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Harvard Cross Country Finds Success at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships

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This weekend at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in Van Cortlandt, N.Y. the women’s cross country team, ranked No. 25 in the nation, defended their title as Ivy League champions for a second year in a row while the men’s team finished in second after falling short to Princeton by three points. Two top-ten finishers and five top-eighteen finishers, along with junior Maia Ramsden’s individual title, provided the Crimson women with the scoring depth necessary to find victory. The men’s team was led by an exceptional performance by Acer Iverson and Graham Banks, who became the Ivy League Champion and second finisher respectively.

In the 6k, Harvard’s first five finishers all placed within the top 18 spots, which led to the squad’s 54-point finish. Sophomores Ellaney Matarese and Isabelle Goldstein took 17th and 18th place with a time of 21:42.6 and 21:43 respectively, and first-year Penelope Salmon took 12th with a time of 21:32. Senior Maya Rayle came in sixth with a time of 21:11.7, and Ramsden finished in a blazing 20:42.4 to become Ivy League Champion.

The women’s team was much younger this year than the one last year after having lost several seniors, and the team adjusted their mentality accordingly.

“The seniors really knew how to set big goals, and how to communicate the importance of what it [means] to win a championship,” Ramsden said. “This year, we had to figure out for ourselves a little more, because we're all that much younger. And so I think that a difficulty we overcame during the season was how to create that mentality with the new team and the new environment.”

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In addition to Ramsden and other upperclassmen stepping up to fill the roles of retired seniors, they have the advantage of being one of only a few programs in which the same coaching staff work with both the men’s and women’s squads.

“I think [the coaching staff] is a huge asset to our team,” Ramsden said. “Our coach does a really, really good job at making sure we peak at the right time and preparing us mentally and physically for the race.”

These results speak for themselves, as for the first time since 1969, Harvard runners finished 1-2 in the Ivy League men's championship meet. For the Crimson men, the top five athletes finished in the top fifteen places. Iverson was at the top of the pack, finishing first in the 8k with 23:59.3, and was trailed closely by Blanks, who finished in 24:04.1. Iverson is the 13th Harvard runner to win the Ivy League in its 80-year history and is no stranger to dominating the Ivy League; in the 2021-22 season, he won the 3k and 5 at the same meet and won the 5k and 10k at the Ivy League Outdoor Track & Field Championships. David Melville and Vivien Henz came eleventh and twelfth respectively with 24:32.9 and 24:33.4 respectively, and Ben Rosa rounded out the Crimson’s top 5 in 15th place with 24.36.9.

The Crimson entered the race with a different tactic this year; while they used to try to dominate the race fast and early, they chose to take a more relaxed approach this year, which proved to be more successful.

“We've tried to set the pace ourselves, take control of the race from the start,” Iverson said. “And we noticed that that wasn't quite working out. We were giving other teams free rides through the race, and they were just kind of profiting off of our work there. So this year, we just stayed relaxed, calm, and very patient. We let Princeton and Columbia take [the] lead for most of the race. And then right at about four miles, Graham and I separated ourselves, and as soon as we touched the front, they didn't let it go.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams are looking ahead to the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in two weeks.

“Regionals is going to be at the same course as the championships,” Reyles said. “So I think having that experience of going through the course is going to be a useful thing.”

“We're in a nice position going into regionals this year where most of the field is going to be looking at us, instead of us looking into the top two teams in the field,” Iverson said. “We get to dictate how we want the race to play out, and it's a nice position to be in. We can make it go fast, but it's up to us.”

The Crimson will compete in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on November 11 and the NCAA National Championships on November 19 to round out the season.

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