After nearly 30 years of missing the NCAA championships, the Harvard women’s cross country team raced with the fastest in the nation on Saturday in Louisville, Ky., to finish its competitive season.
Although the Crimson finished last in a field of 31 teams, Harvard coach Jason Saretsky pointed to the experience his runners gained at the competition.
“I think the weekend was a great experience for our team, with the women making nationals for the first time in 29 years,” Saretsky said. “It’s a historic event. They got a great experience, and so many of them are back next year, so I think there’s a real result to learn from today’s race and be back here next year to improve and get an even better result.”
The men’s team also sent juniors Maksim Korolev and James Leakos to the NCAAs after the pair turned in stellar performances at regionals to qualify for the championships. Leakos struggled during the race and did not finish, while Korolev had a strong start that he could not maintain, leading to disappointing results for both.
“[Korolev] battled through and went for it,” Saretsky said. “He was right with the front pack for about 5k or so, and then it just got pretty tough from there.”
The rest of the men’s team traveled to New York to face off against 13 other teams in the IC4A/ECAC Championships in its final meet of the season. Despite a fifth-place finish, captain Sean Pohorence saw the race as an opportunity to prepare for the spring track season.
“[The IC4A] is definitely not the most important meet on our schedule by any means, but it’s a really nice opportunity to have another race if you’re not running at nationals, and end your season on a strong note,” Pohorence said. “We were pretty disappointed with the result in the end, overall, but you just have to look forward, look towards training for indoor track.”
After receiving an at-large bid following a fourth-place finish at the Northeast Regionals, the Harvard women’s cross country team qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1983.
“For our women’s team to [make it to NCAAs] after such a long, long drought, it’s a really important step for us as a program,” Saretsky said. “To see these young ladies competing at the national level gives inspiration for our entire team, and hopefully that will really propel us to be competing at the highest level that we can.”
The Crimson tallied 676 points at the meet from its seven runners, placing the squad at the bottom of the pack—a disappointing result even in the talented field.
“We were really set on not just being there and enjoying being there but also doing well and showing that we deserved being there,” sophomore Viviana Hanley said. “I feel like, as a team, we don’t feel like we adequately did that.”
The team took freshmen Jen Guidera and Paige Kouba to the meet.
“It’s important just having the experience of being here and having a taste of competing at the national level,” Hanley said. ”I think it’s good that we had some freshmen here with us, and I think that experience will definitely help us compete at that level and carry it with us throughout track and upcoming years. We’re definitely looking to be back [at nationals next year].”
Hanley led the way for the Harvard runners, pacing the 6k course in 20:53.7, good enough to take 118th out of 253 competitors. Junior Morgan Kelly came in just behind Hanley, placing 146th with her time of 21:04.5.