Young Runners Race at Bryant Invite
The Harvard men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked off their seasons on Saturday as the two squads traveled to Smithfield, R.I., to compete in the 5k course at the Bryant Invitational. The Crimson faced stiff competition, including the nationally-ranked Providence College Friars on the men’s side. Though the meet was not scored, Harvard coach Jason Saretsky used it as an means to provide his younger runners with experience racing at the collegiate level.
“It was our first meet of the season,” Saretsky said. “We ran primarily freshman and sophomores. It was good for them to shake some of the rust off and get a race under their belts.”
One rookie who stood out on Saturday was freshman Ryan Meehan. Running his first race in a Crimson uniform, Meehan led the way for the men’s team, clocking in a time of 15:36.74 for an 11th-place finish.
“I just wanted to go out there and see what I could do at this level,” Meehan said. “I wanted to put myself in a good position, to start with the leaders and try to hang on as long as I could. I think it worked out, because I stayed in that pack for pretty much the entire race.”
Meehan was able to pull off a strong performance in spite of the tricky conditions at the Bryant Invite. The thickness of the grass along the course created problems for the Harvard squad and added difficulty to a seemingly fast course.
“The footing in the grass was a little strange,” Meehan said. “If you looked at how flat it was, you would expect to see some really fast times. I think the grass definitely slowed it down a bit.”
Behind Meehan for the Crimson were sophomore Erik Kraus and freshman Will Geiken. The pair also ran sub-16-minute races, finishing in 17th place and 20th place with times of 15:52.52 and 15:55.77, respectively.
Freshman Alaina Alvarez paced the women’s team, crossing the finish line in 18:20.06. Alvarez’s time was good for seventh overall in the women’s race. Making her collegiate debut, the Dana Point, Calif., native found a way to shake off some pre-race nerves.
“I was a little nervous because I hadn’t raced in quite a while,” Alvarez said. “But I was excited to race for new team and race against new competition. My goal was to be first for Harvard, so I just ran from the gun and tried to stay with the front pack.”
On the women’s side, Harvard was able to place four runners in the top 20, as sophomores Alaina Murphy and Morgan Kelly, along with freshman Viviana Hanley, finished with times of 18:36.12, 18:45.17, and 18:52.44, respectively.
Some familiar faces were cheering for the Crimson runners as they sped their way through the course. Senior captains Michael Hoffman and Kirsten Jorgensen made the trip with their teammates, though the veteran pair won’t make their 2011 cross country debut until next weekend.
“It was really helpful to have someone there who is older and has more experience. [Jorgenson] helped us settle into our routines with warming up and cooling down.”
Straying from the typical eight-kilometer men’s race and six-kilometer women’s race, Saturday’s meet featured a pair of five-kilometer races. Saretsky indicated that this irregularity was a major reason for the Crimson’s participation at the meet, as it allowed the squad’s first-years to run the same distance that they did in high school.
“[The Bryant Invitational] was a good opportunity for our team’s freshmen to get our feet wet and get ready for our meet next weekend,” Alvarez said.
—Staff writer Dominic A. Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.