A young and inexperienced Harvard men's cross country team opened its season with a stunning 23-34 upset of Northeastern on the marshy course of Franklin Park Saturday.
Despite the absence of injured stalwarts Buck Logan and Eric Schuler and sub-par performances by veterans Andy Regan, Peter Johnson and Bruce Weber, the harriers not only managed a victory in the damp, raw air, but "smashed the hell out of them," as coach Bill McCurdy said afterward.
In defeating the Huskies, who were ranked fifth in the pre-season New England ratings, the eighth-ranked Crimson provided a race full of what McCurdy called "pleasant surprises."
Foremost among them was team captain Adam Dixon's first collegiate cross country race victory. Although Dixon's time of 31:08 was unspectacular for the ten-kilometer distance, the victory established the middle-distance record-setter as a more than viable threat in an event many times longer than the 1500-and 800-meter events--Dixon's undisputed fiefdom in the winter and spring track seasons.
What also raised many eyebrows was the second-place finish of sophomore Andy Gerken, who sped in only one second after Dixon. Even taking into account his strong training camp performance, few would have predicted that Gerken, who ran the same race in J.V. colors last year, would end up in the place position.
Gerken, however, was not alone in assaulting the idea that once a J.V. athlete, always a J.V. athlete. After two Northeastern runners grabbed the third and fourth spots, former J.V. runner Paul McNulty trotted in fifth in 31:41.
Felix Rippy, in his return race after a winter and spring lost to a knee injury, copped the seventh position. And freshman Peter Jelley took the eighth slot in his debut race to round out the group of top five Harvard finishers who contributed to the Crimson tally.
Surveying the results, Dixon attributed some of the harriers' success to their inexperience. "The fact is that all of us are more or less neophytes, and that keeps us together. It's a sort of bond and it adds to how much we enjoy it," Dixon said.
THE NOTEBOOK: Having proven in their first outing that they have both depth and talent, the Crimson harriers have to hope they can remain bound together in the front of the pack when they travel to Van Cortlandt Park in New York for the annual triangular meet with Penn and Columbia.
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