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Down in Franklin Park, some 30 minutes from the Harvard campus, both Crimson teams placed fourth in the Battle for Beantown, their best finishes since the tournament’s inception in 2013.
In front of a crowd facing 24 other schools, including for the men No. 3 ranked Washington, No. 13 ranked Syracuse,, and No. 21 ranked Arkansas and for the women No. 25 ranked Dartmouth, No. 27 ranked Syracuse, and No. 29 ranked Georgia Tech, Harvard had a chance to prove themselves. Prove themselves they did.
For the men, senior standout Kieran Tuntivate had the best race of his Harvard career, beating out the pack by 12 seconds. The Delaware native finished in a blistering 23:58, good for a per mile pace of 4:50. This time for the 2018 HEPs champion, was his personal best in the 8k by over 20 seconds, proving that Kieran is well ahead of where he was last season.
“It’s true I won HEPs last year but our team was second and also missed out on qualifying for nationals,” commented Tuntivate on his motivation this year, “I’m motivated because I want our team to win HEPs and get to nationals. I want to do my part in helping that happen.”
In second for the men’s team was junior Matthew Pereria, who placed 18th, up from 56th a year ago, with a time of 24:47. Pereria was behind many of those who finished behind and in front of him at the 3k and 5k mark, but Pereria had a strong finish near the end of the race to gain crucial positions for the Crimson. His time was also a personal best in the 8k, and the junior will look to build on this performance as the season progresses.
The pair of junior Blake Evertsen and first year Ben Hartvigsen finished 40 and 41 for the Harvard squad, as Evertsen continued his breakout season and freshman Hartvigsen had a huge race, unafraid of the moment in his first collegiate race. To round out the scoring for the Crimson was sophomore David Melville, who finished in 52nd. Freshman Acer Iverson who had a strong opener last week against Yale, followed up with a quality 59th place finished in his second race in the crimson uniform, good for sixth on the team.
“Yesterday’s performance was about making sure our team would practice good habits and get those good habits in motion for the rest of the season,” said Tuntivate about the team’s performance, “[it was about] getting back into the routine of racing and waking up the legs after so long.”
Tuntivate and the rest of the Men’s Cross Country team have their eyes set high on nationals this year. The men’s team finished in fourth with 151 points, just edging a talented ranked Washington team who put up 156 points and a ranked Arkansas team.
The women ran together much like they have so far this season. The standout performer for the Crimson was first-year Isabell Sagar who finished with a time 17:35 in the 5k with an average pace of 5:40. Sagar led the women for the first time in her young career and her 11th place finish was the best in the Battle for Beantown since 2015 for the Harvard women.
Just behind Sagar, a pack of three Crimson women, junior Brooke Starn, sophomore Maya Rayle, and senior co-captain Gillian Meeks, placed 28th, 30th, and 31st. The pack finished within three seconds of each other and the cohesion helped Havard jump many teams in the rankings. Junior Tessa Madrano was Harvard’s final scorer, placing 38th. While many other teams had more top-heavy lineups, the Crimson women were able to finish together, picking up points as the 3rd, 4th, and 5th scorers of many competitors dropped off.
“We didn’t explicitly plan to stick as a pack,” stated Meeks on the race strategy, “it just sort of happened that we finished close together. We all ran different races, some of us going out hard and others going out more conservatively, but we all ended up in similar spots.”
The strong effort allowed the Havard women to place 4th and take down two ranked opponents, fellow Ivy-league opponent Dartmouth, who finished 6th in team scoring, and Georgia Tech, who finished 7th.
In the first big race of the year both teams ran their hearts out on the way to a pair of 4th place finishes, the best for both teams since the race was first started in 2013. This contest proved how far the program has come in recent years and hinted at future program-wide success this year.
After the battle this weekend, the Crimson have two weeks off before they’re back in Franklin Park for the New England Championships on October 12th.
— Staff writer William Connaughton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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