The rain held off just long enough yesterday afternoon in Bethleham, Pa., to provide a perfect day for cross country racing, as the Crimson's John Murphy became the first Harvard man to capture the Heptagonal Individual title since Keith Colburn in 1969.
In the team competition, Harvard finished third with 91 points behind Navy with 63 and champion Columbia with 48. It was the first Heps victory ever for the Lions, who totally dominated the meet, grabbing six of the top 16 positions.
Murphy, a track specialist recording his first cross country win as a collegiate, completed the Saucon Valley Fields course in 31:13, 12 seconds ahead of his nearest opponent, Dan Predmore of Cornell.
Senior Reed Eichner scrambled for the last couple of miles to take 15th for the Crimson, while teammate Buck Logan garnered 20th. Turning in his strongest performance of the season, captain Thad McNulty took 25th and Noel Scidmore rounded out the Harvard scoring with a 30th-place finish.
The times were slow but deceiving as the leaders split in the 4:40s on a seemingly difficult rolling course, which winds in and out of cornfields with small hills and grassy turf.
"I took the pace out pretty hard and then started jumping it back and forth through the first and second mile. The third time I sprinted out, this kid from Columbia yelled out 'Don't pay any attention to him, he's not going anywhere.' He was right, I wasn't, but I sure was bothering people," Murphy said after the race.
After two miles, an unusually large pack consisting of almost 20 runners led the field. No one seemed willing to break open the pack and set himself up. "It's like being thrown to the wolves if you try to take the lead in a situation like that," McNulty said following the meet.
Murphy dropped about ten yards behind the pack and stayed there until the four mile mark. "I figured I'd let someone else do the work," he said.
Not until a hilly, winding section between the four- and five-mile points did Murphy start to work his way to the front. With a little more than a mile left, the race for the lead came down to three people: Murphy, Predmore, and Eli Peter Wehrwein, who outkicked Murphy for the Big Three crown a week ago.
"Right then I knew I was going to win," Murphy said. "I had lost to them before in close races. I knew that wasn't going to happen again, and so did they."
Advancing toward the finish line, both Wehrwein and Predmore seemed to roll over and die. Wehrwein dropped back as the trio ascended the last hill before the tape, and Murphy glided right Predmore uncontested.
"They played right into my hands," Murphy said. "It was easy."
Heptagonal Championships at Bethleham, Pa.
Columbia 48, Navy 63, Harvard 91, Penr 107. Cornell 113, Princeton 139. Dartmouth 191, Army 197, Yale 207, Brown 328
1. Murphy (H) 31:13; 2. Predmore (C) 31:25; 3. Porter (N) 31:27; 4. Collins (Col) 31:28; 5. Olds (Pr); 6. Kovach (N) 31:37; 7. Tatananni (D) 31:39; 8. Wehrwein (Y) 31:42; 9. Hofmann (Col) 31:42; 10. Miers (Col) 31:43; 11. Loomie (Col) 31:44; 12. Donahue (N) 31:50; 13. Weller (Penn) 31:51; 14. McNally (Col) 31:53; 15. Eichner (H) 31:54.