The varsity cross country team, perhaps Harvard's most successful athletic squad over the past few years, opens its season against Springfield and the University of Maine today in an 11 a.m. meet at nearby Franklin Park.
With just three weeks of practice and last Monday's highly informal Handicap race behind it, the varsity will meet in Maine one of the strongest opponents it is likely to face all year.
Yankee Conference champions last year, Maine finished one place and a scant two points behind the Crimson in the IC4A meet. All of the top six runners on this team are back this year, and they will have additional help from a talented group of sophomores.
The Crimson, however, will counter with some fine runners of its own. Capt. Dave Norris, Dyke Benjamin, French Anderson, and Bill Thompson have been running well in practice sessions, and are, in the vernacular of the sport, apparently "ready."
Norris has consistently been among the top three or four Crimson runners for two years, and finished well ahead of Maine's best in the 1956 IC4As. Benjamin last spring developed into a very strong two-miler and placed among the leaders in the Handicap race.
Anderson is a 48-second quarter-miler with the track team, and is making his first effort at the much longer cross country distance in three years.
An uncertain and extremely important factor in deciding the outcome of the meet will be the performance of the Crimson's Pete Reider and Mac Brown, both still recuperating from recent illnesses.
Reider was taken sick while competing in Israel two weeks ago and has not yet regained the weight he lost at that time. Brown was a consistent leader in early season time trials until afflicted with a chest cold last weekend. He has not had a hard workout since, and, although sufficiently recovered to run today, he remains something of an uncertain quantity.
Rounding out the Crimson lineup will be Jim Schlaeppi, disputed winner of the Handicaps, Al Gordon, Ed Martin, Wes Hildreth, Joe Julian, and Lincoln Hollister.