Last year, when the men's cross country team lined up for the start of the Heptagonal Championships, it was the odds-on favorite to capture the title and came away a disappointed third. This year the Crimson plays a different role--the underdog.
"We were heavy favorites last year and got beat. This year we're going down as underdogs, but with the knowldege that anything can happen," John Murphy, who earned all-Ivy credentials in this event last year, said yesterday.
Navy, undefeated in a dual meet this year, has been voted the number one team in the Heps--all the Ivy schools plus the military academies--for the last three weeks. The Midshipmen boast much of the same team that finished second to Princeton and just ahead of Harvard in the Heps last year.
Behind Navy, the next squad favored on paper is Cornell. The Big Red ran the IC4A's just last week, placing a strong eighth. Following those two, Penn, Columbia and Harvard come in one breath.
Although Harvard has suffered embarrassing, if not downright humiliating losses to three league teams (Cornell, Penn and Columbia), they all occurred in the first half of the season and on rugged courses, long on treacherous footing and short on the speedy stretches that many of Harvard's track specialists prefer.
For the first time, the Heps will be held at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City, because of the disrepair of the course. This year's site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania should be more to the Crimson's liking. Saucon Valley Fields, Lehigh's home course and the location of the nationals in two weeks, offers plenty of free-running space, an arrangement that should not provide the problems of Van Cortlandt or Cornell's home course.
In addition, the men of Harvard are on the upswing. Last week they knocked off heavily favored Yale in the Big Three and the team is still riding the crest of that victory. "We were on a real emotional high last Friday that accounted for our spectacular running," coach Bill McCurdy said yesterday. "We have more confidence in our ability to go now."
"If we get three up there, and put two in not too far back--well, you never can tell," Captain Thad McNulty said.