SEASON RECAP: Year of Change Brings Mixed Results

New coach, new attitude.

That was the story for the Harvard cross-country and track teams this year, as Jason Saretsky came from Iona to take over the reins after the departure of Frank Haggerty ’68. Saretsky brought a new focus on training and competition to a team long accustomed to a place near the bottom of the Ivy League. The last Heptagonals Championship of any kind won by the Crimson was at the outdoor meet in 1985, a statistic that Saretsky hopes to change.

The first step toward that goal was the creation of a traveling squad within the team, designed to increase competition both on the team itself and ensure that all Harvard athletes taken to meets had a chance to be productive.

“From my perspective, it seemed like the team members took pretty well to the travel standards,” Saretsky said. “The more competitive we can be even at practice and getting spots on the bus, that’s going to translate to being competitive at the Ivy League Championships.”

This year’s traveling group had plenty of young talent for Saretsky to build the program around. Freshman Eda Karesin had a breakout season in the javelin, ending just one spot short of automatically qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Despite being “on the bubble,” in Sarestsky’s words, Karesin did not receive an at-large bid to the national meet.

Also dominant was sophomore Becky Christensen, who won outdoor Heptagonals and also tied for the highest jump at the prestigious Penn Relays. Christensen had an off day at NCAA Regionals, finishing ninth and also narrowly missing the automatic cut for nationals. However, based on the strength of her previous performances, Christensen earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, to be held in Sacramento, Calif. from June 6-9.

The pole vault was also an area of strength for the Crimson, with three strong junior vaulters. Clara Blattler took first at indoor Heptagonals, while co-captain Sally Stanton and Jitka Tomas were competitive all season. Tomas showed some versatility by also placing second in the triple jump at the event.

Strong Harvard performances dotted the pentathlon as well, with sophomore Shannon Flahive and senior co-captain Julia Pederson posting top-six finishes at outdoor Heps.

The smaller men’s squad had several strong performers, too. Senior co-captain Sean Barrett, in his last season before joining the Marines, took first in the 10,000 meters at the outdoor Heptagonals Championships, and was also named All-Northeast Region. Junior Brian Holmquest put up the third-fastest 10,000-meter time in school history to win the Sam Howell Invitational in late April.

Senior Tim Galebach became the first male Crimson cross-country runner since 2000 to qualify for the NCAA Championships after finishing ninth in the NCAA Northeast Region. Junior Ryan Hafer was named Second-Team All-Ivy during the cross-country season.

The cross-country campaign would also end with a fourth-place team finish at the NCAA Northeast Region Championship, ahead of the other five Ivy squads at the meet.

Senior co-captain Christian Ayers was a leader in the hammer throw, joining with sophomore Neville Irani to produce quite a few points for the men’s team in the spring season.

The loss of captains Ayers, Barrett, and Pederson will be felt throughout the team.

“I’m disappointed I only had one year to work with them,” Saretsky said. “I’m certainly going to miss them.”

While the departing seniors will be difficult to replace, the future continues to look bright for Harvard track.

“We have a fantastic foundation laid down for next year,” Saretsky said. “There’s a group of student-athletes coming in [as freshmen] where it should be that much more competitive for who gets on the bus.”

—Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at