In season chock full of hardship, misfortune and injuries, the Harvard men's track team got some sweet revenge at the Heptagonal Championships held this past weekend at Columbia.
Surprising many, the Crimson avenged earlier season losses to Brown and arch-rival Yale, finishing fourth in a field of nine. Princeton won the event with 124 points.
"HEPS was great," co-captain Todd Dawson said. "Guys performed well and we had some key personal records. It was one of our best finishes since 1985. We're a young team--we're only using four or five seniors--and we're looking to the future."
"We had really good momentum going into the meet," said co-captain Pete McConnon, who watched the competition from the sidelines with a stress fracture. "We thrashed North eastern the week before. That really boosted our confidence. People just came in and competed the best I have seen them this year."
Although it did not win any of the individual races outright, second and third place finishes propelled the Crimson to fourth overall.
On the track, a cast of underclassmen (who scored all but six of the Crimson's 71 points) were the movers and shakers (so to speak) for Harvard.
Sophomore Shayne Mauricette (10.79 and 21.94) got things going early with two third-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, sophomore Ben Bowen (1:52.02) made a gutsy comeback and took second place in the 800, sophomore Darin Shearer (8:57.96) placed third in the 3000-meter steeplechase and freshman Ian Carswell (14:28.69) rode into second place in the 5,000-meter run.
"Ben Bowen got pushed out into lane three and sixth place [in the 800] in the back stretch with 250 meters to go," McConnon said. "He managed to run everybody but the leader down for second at the end of the race."
In the field events, the experience of Harvard's co-captain Todd Dawson led the way. Although Dawson's solid third place in the shot put (16.02) was nothing exceptional in itself, the senior destroyed his personal best by more than a foot.
Also, sophomore Terence Mann defied gravity like he never had before, leaping a college best for second place in the high jump (6'10"1/4), freshman Steve Brannon pole vaulted his way to second place (16'0"3/4) and junior Daniel Dusek placed third in the discus (196'6").
"Todd Dawson threw down an impressive performance," McConnon said. "Not only was it his best ever, but it came at exactly the right time. Steve Brannon literally cleared three or four heights on his third jump. In the face of a lot of pressure, he got over. That's the mark of a true competitor."
The fourth-place finish was even more impressive because of who wasn't there for the Crimson. Likely point scorers Chris Niemi (shot put), Killian Lonergan (distance), Brian Henry (800) and McConnon (10,000) all sat out because of injuries. Joe Ghartey was less than 100 percent. Matt Wachowicz, after showing marked improvement in the 400-meter hurdles competition, pulled up lame with hamstring troubles in the 4x100 relay, robbing Harvard of another third or fourth-place finish.
"When you look at all the injuries and think that we were only eight points out of third place, you realize that we were right there," McConnon said. "We could have had 12 or 14 points more points with those guys. Even as it was, third place wasn't really that far out of our hands."
"First is not fourth of course," Dawson said. "For us, however, it was a step in the right direction. It helps build confidence for the future. HEPS tell us that we can do it in the future."
The women harriers did not fare as well as the men. Although they had "defeated" eventual-winner Brown at an exhibition the weekend before, Harvard managed only a disappointing seventh-place finish at HEPS.
"Our performance at HEPS was not reflective of our talent, determination or effort," co-captain Kristina Lynch said. "Although we have had a very strong season, we are discouraged. We have to understand that injuries are uncontrollable."
Late season injuries left the team hobbled. Karen Goetze, the anchor leg of the indoor HEPS record-breaking 4x400 relay team, could not race because of a stress fracture. Though able to compete, co-captain Alexia Cruz and Amanda Williams were both slowed by injuries.
There were highlights, however. Meredith Fitzgerald (9:56.75) and Jen Kearney (2:13.04) both ran personal records in the 3000 and the 800, respectively. Belmont native Shireen Boulos and Lynch both placed in the 100-and 200-meter race. Freshman Ailey Penningroth placed fourth in the 400 meter hurdles (1:03.74) and sixth in the shot put (40'6").
"It is kind of obvious that we are all sort of disappointed," Lynch said. "We gave it our best effort."