With its rookies running like veterans, having no lead runner was no problem for the Harvard men’s cross-country team at the IC4A Championships.
While the women’s team opted out of participating in the ECAC Championships and captain Dan Chenoweth prepared for the NCAA Nationals today, the rest of the men’s squad traveled to Bronx, N.Y. on Saturday, where a strong freshman performance propelled the Crimson to a third-place finish on the Van Cortlandt Park course.
“I was absolutely thrilled with the results,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “It was a young group that was running out there, but they did a great job. I’m really proud of how competitive they were.”
“We’ve had a lot of issues throughout the year where we haven’t really put together our best performances together on the same day,” junior Michael Hoffmann said. “So to finish off the year with a third-place finish and to get some medals was nice, especially with the freshmen stepping up so soon after regionals and leading the team.”
The Crimson’s depth was evident this weekend, as the five scoring Harvard runners crossed the finish line in the top 45 of the competition—all placing in a higher position than the Crimson’s best finisher in 2009, who finished in 48th. The results helped Harvard improve upon last year’s 13th-place finish to tie for third in a 19-team field.
“To be able to jump up 10 places better than last year just shows how strong of a performance it was for everyone, but especially for the freshmen,” Hoffmann said.
Rookie Maks Korolev led the Crimson, taking 12th overall in 25:23.8—cutting about seven seconds off his personal record for the course.
“I was really pleased with how [Korolev] performed,” Saretsky said. “It looks like he’s developing into one of the top freshmen in the league.”
Korolev was followed by classmates Aaron Watanabe and Kurt Ruegg, who crossed the finish line in 27th and 28th, respectively, with only 0.4 seconds of separation between them.
Hoffmann completed the five-mile course in 38th, and freshman Kellen Blumberg rounded out the scoring for Harvard with a 42nd-place finish.
“It was a good overall day for everyone,” Hoffman said. “The team was really pleased with the results.”
The team’s newcomers have been under pressure to step up and perform all season, and it appears that they have now gained enough valuable experience to adjust to the distance and level of competition in college.
“The freshmen have done a great job at improving throughout the season,” Saretsky said. “We’ve got a great core group of runners who are very committed to this, and I’m really excited to see what they are going to be able to do in the course of their college careers.”
With the team competition season ending on a high note, this weekend’s results bode well for the Crimson in seasons to come.
“I think this definitely helped us in our outlook for next year,” Hoffmann said. “We lose Dan Chenoweth, who has been our top runner for the past three years, so we are going to have to rely on our depth. What we did today proves to us that we will be able to fill those holes and have that depth, especially when we will have the current freshmen with all the returning upperclassmen.”
“Part of the nature of our sport is looking at things you can do to improve, and there is a lot of work still ahead,” Saretsky said. “But I am extremely excited about the future. This program is ready to take off.”
—Staff writer Stephanie E. Herwatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.