For most cross-country races, the goal is to place as high as possible within the field of runners. But at the NCAA Regionals this past Saturday, the Crimson had another goal in mind: to advance to the NCAA National Championships.
The men’s and women’s teams traveled to Madison, Conn. to race against the best teams in the region at the Hamonasett Beach State Park course, but they fell short of a ticket to Terre Haute, Ind. with 12th- and 14th-place finishes, respectively.
“Overall, it was sort of an anti-climatic end to the season,” women’s captain Eliza Ives said. “It was one of those days when you can’t focus too much on the final results and need to learn from it and move on.”
But with two NCAA Nationals appearances already under his belt, men’s captain Dan Chenoweth knows what it takes to advance to the next level. The senior rose to the occasion for a third time with a third-place overall finish, earning the senior an individual berth to the national competition.
Chenoweth completed the 10K course with a time of 29:51.2—only 14.3 seconds behind the overall winner.
“Dan is really amazing,” Ives said. “He is incredibly consistent and inspiring in that way...He always races incredibly hard and to his utmost ability. He did a great job.”
“Dan did the job that he needed to do,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “He had more pressure on him than a lot of the guys out there since he’s already been [to the national championships] two times before, but he handled the pressure well and took care of business.”
Following behind Chenoweth were junior Michael Hoffman and freshmen Kurt Ruegg, Aaron Watanabe, Maksim Korolev, and Kellen Blumberg, who all finished in the top half of the 229-runner field. For a team plagued by upperclassman injuries all season, the rookies continued to step up for the Crimson.
“As a class, the freshmen had the right mindset,” Chenoweth said. “They were prepared for the distance and worked really hard in the competition...It’s been kind of cool to see the freshmen come along and see the power that their class has.”
On the women’s side, juniors Nicole Cochran and Jeanne Mack led Harvard with strong performances on the 6K course, overcoming personal setbacks to cross the finish line at 21:29.6 and 21:30.6—good for 53rd and 54th place, respectively—out of 247 runners.
“I was really pleased with our top two women runners,” Saretsky said. “Neither [Cochran nor Mack] were 100 percent and were pretty banged up this week. I was really proud of their ability to put themselves out there to do as well as they could to help the team.”
Ives finished six seconds behind Mack for 61st place and was followed by freshman Kristina Funahashi, juniors Kailyn Kuzmuk and Kirsten Jorgensen, and senior Thea Lee.
Ultimately the veteran squad was unable to overcome the pressure and the recent injuries to several members of its roster.
“We are at peak fitness but are compromised by injury right now, and we had some lofty goals that were riding pretty heavily on our minds,” Ives said. “It was definitely our hope to advance to Nationals, but things would have needed to go perfectly for everyone, and things didn’t go perfectly for anyone.”
And given the good showing within the field of competition, both the men’s and women’s squads hope these will be results they can build upon in the future. While depth is important, this race showed that responding to the challenges that the sport presents is a key to future success.
“You try to contain injury as much as you can, but sometimes you just get unlucky,” Chenoweth said. “It’s part of the sport. You just need to learn how to deal with those things and come back from them.”
“The sport is unpredictable,” Ives said. “You definitely have to be ready for anything.”
—Staff writer Stephanie E. Herwatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.