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It was a perfect day for running at Franklin Park yesterday, with warm temperatures, a bright blue sky, and as good footing as anyone could expect after Monday's downpour. Perfect, that is, until the starting gun, when Providence and UMass broke quickly and cruised past Harvard, 19-37-76, in the harriers' season opener.
Providence's "Irish Brigade" of John Treacy and Gerry Degan teamed with full-fledged American Dan Dillon to blow away the rest of the field by the mile mark of Franklin's five-mile circuit, and the Friars--ranked fifth nationally--owned the race after that.
The Friars placed two more finishers in the money while UMass, which holds a national ranking of nine, picked up five of the remaining ten top spots.
The Crimson, paced by 12th-place finisher Ed Sheehan, legged out a very fast first mile, but then ran out of gas in the middle and later stages of the meet, succumbing to the brutal Friar pace.
Sheehan ran a 4:34 first mile, and captain Stein Rafto notched 4:36, but each still trailed the leaders by about ten seconds. The front-runners put away the race for all practical purposes at the two-mile mark, breezing by in 9:10, 20 seconds ahead of Sheehan.
"I think we weren't ready to go that fast." Coach Bill McCurdy said after the meet as he discussed the tough early pace.
"What we didn't do was run totally with any determination." McCurdy added. "I guess all it means is that we're not ready," he concluded.
Both of the Crimson's highly-touted opponents were ready, however. Providence's Treacy and Degan had already run 24-minute races in a meet at Franklin Park last week, and UMass is perenially tough.
Treacy and Degan slowed up in the closing stretch, choosing to jog across the finish line in triplicate with Dillon in 24:01. Minuteman Mike Quinn checked in at 24:17 for fourth place.
Following the initial wave of finishers came a smattering of UMass and Providence runners, until Sheehan puffed in at 25:13.
Crimson runners poured past in a bunch after that, with Mark Meyer (25:33), Reed Eichner (25:37), freshman Noel Scidmore (25:42) and Rafto (26:04) completing their kicks.
Dave Sullivan, Gary McRosky and Brian Finn finished back in the pack for Harvard, and Thad McNulty pulled up early with a leg injury.
Rafto and Eichner ran disappointing races for the harriers, who must count on that duo as their big guns if they are to have any chance of defending last season's IC4A championship.
Rafto managed to handle the defeat lightly, quipping after the race, "We were pretty tightly bunched--we were just bunched in the wrong place."
Rafto identified the reasons for the lackluster performance as first-race flatness, problems related to the short time the squad has been together, and the competition. "They're probably the best we'll see all year," he commented.
No one on the Crimson seemed too worried about the showing, though. Sheehan looked strong, Meyer ran unexpectedly well, and Scidmore held his own in his first outing. (McCurdy: "He ran a helluva race.") Most important, Rafto and Eichner will lower their times drastically in the coming weeks as surely as reading period will roll around come January.
For the record, the dual meet scores were essentially shutouts (Providence 15-Harvard 47, UMass 15-Harvard 46), so it was probably best to write off the meet with a laugh.
"We were hoping for some development here today," chuckled McCurdy when it was all over, adding, "I think we went about this just right--leaving plenty of room for development."
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