With Heps Looming, Cross Country Competes in Pair of Invites

With this year’s installment of the Heptagonal Championships just two weeks away, the Harvard cross country team had its last chance to square off against non-conference competition this past weekend. The Crimson competed in two invitationals: the elite Wisconsin Adidas Invitational and the less competitive Princeton Invitational.

At the Wisconsin invite, Harvard’s pair of junior standouts, Maksim Korolev and James Leakos, led the men to a 28th-place finish out of 45 teams. The Crimson women relied on its depth and tight pack to earn a 23rd-place finish out of 48 squads.

At Princeton’s invitational, the Crimson men’s and women’s teams finished second and 10th, respectively.

WISCONSIN ADIDAS INVITATIONAL

Harvard toed the line against a number of the nation’s most storied cross country teams on Friday at the University of Wisconsin’s Thomas Zimmer Championship Course. The fourth-annual Wisconsin Adidas Invitational attracted teams from across the country, including the first, fourth, and fifth-ranked men’s teams and the second-ranked women’s squad.

In the end, it was No. 8 Stanford who took home the men’s team title, with No. 5 Iowa State topping the women’s field.

“There’s no question that this was the best [field] we’ve faced all year,” Saretsky said. “It was really, really incredible competition. In some ways, I think it might even be more competitive than the national meet with the sheer depth and volume of the race.”

Despite a strong outing by Ivy League standards, the Crimson men found itself in the bottom half of the team standings, racking up 655 points en route to a 28th-place finish. Korolev, who was held out of competition at the Paul Short Invite on Sept. 28 after winning the Harvard-Yale dual meet earlier this year, was once again the squad’s frontrunner. The junior placed 18th after covering the eight-kilometer course in 23:44. He was the first Ivy runner to cross the line, finishing three seconds ahead of Columbia senior Mike Murphy.

“I think Maks did a great job of executing the plan,” Saretsky said. “He did a good job of being patient and being towards the back of the front pack. Through 5k, he was in a position to really move up and establish himself as one of the best distance runners, not just in the Ivy League, but in the entire NCAA Division I.”

Leakos, whom Korolev ran down in the final stretch at Harvard-Yale, was the team’s next runner, coming in 36th place with a time of 23:57. Among Ancient Eight competitors in the race, Leakos finished fourth.

But after Leakos, a costly 43 seconds elapsed before another Crimson competitor came in. With over 150 runners having crossed the finish line after Leakos, the team’s third runner, freshman Tom Purnell, earned 188th place with a time of 24:40. Junior Kurt Ruegg, who led the team at the Paul Short meet, and freshman Billy Gaudreau, rounded out the scoring for Harvard, coming in 205th and 208th place, respectively.

The Crimson women earned a higher finish than the men, relying on the same strategy that has worked for the squad all year long: packing up.

Paced by junior Emily Reese, Harvard’s first four finishers crossed the finish line in a 14-second span. Reese, who is the latest in a string of different frontrunners for the Crimson, covered the six-kilometer course in 20:40, which was good for 70th place.

“One of the strengths of our women’s team right now is the interchangeability of our top five,” Saretsky said. “It’s exciting to see how competitive they are and how they continue to improve week in and week out.”

PRINCETON INVITATATIONAL

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