At least the Harvard men's cross-country team is consistent. The steady if unspectacular Crimson failed to qualify for the NCAA finals, finishing sixth 12 NCAA District I teams at Lehigh University on Saturday.
"We've been a middle-of-the-pack team all year," Harvard's second finisher, junior Feh Rippy, said "but we were hoping to break out of that."
The team finished 21st out of 38 squads overall, despite a strong race by junior Paul McNulty, who placed 50th in the field of more than 350 runners.
The meet, which for the first time combined in one race the Mid Atlantic and New England district qualifiers with the ICAA's held "no surprises." McNulty said yesterday "We beat the same teams we heat during the season, and lost to the ones we'd lost to."
The harriers closed out the season with a 5 2 Ivy League record, up from 3-4 last year, and good enough for third place.
"We did better than people anticipated us to do," said Coach Frank Haggerty "On paper, four or five Ivy teams could heat us. But the fortunate thing was we don't run meets on paper."
Haggerty added that the team should be even better next year only two runners, Captain Andy Regan and his roommate. Eric Schuler, are graduating, two runners currently on leave will return next year, and at least one injured runner should be healthy next fall The team is lighting its way back to the preeminent position it held in the Ivy League from 1975 to 1979, Regan said.
But the squad has quite a way to go before reaching that goal The Harvard pack finished 128th to 159th on the rolling Lehigh course, and even McNulty's superb race was not in the top 10 for the region.
"We were just going through the motions," said McNulty, who blamed academic responsibilities and midterm exams for the team's inconsistent practice attendance and mediocre finish.
TO quality for the NCAA finals, Harvard would have had to finish first or second. The NCAA invites fewer and fewer New England teams to the finals each year Haggerty said, explaining that District I schools have not fared well in the finals the past few years and that the NCAA is restricting invitations around the country because of rising travel expenses.
This year only Providence and Northeastern along with three individuals, will be invited down from three and five last year.
We all ran fairly well but you need something extra," Rippy and yesterday For the teams that qualified, that something extra was imported athletes.
Providence in particular is described as an import operation. "They're pretty much an Irish national team," said McNulty Providence has several Irish Olympians, aged 24 to 29.
Looking to the winter indoor track season, the Harvard harriers pointed to this year's Ivy League record and their fifth-place finish in the Heptagonals as evidence of improvement Haggerty added that in view of last year's record and the preseason predictions, "as a team, they even surprised themselves."