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Going into its meet yesterday at Bryant College, the Harvard men's cross-country team expected to finish behind Ivy favorite Dartmouth.
In a surprising upset, however, Harvard slipped by the Big Green, 25-35. Even more surprisingly, Dartmouth was the only team the sluggish Crimson did beat, falling to Northeastern and host Brown.
In a reversal from last week, when the Harvard's men's team came through with a sweep in New York, it was the Crimson women's team that did the cleaning up yesterday, outdistancing Brown, 23-36, and Dartmouth, 24-33.
Big Green Overconfidence
An overconfident Dartmouth team didn't enter two of its top three runners. "I don't see how they expected to win with the team they fielded," Harvard Captain Rob Benjamin said. "Maybe it was a lack of respect, or maybe they just wanted to rest their top runners."
Although Harvard (4-2) finished ahead of the depleted Big Green squad, they lost to Northeastern by a single point, 27-28, and placed three points behind Brown, 26-29. Despite the close finish, Harvard could not be happy with the result.
"There's no way we should have lost to Northeastern or Brown," Benjamin said.
The five-mile race began quickly, as runners from all four teams attacked the relatively flat first mile. The pace slackened, however, as the race entered the woods for two miles. A lead pack of eight runners, includingHarvard's Spencer Punter and Chris Woodward ledthrough the first three miles. When the runnersemerged from the trees, Woodward had fallen offthe pace, and no other Harvard runner was able torecover from the fast start.
Punter finished a respectable fourth,completing the course in 25:41, 20 seconds behindthe winner. A dearth of teammates behind Puntercost Harvard the meet, however. Woodward finishedsecond for the Crimson, but 10th overall. JohnOakes, Benjamin and Rob Failla accounted for therest of the scoring, placing 12th, 13th and 14th,respectively.
While the men's team ran a disappointing race,the Harvard women's squad (2-1) delivered itsstrongest performance of the young season.
Going into the meet, Dartmouth was ranked thirdin New England, while Harvard was ranked fourth.No longer.
"We were worried going in," Captain SarahWilcox said, "but it wasn't as tight as we thoughtit would be."
One of the main reasons the race wasn't sotight was coach Frank Haggerty's strategy, whicheffectively took advantage of the same wooded areathat was the men's Waterloo.
"Our whole strategy was to get five or sixrunners in the lead pack by the first mile,"Wilcox said. After that first mile, the raceentered the woods, where passing was difficult.The game plan paid off, as Harvard's top fiverunners emerged from the forest close to the lead.
Sophomore Rachel Lewis crossed the tape in18:13, third overall. The next four Crimsonfinishers placed within one minute of Lewis.Freshman Alais Griffin was fifth, while sophomoresEllen Villa, Hollie Moore and Wendy Campbell allfinished in the top 10.
"We had some different people scoring," Wilcoxsaid. "We really showed our depth and that we cancount on a lot of people to score." For the secondweek in a row, the people who did score wereunderclassmen, a positive sign for the Crimson'sfuture.
NOTEBOOK: Both squads will compete inthe Greater Boston Championships Friday, wherethey will meet Tufts, MIT, Brandeis, BostonCollege, Boston University andNortheastern...While the women wait to see thisweek's revised rankings, the men must exorcise thedemons of this weekend. "We're working outextremely hard," Benjamin said. "We'll get ittogether.
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