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In most team sports, individual performances can be overshadowed by the team's successes or failures.
One of the exceptions is cross country, where a team's result does not depend on how it performs as a unit but rather on outstanding individual performances by its members.
For Harvard sophomore Ian Carswell, the cross country season was a smashing success. For the team as a whole, it was just another Harvard sports season: a finish in the middle of the pack, marked by significant improvement.
Carswell was fantastic, however.
The sophomore ran past competitors all season on his way to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. At the championships, Carswell ran a 31:15.3, good enough for 35th place in the 185-man field.
"It was my main goal this year to go to the National Championships," Carswell said.
Carswell's stellar season was no surprise to his fellow teammates.
"I knew Ian would qualify for nationals pretty much from the beginning of the year," junior co-captain Matt Bundle said. "I knew from the first workout that he was a step above us. You could tell he had done the kind of work he needed to get to Fayetteville.
Carswell earned his spot in Fayetteville by placing fourth at the IC4A district meet Saturday, November 12, at Franklin Park.
Carswell sped through the 10-kilometer Franklin Park course in 30:42, becoming the first Crimson runner to qualify for the national meet since Paul Gompers in 1986.
Carswell added the NCAA berth to a fine season that already included All-East and All-Ivy commendations.
The rest of the Harvard men's cross country team did not fare nearly as well. The team struggled Through a mediocre year, with different individuals peaking at different times.
The Crimson's performance at the three biggest meets of every Harvard cross country season--the Harvard-Yale-Princeton triangular, Heptagonal Championships and the IC4As--showed just how frustrating a season it was.
The squad entered H-Y-Ps a the meet's defending champion. It left as the runner-up to Princeton.
Carswell, who ran the five mile course in 24:45 won the race and was followed by junior Brain Walsh, who placed fifth in 25:07 and Bundle, eighth in 25:21.
"Several people did really well at the H-Y-Ps," Carswell said. "But the rest of the team wasn't quite where we wanted them to be."
The team hoped to improve for the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship two weeks later, but put forth a terribly disappointing performance.
The Crimson harriers placed eighth in the nine team field. Carswell, who finished the 8000-meter run in 25:13, buoyed the squad with a strong-fifth place performance. Walsh was close behind Carswell, finishing 12th (25:55), but no other Crimson runners were seen until junior Crimson editor Darin Shearer crossed the finish line in 45th place.
Despite the poor performance at the Heps, the team still felt it had an outside chance to place second at the IC4As and qualify as a team for the trip to Fayetteville.
"A few teams hadn't run well in the big meets and we were hoping we could slip in there," Bundle said.
It was not to be. The Crimson finished sixth at the meet, improving on its 15th-place finish the previous year. A tight pack of Crimson harriers followed Carswell; Walsh, Shearer, Bundle and freshman Jaime Bianchi placing 34th, 35th, 37th and 43rd, respectively.
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