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Three weeks ago, co-captain James Leakos led the Harvard men’s cross country team in a rout of Yale at the annual Harvard-Yale dual meet. The senior cruised to a first place victory, leading the race from start to finish.
This weekend, the Crimson competed at the Paul Short Invitational, which was hosted by Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. Despite running on a different course against a larger field with tougher competition, it was the same result for Leakos, who finished in first place out of the 397 competitors at the meet. The senior covered the 8k course in 23:13, clocking in with a blistering pace of 4:21 per mile.
American University’s Mike Biwott battled with Leakos for the top spot for most of the race.
“Biwott took off to the front pretty quickly, and was the one setting the pace for a good amount of the race,” Leakos said. “I wasn’t in an intolerable amount of pain, so I starting pushing him a little, and threw down with a mile out to put it away.”
In the Paul Short meet’s 40-year history, only one runner has bested Leakos’ time from Saturday: Liberty University’s Samuel Chelanga, who wo n the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championship in 2009 and holds the NCAA track and field record in the 10,000-meter run.
“It’s fun to hear myself mentioned in the same breath as a runner like Chelanga, but otherwise I’m just happy to have run well against the field,” Leakos said. “It’s certainly good to see that I can race at the level of my training.”
“It was one of the more impressive performances I’ve seen as a coach,” said Crimson coach Jason Saretsky. “[Leakos] has been working hard, and you can see that he’s approaching training with a new mentality.”
Overall, the Harvard men finished in fourth place out of 47 teams at the meet with a total of 167 points. Indiana University, which was ranked No. 15 in the country in the latest USTFCCCA poll, earned first place with 89 points. Dartmouth upset No. 20 Georgetown, 106-110, to round out the top three.
Crimson co-captain Maksim Korolev, who has typically been the men’s team’s other front-runner, finished in 12th place with a time of 24:13—exactly one minute slower than Leakos. Korolev was just a second shy of finishing in the top-10 at the meet.
“Maks wasn’t really racing [at the Paul Short meet],” Leakos said. “He was just working out, and helping some of the guys along to faster times. When he was told to ‘go’ with 800 [meters] left, he passed around 30 guys to finish 12th and put 30 seconds on the people he was with. He’s in nasty shape.”
Junior Will Geiken was the Crimson’s third finisher, averaging five-minute miles for a final time of 24:47 and 44th place. Behind Geiken were classmate Lukas Gemar and sophomore Tom Purnell, who were separated by just three seconds and crossed the finish line in 53rd and 58th place, respectively.
“I thought the meet went really well,” Saretsky said. “I was really pleased with how both the men and women competed. We had some strong showings, and it was a good stepping stone along the road that is our season.”
On the women’s side, Harvard finished in seventh place in the 47-team field. Senior Emily Reese led the way for the Crimson women, taking home 12th place with a 6k time of 20:42. Junior Viviana Hanley crossed the finish line three seconds after Reese in 14th place.
Sixth-ranked Georgetown won the meet on the women’s side with 112 points, and Dartmouth, led by four-time track and field national champion Abbey D’Agostino, who won the race, finished in second. The Crimson’s 221 points earned it seventh place at the meet, also behind Ancient Eight rivals Cornell and Columbia, who finished in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Captain Morgan Kelly, junior Jen Guidera, and freshman Sarah Gillespie rounded out the scoring five for the Harvard women.
—Staff writer Dominic A. Martinez can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dominicmTHC.
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