It was only two weeks ago that Harvard men’s cross country team seemed destined for mediocrity again, finishing last at the Heptagonals Championships for the third year in a row.
What a difference two weeks makes.
The Crimson stunned spectators, competitors, and coaches in racing to a fourth-place finish at the Regional Championship meet at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City this weekend.
In fact, the only ones who weren’t stunned by the outcome were the Crimson runners themselves.
“My expectations going into the race were to finish in the top five,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “We had worked too hard and put too much in to finish eighth again.”
With the memory of their recent last place Heptagonals finish fresh, the Crimson pounded the opposition, defeating all five of the other Ivy League teams in the race with a score of 161—a score twice as good as last year’s total of 322.
“When I got up to the line to give my pre-race talk,” Saretsky said, “I told them ‘We have the ability to beat every Ivy school out there.’ It’s a pretty satisfying feeling to have done it.”
Senior and top Harvard finisher Tim Galebach had a more visceral reaction.
“[After the race] I went running around the field screaming,” Galebach said.
“It’s really the first time since I’ve been at Harvard that I could be proud of the team’s performance,” he added.
The senior harrier had much to be proud of for both his team’s and his own effort.
Just two weeks ago, Galebach didn’t even break the top 30 of his own conference, finishing No. 32 at the Heps Championships.
On Saturday, in the performance of the meet that had everyone buzzing, he placed ninth in a time of 31:51 for the ten-kilometer course, qualifying for Nationals.
“Before I took the job at Harvard,” Saretsky recalled, “I looked at some old results and thought that Tim had the ability and the tools to reach this level of success.”
“The season’s been up and down for him in dealing with knee injuries and illness, so it’s great to see him finally put it together and have a great race,” he added.
Meanwhile, the women’s team, still reeling from the absence of All-American Lindsey Scherf, who has not run all season and whose status is uncertain, finished No. 15 at the Regional meet with a score of 421.
“It’s obviously a change without [Lindsey],” Junior Sarah Bourne said. “It will take time to adjust, but we’ll just try and do the best we can without her.”
Freshman Stacy Carlson continued her solid debut campaign, leading Harvard with a No. 62 finish in a time of 23:06.
Bourne followed, finishing No. 64 with a time of 23:11 for the six-kilometer course.
While the season has ended for most of the Crimson, Galebach will continue on to compete on the biggest stage of all, the National Championship Meet in Terre Haute, Ind. on November 20.