With a strong third-place finish in the Heptagonals last Friday and an upset victory in the Big Three two weeks ago--not to mention the disintegration of Yale--the men's cross country team looked like a sure bet to qualify for the Nationals in the regional qualifier held at noon today at Franklin Park.
But because of Reed Eichner's with-drawal from school and the knee troubles of John Murphy, who captured the individual Hep title last week, Harvard faces an uphill battle to claim one of the top three spots in tomorrow's race.
"It's a little more wide open now," captain Thad McNulty said yesterday.
Eichner, who has finished either number one or number two for the Crimson in every meet this year, withdrew for the second time due to personal difficulties and returns home to Minnesota.
"This is not a sudden thing," McNulty said. "It's been brewing for the last couple of weeks. Reed has hardly trained much lately, and he was unhappy with his running as well as his studies."
"Cross country is just a silly sport compared to Reed's life," McNulty continued, "and that's all that is important now. Even if this was the biggest race of the season it's just not all that important."
Unfortunately, Eichner's absence is not the Crimson's only headache. Murphy, who is the owner of two notoriously injury-ridden legs and who has been suffering from tendonitis in his knees, will show up on the starting line without having run since a light workout on Monday.
On the bright side, Noel Scidmore and Buck Logan are healthy and have been running well most of the season. McNulty, who turned in his best race of the year last week at the Heps, and Peter Johnson, with freshmen Eric Schuler and Bruce Weber, could take up the slack.
"There is no doubt that Reed's loss will be felt," assistant coach Ed Stowell said yesterday. "However, there are other guys on the team who are running well. We are still optimistic about our chances to qualify."
The top three teams in today's meet earn the opportunity to go to Bethlehem Pa. to compete in the nationals on Monday, November 12. In addition, the top four individuals who do not qualify with their teams will go.
New England powerhouse Providence should have the top spot all wrapped up, so in reality there are two others up for grabs. Local rivals Boston University and Northeastern are Harvard's top competitors. Despite the Eli's recent lackluster performances they cannot be considered out of the running. Another dark horse, UNH, should also be watched.
"It's going to be tough," McNulty said. "But it was beginning to look too easy--now it'll be a challenge."
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