The Harvard women's cross country team opened its season in Kenosha, Wisc., Saturday against what Coach Ed Sheehan called the "toughest competition until regionals."
The women harriers faced two of the top teams in the nation and came out of the four-team meet with an impressive third-place showing and with the confidence needed to head into Ivy League competition.
Traditional cross country powerhouse Stanford, ranked second nationally, took top honors with 28 points. Host Northwestern University finished second with 38 points while the Crimson posted 73 and Marquette 91.
"The women ran well but certainly could have run better," said Sheehan, citing senior Jenny Stricker as the team's strongest performer.
Stricker finished second in the five-kilometer race with a time of 17:08, only 11 seconds behind Stanford's ace Regina Jacobs.
Jacobs was fourth in the nation last year. Stricker was 37th.
"Jenny had an outstanding race," said Sheehan. "By the end of the season, Jenny definitely will be one of the best cross country runners in the nation."
Stricker stayed close to Jacobs throughout the race. Jacobs held a three-second lead at the one-mile mark, but by one and 3/4 miles, Stricker had pulled even. Jacobs regained her lead with about a half-mile left in the race and held on for the victory.
Kristin Perini was the second Cantab to cross the finish line, in 14th place overall, and Alison Keller was the third with a 16th-place finish.
Crimson Captain Leslie Cooper was impressed with her squad's showing.
"We ran well as a team," Cooper said. "The freshmen performed far better than we expected them to."
Yardling Jody Dushay scored points for the Crimson placing fourth on the team and 20th overall while classmate Katie Toner was the seventh Crimson runner, placing 26th.
Sheehan expressed optimism about the Crimson's chances heading into a meet against Rutgers at Van Cortlandt Park in New York.
"We have a very young team," said Sheehan. "The girls obviously will run a lot better than they did today."
"I think we'll have a great season," said Stricker. "We have a lot of new talent and a lot of old talent and we came out of this meet with a positive frame of mind."
at Kenosha, Wisc.
Standord 28, Northwestern 38, Harvard 73, Marquette 91
Overall winner: Regina Jacobs, Standard, 16:57
Harvard finishers: Jenny Stricker, 17:08, 2nd place; Kristin Perini, 18:17, 14: Alison Keller, 18:32, 16; Jody Dushay, 18:57, 20; Merri Green, 19:01, 21; Leslie Cooper 19:05, 22; Katie Torner, 19:25, 26