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New Track Hosts Snowy Heps Race

By Molly E. Kelly, Crimson Staff Writer

In the world of sports, it’s not uncommon for an event to be postponed due to weather. Just last week a forecast predicting rain pushed Game Six of the World Series from Wednesday to Thursday night.

But this past Saturday at the 72nd Heptagonal Cross Country Championships, the weather had no say. Cold temperatures, rain, and snow made for just another aspect of the race as the Ancient Eight squads competed at Princeton’s West Windsor Fields for only the third time in Heps history.

On the men’s side, Harvard finished in seventh place with 184 points; the women finished with 129 points in sixth place.

“We want to keep improving on races from past weeks, and we definitely did that,” senior Kailyn Kuzmuk said. “[But] overall, we were unhappy with how we did … we’re going to hopefully be better at regionals.”

Early predictions for the race didn’t quite match up to the slush- and mud-filled course presented by West Windsor Fields. Ivy League crews were expecting a more straightforward race this year after a location change: the Heps are normally held at Van Cortlandt Park, notorious for its hilly, difficult terrain. The course presented by West Windsor Fields is relatively flatter and faster, and the teams trained with this in mind. The snow, then, made things a bit more complicated.

For the women’s 6k, the Crimson was narrowly eclipsed from top-10 action.

Dartmouth sophomore Abby D’Agostino crossed the finish line first with a time of 21:58, and Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Brown, and Cornell rounded out the rest of the top 10.

The Big Red ultimately went on to capture first overall with 49 total points.

Harvard’s top finisher for the second straight year was senior Jeanne Mack, running a 22:33 race to capture 13th place.

“Jean had a very strong race yesterday,” Kuzmuk said. “It was great for leading the team along.”

Kuzmuk also did her school proud—the Illinois native clocked in seconds after Mack at 22:55, good for second on the team and 21st overall.

But Kuzmuk was quick to point out the successes of her teammates rather than her own.

“Only three girls had raced the Heps before,” Kuzmuk noted, also adding that one had never raced in snow before. “Seven of the 10 girls were sophomores or freshmen. That’s a really positive thing for seasons to come.”

Indeed, Kuzmuk’s praise makes sense considering the results—freshman Viviana Hanley, sophomore Morgan Kelly, and freshman Alaina Alvarez were the Crimson’s third, fourth, and fifth-place runners, respectively, all finishing in the top half of the pack.

For the men’s 8k, Big Green senior Ethan Shaw outran senior Lion Kyle Merber by a mere 10th of a second to break the tape and snag victory at 24:47.

The remaining slots in the top 10 were split between the fourth-place Bears and the first-place Tigers, who claimed a decisive victory with 37 points.

Harvard’s top runner of the day was junior Jakob Lindaas. The Minnesota native ran the 8k course in 25:41 to nab 28th place.

Lindaas noted that while his finish was “a good step” for his own running career, it was a tough day overall.

“We had some inclement conditions. Some guys stepped up and other guys had rough days,” Lindaas said. “We didn’t do as well as we were hoping, but it was a good experience.”

Inclement conditions might be a bit of an understatement—rain turned into snow about halfway through the men’s race, and it continued throughout the women’s race as well.

Kuzmuk pointed out that many runners had to wear hats with a brim, because, “otherwise, you couldn’t see anything with the snow coming down.”

But sophomore Aaron Watanabe was still able to run a strong race, finishing second on his team for the second year straight. Clocking in at 25:47, his time was good for 32nd overall.

Rounding out the Crimson’s top five male finishers were junior Jeremy Gilmour and rookies Will Geiken and Adam Cotton.

The trio all posted times good for finishes in the top half of the pool of runners.

Looking forward, the men and women hope to use the race as a building block rather than a source of disappointment.

“Anything can happen on a given day,” Kuzmuk said. “For us, we want to keep working hard and believing in it.”

—Staff writer Molly E. Kelly can be reached at mkelly@college.harvard.edu.

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Track and Cross Country