On Friday at the Coast to Coast Battle of Beantown at Franklin Park in Boston, the Harvard cross country team emerged from two crowded fields to earn a pair of top-10 finishes. The men’s team took sixth place out of 21 teams, and the women’s team finished seventh out of 24.
On the women’s side, sophomore Courtney Smith led the way with a fifth-place finish in the 5K. Junior Brandon Price was the Crimson’s top runner on the men’s side, finishing 21st.
“I thought both teams had a solid day,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “It was great to see how we matched up against some nationally ranked teams as well as some of the top teams in the Northeast. It gave us a good idea of where we are and what we need to work on.”
Smith was a standout for the women’s team, staring down a field with some of the best runners in the nation and working her way to a 16:58.1 time.
“Courtney Smith was fifth overall, which is extremely impressive,” associate head coach Patrick Wales-Dinan said. “She’s looking like a high-level national runner right now. She beat a couple of multiple-time All-Americans and was right with a few women who are the best in the country. She beat out all the other Ivy League runners in the race, including the defending champ, so we’re happy about that.”
Paige Kouba, the captain of the Crimson women, also did well, finishing 19th with a time of 17:28.5. Smith and Kouba anchored Harvard on Friday, and combined with solid performances from the third and fourth-place finishers, they guided the Crimson to seventh place overall.
Although Harvard bested its performance in the same meet from last year, when the Crimson finished eighth, the team is still looking to improve upon its results so far this season.
“We need to have a number five runner step up, and we need to have someone emerge into that role,” Wales-Dinan said. “We’ve got a bunch of really good candidates, but moving forward, that’s an area of need that we need to address.”
Kouba would likely agree, as the captain admitted that the team was not completely satisfied with its finish.
“In general, I think we were a little disappointed with the day,” Kouba said. “We sort of had the goal to be a top-three team and ended up getting seventh. While we got out there and tried hard, I think it wasn’t the kind of day we had been hoping for.”
Price was the best individual runner for the men on Friday, finishing 21st with a time of 24:28.6 in the 8K. In a packed field of 189 runners, the junior managed to outpace a variety of opponents from nationally-ranked schools.
“I was pleased with Brandon Price,” Saretsky said. “I thought he had a really strong race. It was great to see him be our top runner and be up here as one of the top guys in the Ivy League.”
The Harvard squad finished sixth—third among the four Ivy League teams that participated—ending the day with 172 points. Dartmouth and Cornell placed higher, earning second and fourth-place finishes, respectively.
Crimson freshman Austin Gilbert certainly impressed at his second career varsity meet. Running in the 8K, he battled to a 39th place finish with a time of 24:47.0. The Ridgefield, Conn., native was a crucial part of Harvard’s success on Friday, contributing to a top five that all finished between 21st and 44th place.
Harvard hopes that its performances at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Meet and the Battle of Beantown will lead to some positive momentum for its upcoming races.
“It’s still early in the season, and we’ve got a lot of work to put in, but I’m excited for the season,” Saretsky said. “I think both our men’s and women’s teams can improve on where we were last year. It should be a lot of fun.”