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While most of Harvard's students were getting their exercise lifting crates and moving into their rooms, the Harvard men's and women's cross country squads trekked to Van Cortlandt Park in New York to participate in their first meet of the year, the five-mile Fordham Invitational.
The men's team could only finish fifth overall despite a one-two finish by juniors Ian Carswell (25:28) and Killian Lonergan (25:42).
"We were disappointed with that," Lonergan said, "Both Princeton and Yale beat us, and our hopes this year were to beat them."
Princeton won the meet with 66 points, with Yale finishing third with 80 points and Harvard fifth with 156.
Harvard's problem was that between Lonergan and Harvard's third-place finisher, Princeton squeezed six runners.
"Our third through fifth runners need to move up if we want to beat the teams we want to," Carswell said.
Harvard entered the race at something of a disadvantage, since Princeton had already run its first race of the season.
"Most (Harvard) people haven't raced since May," Lonergan said. "We're still in the middle of preseason."
Van Cortlandt Park is a tough course, with many hills in the first two miles. In addition, the summer drought left the trail dusty and rocky.
"(The conditions) don't really matter," Lonergan said. "It's certainly no excuse."
But the race did give the Crimson an insight into what it needs to iron out in what remains of it preseason. Already the team has begun putting more emphasis on running hills in practice.
Another factor that may have worked against the Crimson was the fact that the freshmen did not accompany the team on the trip, as a matter of team policy.
"Freshmen will push people a little harder," Carswell said. "They'll give some encouragement to the rest of the team."
This coming weekend, the entire squad will travel to Franklin Park for the Boston Invitational. The meet will also be a training session of sorts, as Franklin Park will be the course for the ICA's championship in November.
"Now we know what we need to work on," Lonergan said. "We need to pack our runners and close the gaps."
The women's squad fared very similarly, finishing fourth with a total of 96 points. Ivy rival Cornell snatched first place with 49 points, followed by Villanova with 53 and Delaware with 96.
Harvard junior Jenny Martin was the Crimson women's top finisher, with a time of 18:33. Also among the top 30 finishers was sophomore Margaret Angell, who finished 13th with a time of 19:06, senior Alexandra Delaney, who claimed 19th place with a time of 19:15 and captain Megan Agy, who ran the course in a time of 19:24 on route to a 22nd place finish.
"Each person raced aggressively and went out hard," Agy said. "The saces between the first and fifth runners wasn't so big."
The team felt very comfortable on the notorious hills of Van Cortlandt Park.
"We talked about surging over the hills," Agy said. "And people didn't feel beat on the hills."
That is especially important, because Van Cortlandt Park will be the site of Heptagonals.
"We're doing a lot of hills this season for Heps," Agy said.
The women too will be running in the Boston Invitational this weekend, viewing it in the same light as the men--not only as a race to be won, but as preparation for the ECAC Championships that begin in November.
"We want to stay healthy and race well," Agy said.
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