Leading up to Friday’s annual Harvard-Yale dual cross country meet, it appeared as if neither school held a significant advantage over the other. With the Crimson and the Bulldogs near each other in the rankings, few expected either to pull off a resounding victory.
But those expectations failed to come to fruition, as the Harvard men and Yale women proved to be too much for their opponents and cruised to team victories.
On the men’s side, led by an experienced trio who finished in the top-three spots at the meet, Harvard toppled Yale, 21-38. But the Bulldogs turned the tables in the women’s race, placing six runners in the top seven to earn a 19-40 victory.
Running their first full eight-kilometer race of the season, the Crimson’s most experienced competitors displayed why the squad could make some waves in the Ivy League this year. Juniors Maksim Korolev and James Leakos and senior Jakob Lindaas turned in a one-two-three finish on Friday at the Yale Golf Course.
“The guys up front did a tremendous job by going one-two-three and really demonstrated that they’re just at a different level,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said.
Saretsky indicated that his original plan was for his top runners to allow the Yale harriers to set the pace in the early stages of Friday’s race. But when it became apparent that Yale had the same intentions, that burden rested on the shoulders of Korolev, Leakos, and Lindaas.
“I was kind of hoping that they would be able to tuck in and seal things up for a while,” Saretksy said. “But they didn’t panic. I think in years past, they might have tried to push on right from the get-go to shake things up. They did a great job of running a controlled effort and…just letting the race naturally heat up.”
Down the stretch, the Bulldogs were unable to match the pace set by the Crimson trio. One by one, the Yale runners fell back until a pack of just four led the way. Korolev passed Leakos in the final sprint to earn the individual title in 24:20.29, and Lindaas edged out Bulldog senior Kevin Lunn for third place as he finished in 24:34.29.
“When it was time to go, they put the hammer down,” Saretsky said.
Perhaps equally impressive for the Harvard men on Friday was the apparent depth of its roster. Finishing behind Yale’s Lunn were teammates Demetri Goutos and Matthew Nussbaum, who were then followed by the Crimson’s fourth through seventh finishers. The squad’s seventh runner, sophomore Will Geiken, crossed the finish line in 25:20.95 to give Harvard an impressive one-minute spread from its first to seventh finishers.
The Harvard women were similarly packed up in Friday’s race but were unable to break up a five-runner group that gave Yale its decisive victory.
Bulldog junior Liana Epstein took home the individual title, covering the five-kilometer course in 17:24.78. She was just ahead of Crimson senior Samantha Silva, who finished with a time of 17:25.58.
For the first 2.5 miles of the race, Silva and teammate junior Emily Reese joined four Yale runners in the lead pack. But with just half a mile to go, the pack began to dwindle until only Silva and two Bulldogs remained. The senior was able to shake off third-place Nihal Kayali, but could not catch Epstein in the final stretch.
“I waited too long to start my kick,” Silva said. “There just wasn’t enough course left by the time I started getting close.”
Crossing the finish line after Silva were five consecutive Bulldogs, and then Harvard’s remaining four scoring runners.
In spite of the squad’s wide margin of defeat, Saretsky was pleased with the way his team performed.
“I think the results are a little bit deceptive,” he said. “We actually performed well…. It’s a tough 5k course, and if you look at the times, all of our first five ran faster than our first runner [at the Nassaney Invitational last weekend].”
The team’s top finisher at the Nassaney Invitational, senior Briana Jackucewicz, was third for the Crimson on Friday and ninth overall. Reese led the pack of four Harvard runners that all crossed the finish line in a 14-second span.
“As a collective group, we’ve got an outstanding women’s team,” Saretsky said. “And they’re only going to get better week in and week out.”
—Staff writer Dominic A. Martinez can be reached at email@example.com.