One squad relied on depth; the other relied on experience. But when all was said and done, both the Harvard men’s and women’s cross country teams notched 13th-place finishes at the Paul Short Invitational this past weekend, hosted by Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
With many of the squad’s elite runners held out of competition for the week, the men’s team put its deep roster on display at the invite. Toeing the line against one of the largest fields it will see all season, the relatively inexperienced Crimson squad scored 421 points to finish just two behind 12th-place Duquesne University.
On the women’s side, some familiar faces led the way for Harvard. Junior Morgan Kelly was the team’s first finisher, coming in 26th place with a time of 21:00. The women’s squad tallied 414 points en route to its 13th-place showing.
In the absence of classmates Maksim Korolev and James Leakos, who finished in first and second place, respectively, at the Harvard-Yale dual meet two weekends ago, junior Kurt Ruegg paced the Crimson men on Friday.
Ruegg crossed the finish line in 24:37 to come in 25th.
“Kurt’s put in a great summer of training,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “He’s really fit, and I think he’s only going to get faster as the season goes.... It’s really exciting.”
Saretsky said that the men’s top seven finishers from the Harvard-Yale meet, including Korolev, Leakos, and senior Jakob Lindaas, were held out of Friday’s race to avoid overuse and injury.
“We’ve got a long season ahead of us,” Saretsky said. “The meets that matter most, the meets that count, are at the end of the season. We’re gearing everyone up for that. I feel really good with where we’re at.”
Behind Ruegg for the Harvard men was freshman Thomas Purnell, who finished 41st with a time of 24:52.
“I thought [Purnell] had a great, great showing,” Saretsky said. “Going under 25 minutes in his first 8k is a great way to start the season.”
Despite his impressive finish, the rookie’s collegiate debut was not as seamless as it appears on paper.
“At one point, [Purnell] passed me and was like, ‘How much [distance] is left?’” Saretsky said. “He was running like a freshman out there, but as he gets more races under his belt, I think he’ll really come into his own.”
Classmate Christopher Allen was 45 seconds behind Purnell, covering the 8k course in 25:37.
“The entire freshman class has done an outstanding job of handling the transition [to college competition],” Saretsky said.
Rounding out the scoring for the Crimson were senior Sean Pohorence and sophomore Andy Gonzalez, who placed 114th and 133rd, respectively.