By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(30-Sep) -- On the campus of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., Liv Westphal is quietly making a name for herself. The 19-year-old from France finished third at last weekend's Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown cross country meet, breaking up the strong Providence College trio of Emily Sisson, Laura Nagel, and Sarah Mary Collins.
Though she has made some noise on the national collegiate scene before, not much has been written about Westphal. Overshadowed by some of the bigger names on the East Coast --such as Abbey D'Agostino, Sisson, and the rest of the top ranked Providence College Friars-- the question begs to be asked: Who exactly is Liv Westhphal?
"I'm a little complicated because I come from all over the place," Westphal said with a laugh, thinking about how to answer the question. Born in Milan to a mother who is Italian and a father who is French, Westphal has been all over. She lists her hometown as Limoges, France, on the Boston College athletics website, and came to the United States two years ago after earning a pair of French national junior championships.
Since then, Westphal has quietly been rising among the ranks of collegiate competition. Last year, Westphal finished 12th at the NCAA Cross Country Northeast Regional before placing 85th at the national championships in Lexington, Ky.
Entering the 2013 cross country season, Westphal noticed a change in her training and racing mentality. A Westphal confidence had emerged, thanks to a summer spent representing France on the international circuit.
In July, Westphal was fifth at the European Under-23 Championships 5000m, timing 16:08.85. That performance, she said, helped turn the corner and alter her mindset.
"I think running in international competition gave me a bit of confidence. I think this season might be a turning point for me. I don't want to be anymore in the eighties, 85th place at nationals," she told Race Results Weekly, speaking exclusively after last Friday's third place finish. "Obviously it's still so early in the season [that] I cannot give myself a precise goal. We'll see where I am in two months."
This year's early season cross country results have shown that Westphal's outlook and training are paying off. In addition to her third place finish last weekend, she won the University of Massachusetts Invitational on September 14, by more than 20 seconds, timing 16:58.13 for 5 kilometers.
"I think I needed time, step by step, and I think now-- I'm almost 20-- I think I can do something, be the start of something," she said, a clear desire in her voice. "In France, it's a bit different than in the States because runners start to build pretty late. We are not at the top, young in high school. I have the chance to have coaches and [Boston College coach] Randy Thomas is also trying to preserve us, not burning us in workouts or anything."
As part of the Boston College Eagles (ranked 24th in last week's national USTFCCCA poll, third in the Northeast Region), Westphal is enjoying success both on a team and individual level.
"We are looking pretty strong. The freshmen have great potential, the upperclassmen are getting better and better," she said, adding that her main goal is helping the team qualify for their fourth straight NCAA Championships appearance.
Individually, she hesitates when asked for a goal or prediction.
"I really am in shape this season because I ran until the end of July for the French team. It's the first time I'm in good shape in September-- hopefully I can keep my shape," she said. "I think we are really looking strong in training and I'm so excited for this season, I think we could do great."
PHOTO: Liv Westphal of Boston College after finishing third at the 2013 Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown in Franklin Park (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)