It’s hard to outrun a Tiger.
The Harvard cross country team ran with all its might, but fell short against its competitors at the annual Heptagonal Championships on Friday in Bronx, N.Y. Out of the eight Ivy League teams competing at the meet, the women managed to nab fifth place, while the men took sixth. The men stood at sixth place in last year’s Heps, but the women dropped three places from second last season.
The Princeton Tigers dominated the competition this year, capturing the men’s and women’s team and individual titles, as well as placing four runners in the top 10 in both the men’s and women’s races. Captain Dan Chenoweth and junior Jeanne Mack proved to be the Crimson standouts, setting the pace and leading the teams with the best times for Harvard.
“Overall, I think the team competed hard,” Crimson coach Jason Saretsky said. “I think the best thing about the Ivy League Championships is that the teams are so close. We just came up a little bit short of what we were hoping for.”
The Crimson men wrapped up the event with 141 points, well behind the Tigers’ total of 33 points, but managed to slip ahead of Brown and Yale. Chenoweth took second at the meet, leading the Harvard men but falling just short in his hopes of a title defense. He completed the 8K course in a time of 24:14.0, only 10 seconds behind Princeton’s Donn Cabral, who finished in 24:03.8.
“I was kind of disappointed not to get the win,” Chenoweth said, “but I tried my best, so I guess that’s all you can really do.”
Though Chenoweth proved that experience pays off, the rookies also stepped up into the role of leading the team. In the first Heps meet of his career, freshman Aaron Watanabe placed 22nd overall, crossing the finish line in 25:11.1. Two other freshmen scorers for the Crimson men were James Leakos and Kellen Blumberg, posting times of 25:29.5 and 25:51.4, respectively.
“The freshmen have dropped some time over the season,” Chenoweth said. “We’ve seen improvement in their times, and they’re getting used to racing longer distances. They’ve become more competitive and confident over the course of the year.”
For the women, Mack led the squad, which tallied 121 points total to finish fifth. Mack posted a time of 17:29.6 in the 5K event, taking sixth and finishing behind runners from Brown, Princeton, and the host of the event, Columbia. Tiger Alex Banfich took the title with a time of 16:58.9—the only time under 17 minutes in the women’s meet.
“[Banfich] was really good and almost got the course record,” Mack said. “She’s in really great shape and deserved to win. I could have done a little bit better. I think I could have maybe come in fourth.”
Fellow juniors Nicole Cochran and Kailyn Kuzmuk also turned in solid performances. Cochran completed the course in 17:53.4, just sliding into the top 15 with a 14th-place finish. Kuzmuk ran a time of 19:25.5, good for 36th place.
Harvard now turns its focus toward the NCAA Regionals in two weekends at the Hammonasett Beach State Park in Madison, Conn. The cross-country squad is nearing the end of its season, which will culminate at the NCAA Championships the week after. The Crimson will need to step up its game to improve on last year’s performance at these two events.
“The great thing about the team is that there is a lot of depth this year,” Saretsky said. “I think we can bounce back from this and compete even stronger at the NCAA Regionals in two weeks.”
And Harvard will need to bounce back quickly, because the team will be facing even tougher competition at the NCAA Regionals—runners who can finish the race faster than a Tiger.
—Staff writer Steven T. A. Roach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more in SportsLightweights Renew Princeton Rivalry