When we last left the women's cross country team, it was still on the road, travelling back to Cambridge from Friday's tri-meet at Princeton's Clark Field. The harriers arrived home safety, shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday morning, tired, weary, and still smiling about the upset they'd dealt Princeton and Yale, (H) 36 to (P)39 to (Y)58.
The Tigers, ranked 18th in the nation this season hadn't lost to Harvard in over three years and wore their confidence conspicuously on their orange warm-up sleeves. The Elis, sporting two top-caliber runners of their own, came looking for the dark horse victory--dark blue, one presumes. Harvard had other ideas...
"Kris (Linsley) and I decided to stay behind Yale's top girl Sally Strauss and wait to make our move until she started to sound tired," harrier Darlene Beckford said, describing her race-winning strategy.
"We ran together so we could shout encouragement and peace each other," she added, "and after two miles Sally started huffing and puffing. She kept glancing back at us in disgust as we chatted away. Finally, we just passed her and left her back in the dust."
The strategy obviously worked. Moving to the beat of an invisible choreographer, Beckford and Linsley executed their now-familiar pas de deux to perfection, with Beckford finishing first in a blazing 16:59 (breaking 17 minutes for the first time this season) and Linsley tripping in two seconds later.
Poor Strauss wheezed in for a disappointing third place finish, while the squad's newest star, Ellen Gallagher, clinched fourth place to complete a Crimson coup.
"I was pretty wiped out when we got home, but what a great meet! You should have seen Coach Pappy Hunt..." exlaimed a happy Gallagher, still high on a cloud three days after the meet.
For the Tiger coach who predicted a one-two Princeton finish, and the Eli coach who figuared on at least two of the top four finishers wearing blue, there were some bitter words to swallow. For Harvard there was only the sweet taste of victory, all the sweeter because it was unexpected.
Now 2-1 in Ivy dual meet competition, the harriers travel to Van Cortland Park, New York on Friday for the All-Ivies competition with some well-earned confidence. Yale and Princeton know what to expect this time, and you can be sure that they'll be out for blood.
The Notebook: Finishing fourth and fifth for Harvard were Wiley McCarthy and team captain Martha Clabby, another inseparable harrier pair, and in sixth was Becky Rogers in 18:43, her best cross country race-- "by far!" Becky recalls being puzzled that she and other harriers kept hearing their names yelled during the race. It turns out there's a homesick exharrier down at Princeton Grad School who got a hold of a program and did his best impersonation of a cheerleader to urge the Crimson on to victory...And now, for those of you who were left breathless with suspense after Saturday's missing persons report on the harriers--after a less than sumptuous post-race meal from host Princeton the voracious squad forced their bus driver off the road at every HoJos along the way. And rumor has it that some are still back there waiting for the Wednesday all-you-can-eat-specials...