Harvard WomenLed by the senior and sophomore classes, the Harvard women's cross country team is looking to improve upon their fifth-place finish at Heptagonals last season.
In particular, senior Mary Unsworth will be counted upon to lead the team. Unsworth placed 11th out of about 250 runners at the Fordam Invitational last weekend, improving upon her 33rd-place finish last year.
Unsworth will not be alone in her efforts. Fellow senior Becky Gogel is in excellent shape and placed 18th at Fordam. Captain Senta Burton should also contribute improved results from last year.
It will be difficult, however, for the team to replace Bethany Helms, who qualified for Nationals last year. Helms, as well as captain Kate Moynihan and Kim Megdanis, graduated last year.
In addition to the strong seniors, a powerful sophomore class could help push the team to higher levels.
"We are strengthened by a very solid and positive-minded sophomore class," Burton said.
Junior Leann Hymas is also expected to contribute.
The team is aiming to peak at Heptagonals on Oct. 27 at Van Cortlandt Park in New York. In recent years, the women have posted disappointing performances at Heps, and say they are looking to avoid under-performing this year.
The women, however, recognize that the Oct. 6 Yale meet is just as important as Heps if only to secure bragging rights for the remainder of the year. The New England Championships on Oct. 13 will prove to be a good final warm-up before Heps.
A new rule change will provide the women with an added challenge at the end of the season. For the first time ever, the NCAA Region I Championships, which determine who continues on to race at Nationals and takes place after Heps, will be six kilometers instead of five, as in years past.
How much help the women will get from its incoming freshmen remains to be seen, as they have not begun practicing with the team yet.
Captain Ed Baker, who competed at Nationals last season, and sophomore Nathan Shenk-Boright, who has improved substantially since last season, are expected to lead the team.
"Nathan is one you should keep your eye on," said Baker. "He went on many a 20-mile run in the mountains of Vermont this summer."
The team is looking forward to its first home meet this weekend, against Brown and Northeastern at Franklin Park. Like the women's team, the men will spend much of the season in preparation for the Yale meet (Oct. 6) and Heptagonals (Oct. 27), as well as the NCAA Region I Championships on Oct. 27.
The only loss for the team is Dave Martin, to graduation, but his presence will be sorely missed. Not only was Martin a valuable asset to the team as one of its top two runners last year, but he was a spirited leader who kept the energy level on the team high.
The freshmen start running with the rest of the team on Monday.