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Both of Harvard's cross country teams saw last Saturday's Boston Invitational as a stepping stone, just at different points in the river.
The women's team, eager for this to be the season that Harvard beats Dartmouth at Heptagonals, finished in third place, thanks to a strong showing by its top four runners, and proved that the Big Green speed demons are catchable. On the men's side, the race at Franklin Park was the first chance for a young team to race together and stake out its own identity.
For the women, everything that is important about the 1996 season could be described by what happened a few minutes before Saturday's race. A group of runners from Dartmouth, the only other Ivy team at the invitational, decided to promenade along the wrong side of the starting line while everyone else was getting ready.
The crystal-clear message was, We're Dartmouth, you're not, we own this course.
The Big Green can consistently back up such bravado, since the team has dominated Heps for the past few seasons, but that didn't keep the Crimson from taking offense at it. After all, Franklin Park is Harvard's home course.
"They were just trying to intimidate everyone," Harvard captain Caitlin Hurley said. "I was just like, 'Oh, God.' I think we can't let the name get in the way. They're not this incredible team that doesn't have any faults. We defintely have the talent to beat them."
The Crimson proved that by placing four runners--senior Jenny Martin, sophomore Margaret Schotte, junior Margaret Angell and senior Jessica Mikszweski--in a tight pack between the 10th and 15th spots. Martin and Schotte got past Dartmouth's Deirdre Milligan, an All-American last year in track, and Angell squeaked by the Big Green's Jessica King by a second.
True, three other Dartmouth runners were ahead of all these people, as the Big Green cruised to a first-place finish in front of Boston Running Club and Harvard. But the point for Harvard was to break the Dartmouth pack--because only the top five runners count for a team's score--and the Crimson did that.
"To beat Dartmouth, a team has to pull it together in very big way," Angell said. "It's going to take six weeks to do it, and this was a bench mark. The only way that we're going to beat Dartmouth is with five of us coming in and working close together."
For the men, the story was freshman David Martin. In his first collegiate race--Harvard coach Frank Haggerty held the freshmen out of the previous weekend's Fordham Invitational--Martin ran alongside sophomore Scott Muoio, and the pair finished 24th and 29th, respectively.
"Now that the freshmen are mixing it up out there, it takes a little bit of time to see how we're going to run together," David Martin said. "You'll see us work together during [future] races, and that just benefits us all."
Harvard finished in ninth place, ahead of 11th-place Brown, but the Bears' top runners didn't compete. Dartmouth came in second behind New Balance.
Captain Brian Dunkle and sophomore Joseph Johnson finished in 46th and 51st place, respectively, while freshman Darren Dineen (64th) and junior Joel Tetreault (66th) were the Crimson's next runners.
It wasn't an awesome race for Harvard by any means, but it does show a bit of promise for a squad that lost its top two runners going into this year, seniors Ian Carswell and Killian Lonergan.
"We seem to be coming together as a team, rather than a group of individuals," Dunkle said.
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