No, it has nothing to do with final clubs' selection rituals, or the vodka-loaded slop you drank last Saturday night; this punch belongs exclusively to the women's cross country team. Darlene Beckford and Kristen Linsley, currently Harvard's top two runners, have shared between them first and second place in every harrier meet this fall, and there doesn't appear to be anyone on the horizon who can beat them.
Last Tuesday, for instance, Beckford and Linsley finished just two seconds apart, shattering the old Franklin Park course record (which now resides in Miss Beckford's name, a modest 17:09) and leading the harriers to their fifth consecurive GBC crown.
In a sport that demands great effort, sacrifice, discipline, and mental toughness on an individual level, it is rare to find anything like a partnership existing. But a partnership it has become--Linsley and Beckford running side by side, pacing each other through each endless mile, often 20 or more seconds ahead of their nearest competitor.
Although they compliment and sustain one another on the course, Beckford and Linsley rival Felix and Oscar as the Odd Couple.
Linsley runs with a steady, tireless stride, upright and gazing ahead impassively, a style reminiscent of her sister, Sarah, Crimson captain two years ago. Beckford churns through the miles with a strident, bouncing gait, the strained look on her face contrasting the graceful motion of her muscular limbs.
Described by her teammate, Kristen Mertz, as "very serious when it comes to running," Cohasset native Linsley made her appearance on the Harvard track scene unobtrusively, improving gradually since her debut season last year, putting in extra mileage over the summer, and emerging a top contender this fall.
Beckford was a known quantity from the very beginning. She arrived from Cambridge's Rindge and Latin High School heralded as the silver medal winner in the 1978 Junior olympics 1500 meters and as a 1980 Olympic prospect.
And while her seriousness as a runner is beyond doubt, Beckford is known for her zany antics during practice, occassionally masquerading as a six-foot walking cardboard box (just writing what I'm told).
Out there on the course, all pre-game antics aside, cross country is a lonely, grueling sport. To have a teammate nearby can almost make it enjoyable. Almost.
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