Opening your cross-country season against Northeastern. UMass, and Penn is like facing Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, and Johnny Bench at the top of the lineup.
Last year, the Harvard cross-country team shut out the side and today the harriers will try to complete the sweep again as they go against Penn and Columbia in New York City.
The most important factor in the meet should be the performance of Penn star Dave Merrick. Merrick won the Heptagonals as a freshman and last fall transferred to the University of Alabama. Last spring, he reportedly entered the University of Indiana before coming back to Penn this fall.
A question of eligibility clouded Merrick's early season running, but Charles Scott, assistant director of athletics at Penn, yesterday confirmed that Merrick had been ruled eligible and that he would be competing.
Deans on the Line
"Merrick was okayed by the ECAC a few weeks ago and a phone poll this week of the Ivy League deans ruled him eligible." Scott said. "He is counting on running Friday."
Crimson coach Bill McCurdy, for one, has great respect for Merrick. "One thing is for sure, if Merrick is there and is all right, he's going to make a great big fat difference," he said.
Penn captain Dennis Fikes is also one of the most respected runners in the East. Fikes defeated Crimson ace Ric Rojas as a freshman and sophomore, but lost to him last year. "[Fikes is] unquestionably Ric's toughest foe yet." McCurdy said.
Behind the top two are senior Jim Rafferty and sophomore Dave McKie. Rafferty came on very strong last year after an early ankle injury and McKie performed impressively in last year's meet as he beat everyone except Rojas, former Harvard captain John Quirk, and former Penn captain Marsh Jones. Fikes, Rafferty, and McKie finished 1-2-3 in both of Penn's meets against Lehigh and LaSalle.
No Threat From Big Apple
Columbia is not expected to throw up too much resistance in today's meet. "I don't have any information on Columbia." McCurdy said, "but unless they got first draft pick on all the high school stars, they should not be a team factor."
"Actually, I'm not as concerned with how well they do, but what kind of shape our guys end up in." McCurdy said. "Jim Keefe is still coming off a cold and Andy Campbell's ankle might still bother him."
The harriers will be relying on another strong run by Dirk Skinner, who has done unexpectedly well so far this fall. "Skinner has been really surprising and we are looking for him to do it again." McCurdy said. "Also, we're hoping Jeff Brokaw or Karl Tsigdinos can break into that second wave of scorers."
"One thing is for sure." McCurdy said, "we're not going down there to be scared to death by that big bad recruited machine of Penn. We intend to win, and come to think of it, we are the Ivy champs, they better worry about us."