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NEW YORK, Nov 24-The cross country season ended on a low note today for Harvard, as the Crimson finished 29th in a field of 30 in the NCAA championships at Van Cortlandt Park.
Sophomore Mike Koerner, who had led Harvard to its early-season triumphs, came in 145th, higher than any of his teammates. Following him were Roy Shaw, 161; Erik Roth, 186; Howie Foye, 218; John Heyburn, 229; and captain Keith Colburn, 234.
There was at least a partial explanation for Harvard's lack of success in this meet, in which coach Bill McCurdy's harriers were among the favorites. Tom Spengler was still unable to compete. Dave Pottetti decided not to run because of a knee ailment, and Colburn was hindered by a bad chest cold.
That same trio had been the Crimson's top three finishers in last year's NCAA's when the team was ninth, and Pottetti had earned All-American status by being among the top 25. The Crimson had run then without captain Doug Hardin and Shaw.
The harriers just never got untracked today. By the mile mark, all six were way back, and none was able to make a significant move along the remainder of the six-mile course. Heyburn had finished 128th last year, but he was struggling near the end today as he barely beat Colburn.
Roth and Foye, who have been valuable this year in earning the Crimson points by displacement, moved up to finish third and fourth for the team, but it was to no avail.
Meanwhile, Gerry Lindgren of Washington State was cruising toward his third national title. He was pressed near the finish by Alike Ryan of the Air Force, but he held on to break by 17 seconds a record he had set three years ago.
The winning team was the University of Texas at El Paso, four of whose top five finishers are freshmen, Villanova. the champion for the last three years, had to settle for second, 13 points behind ElPaso.
Harvard had hoped to get revenge on Vilanova after being badly beaten by the Wildeats last week, but when it became clear that the Crimson was running a sub-par team, those hopes vanished.
Two Ivy League teams beat the Crimson today. Penn put together a good effort to come in eighth, and Princeton was 19th. Harvard had soundly beaten both twice this fall.
"That was awful." McCurdy said afterwards. "But you have your good days, and you have your bad days."
In all the disappointment today, it was almost forgotten how great a season this has been for the harriers. Often running less than a full team, the Crimson swept easily through ten dual meets without losing, setting records at Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale.
They romped to victories in the Greater Boston Championships and the Heptagonals and then earned the highest finish for a Harvard team in the IC4A's since 1931.
The 1970 team should continue the pattern of success. Pottetti, Koerner, Foye, Spengler, and Bob Seals will all be back, as will Chuck McCormack. Andy Meltzoff, and Charlie McNagny. They will be aided considerably by this fall's exceptional freshman squad, provided the Yardlings can adjust to the longer distance.
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