t really matter — what matters is what we do on the day. So, I think we’re more excited for that and we’re more excited for what we actually will do than (how excited) we are for what people think we can do. But it’s definitely motivating and it’s something that’s on all of our minds for sure.
As a senior, how do you feel about this being your last season at Brown?
It’s definitely been a time of reflection, especially like you said with all the freshman contributions that we’ve been having. It’s been reminding me of kind of where my mind was freshman year and just what a different athlete, what a different person I am. And I’m just so, so grateful to the coaches and the team that I’ve had here at Brown for these four years because the team culture that we’ve cultivated is unique, definitely, among all other NCAA (Division I) teams. … I just really appreciate that and have been able to see it for what it is as a senior.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.