The Harvard cross-country team had to swallow its third defeat of the young season yesterday afternoon in New York City's Van Cortlandt Park, bowing to Penn and Columbia by scores of 20-43 and 22-36 respectively.
It was a frustrating loss for a Crimson team that had carried into the meet hopes of finding its mid-season form. The only solace was the stellar performance turned in by Crimson senior Jim Keefe. Keefe blitzed the Van Cortlandt course in the excellent time of 25:09, finishing five seconds ahead of the second place finisher, Peter Christ of Pennsylvania.
A Crimson trio composed of Keefe, Jeff Campbell and Bill Muller had remained near the front of the pack during the first two miles of the five-mile race. By the three-mile mark, however, only Keefe remained to challenge the surging Christ of Penn and Columbia's John Fitzgibbons.
It was not until the finishing part of the course, Cemetery Hill, that Keefe could establish command. Sprinting the final yards, Keefe left Christ in his wake. Fitzgibbons was overtaken by two more Quakers, as the Philadelphians left their dominance.
After Keefe, the Crimson finish was pretty dismal. Freshman Stein Rafto earned good marks for his twelfth place effort, but Brian Dunn, Tom Phillips and Campbell finished well back in the pack. Injuries and inexperience proved to be too much.
"I was completely under control the whole way and ran easily, so I can't complain," Keefe said yesterday. "But overall it was a very disappointing race on our part."
Campbell saw some hopeful signs in the meet. "We did better against Penn than Columbia did, and we'll give the Lions a better shot if we catch them later in the season," he said yesterday. "We should do much better once some of the experienced people recover from their injuries."
The harriers will get another's week's grace before their confrontation next Friday in Providence with Brown's Bruins. They will have to come up with some new wrinkles if they hope to halt the losing streak which has now reached three.