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BOSTON—Minutes after the finish of Saturday’s race at Franklin Park, the Harvard men’s cross country team belted out a rendition of “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard.” Though onlookers joked about the squad’s singing abilities, there was little doubt about the quality of the race that the team had just put together.
In what is considered to be the Crimson’s only home meet of the season, the Harvard cross country teams played host to a pair of conference rivals—Yale and Princeton. The men’s squad raced its way to a first-place finish, while the women fell to both the Tigers and Bulldogs.
Harvard sophomore James Leakos captured the individual title in the men’s dual meet, finishing the eight-kilometer race in an impressive 24:21.
“I thought it went really well for all of us,” Leakos said. “We came out here and we did what we wanted to do.”
According to Leakos, Crimson coach Jason Saretsky wanted his runners to push it, but not overexert themselves in the first five kilometers of the race. Leakos was able to change gears when he hit the five-kilometer mark, separating himself from a fairly large group of runners that formed shortly after the start.
“We went out in a nice, big pack,” Leakos said. “We had a lot more guys in that pack than Yale did. We were feeling great, so we were able to drop them, and that was that”
Harvard’s standout freshman, Billy Orman, was hot on Leakos’ heels in Saturday’s race, as he clocked in a time of 24:24 and provided the Crimson men with a one-two finish. Having a more experienced teammate with him helped Orman pace himself in an unfamiliar race.
“This was my first eight-kilometer race, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Orman said. “When [Leakos] started breaking away, I decided that I’d try to stay with him.”
Meanwhile, Harvard senior Kailyn Kuzmuk led the way for the women’s squad. The Tinley Park, Ill. native finished in fourth place overall and was the only Crimson runner who turned in a top-10 finish.
“Our women didn’t have as good of a performance as our men’s team,” Saretsky said. “But there were definitely some positives. Kailyn Kuzmuk showed that she’s back in her form that got her to nationals two years ago.”
Behind Kuzmuk for Harvard were freshmen Alaina Alvarez and Viviana Hanley, who crossed the finish line in 14th and 17th places, respectively. Senior captain Kirsten Jorgenson was the team’s fourth runner. Jorgenson ran a personal-best 18:25 in the five-kilometer race, which was good for 20th place.
Saturday’s meet garnered an unusually high amount of fan support for the cross country team. The Harvard Athletic Department provided two free fan buses for students who wished to attend the meet and cheer on the Crimson squads. Among the spectators in attendance were members of the Harvard track team.
“It’s Harvard-Yale; this is a big meet,” said sophomore Dustin Brode, a shot putter on the track team. “We came out to support our future teammates, even though they aren’t technically our teammates for a couple of months.”
Though popular at basketball and football games, painted bodies and faces are certainly a rare sight at cross country meets.
Brode sported a crimson “V” on his chest, as he and six other members of the track team emblazoned “Harvard” on their bodies.
“It’s fantastic,” Leakos said. “I was really happy with [the fans.] It really gives you a boost when you’re running along, and you’re hearing, ‘Go Harvard’ 10 times as much as you’re hearing ‘Go Yale.’ It just makes you run better.”
The Crimson’s victory on Saturday earned it the Main Memorial Trophy, named in honor of a former Yale cross country runner who was killed in World War II.
The history and tradition behind the Harvard-Yale rivalry was not lost on this year’s participants.
“There is so much tradition behind the meet,” Saretsky said. “Obviously, we were disappointed with losing to Yale last year. I was pleased with how our young guys went out there and executed and were able to bring the Main trophy back home.”
—Staff writer Dominic Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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