"Well, we did it," captain Thad McNulty said immediately following the men's cross country team's upset victory over Yale and Princeton, 27-46-49, in the Big Three Championships held yesterday afternoon at Franklin Park.
And they did it in high style, capturing five of the top eleven places -- including second, third, and fourth and sending the favored Eli's, who haven't won the event in twenty years, home to New Haven without the Main Memorial Trophy yet again.
The race started out fast, with lead runner Reed Eichner of the Crimson splitting at the mile in 4:28 (the quickest split of the season) and another five Crimson runners moving through the mile point in under 4:35 (the fastest previous split recorded by John Murphy last week against Dartmouth.)
"We were going to try to dominate early and we did it," Coach Bill McCurdy said after the race. "From the one mile mark on we were in good position as a team," he added.
Eichner held onto his early-lead through the second mile, posting a blistering 9:12. Teammates Murphy and Buck Logan caught Eichner after three miles, while Yale's Peter Wehrwein took over first place. Meanwhile, Harvard's Peter Johnson, and Noel Scidmore began motoring by blue-and-orange jerseys.
"For the first miles I was cramped up," Scidmore said, "but after three miles I felt like I could run again and I realized I was back there with the four guys from Yale, so I picked off a few people."
As Eichner dropped back, visibly hurting from the killer pace of the first couple of miles, Murphy made a "wild-eyed move," spurting from third to first. "I was convinced that Reed and I could handle Wehrwein and Mearns, and I figured it would help if I broke open," Murphy said. "So I did."
Sprinting ("I just let loose and ran as fast as I could") over several stretches in the last two miles, Murphy managed to gain 15 yds. on the Bulldog, Wehrwein, but no more. "That rattled me," Murphy said. "I really stuck it to him and he handled it."
Coming down the final hill and toward the straight-away that crosses the finish line. Wehrwein and Murphy battled for first place. The Eli emerged the winner, beating out Murphy by a mere two seconds, at 29:59.
But that was all Yale won. Eichner and Logan followed the leaders home, third and fourth respectively, while Scidmore took seventh, ten seconds ahead of Yale's second man. Finishing 11th, Johnson rounded out the Crimson scoring.
"We figured our top three could beat out either Yale's or Princeton's," McCurdy said. "The meet rested on whether our second line would be enough to stand up to the others and they really came through. This was our strongest effort as a team all year without a doubt."
"We all had our adrenalin flowing," Johnson said after the victory. "We were loose and psyched way up, more than for any other meet. They had guys hanging all over us, but they couldn't beat us."
The junior varsity did not fare as well, however, dropping to Princeton 27-32, while edging Yale 25-30. Senior Crimson harrier, David Atkins, winning the first cross country race of his career, finished in 32:31.
Since 1963, the Crimson has won twelve of the championships including last year's. Harvard holds a 16-to-nine edge on Princeton in the series, while poor Yale trails with seven titles. "For the first time in many, many years it was a real Big Three, not just an exercise," McCurdy said.
Big Three Championships
Harvard 27, Yale 46, Princeton 49 at Franklin Park, Mass. 10,000 meters
1. Wehrwein (Y) 29:59; 2. Murphy (H) 30:01; 3. Eichner (h) 30:11; 4. Logan (H) 30:37; 5. Farmer (P) 30:48; 6. Costello (P) 30:57; 7. Scidmore (H) 30:59; 8. Mearns (Y) 31:08; 9. Erling (Y) 31:11; 10. Rowe (P) 31:13; 11. Johnson (H) 31:14; 12. Takaro (Y) 31:20; 13. Challener (P) 31:22; 14. Schuler (H) 31:23; 15. Heimerdinger (P) 31:27; 16. Osborne (Y) 31:29; 17. Olds (P) 31:35; 18. Weber (H) 31:37; 19. Sears (Y) 31:47; 20. Skehan (Y) 31:48