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Harvard Cross Country with a Pair of Strong Finishes at Nuttycombe Invitational

Harvard men's cross country faces off against Yale at an event a couple of years ago. Both men's and women's cross country teams are prepared to face their conference rivals at the Ivy League Championships on October 30th.
Harvard men's cross country faces off against Yale at an event a couple of years ago. Both men's and women's cross country teams are prepared to face their conference rivals at the Ivy League Championships on October 30th. By Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications
By William Connaughton, Crimson Staff Writer

On Friday, October 15th, Harvard men’s and women’s cross county traveled north to race in the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational against 31 and 35 other highly-competitive collegiate programs. The Crimson men finished an impressive 13th and the women finished in 25th, both substantially improving from their performance in the same race in 2019.

Finally having a nearly full squad after three weeks of break since the Battle of Beantown in late September, the Crimson men ran their best race of the season in the 8k, beating their previous finish of 25th by 12 spots.

In a heat of over 230 runners, it was crucial for the top runners to get out in front and establish their positions. Leading the way for the men was senior Matthew Pereira, who finished 27th with a time of 23:51. In 2019, Pereira finished the same race in 195th, showing massive improvement after the year off from official Harvard training. Just behind Pereira was first-year standout Graham Blanks in 28th with a time of 23.52 and sophomore Acer Iverson in 33rd with a time of 23.54. This top three was a strong pack for the Crimson that stuck together, capturing important points.

“Matt, Graham and Acer all had really solid races this weekend, but it’s not very surprising given how they’ve been training,” commented Melville on some of the individual performances at Nuttycombe. “We’re just now starting to dial into those faster workouts and the guys are looking great. We’re really excited for Heps, which is our next meet two weeks from now.”

Rounding out the top five for Harvard was junior co-captain David Melville who finished in 118th with a time of 24:37 and junior Luke Laverdiere who finished in 165th with a time of 25:07. Following the race, while proud of the team effort, Melville emphasized the importance of the back half of the varsity team getting out quickly in the big races in order to reduce the spread between runners one through five.

“We really took advantage of the couple weeks off to crank out larger mileage and harder workouts. It was pretty much the last big block of consistent training before we get into the postseason, which is densely packed with important races,” Melville said. “The team’s feeling really good going into the end of the year. In 2019 we were nowhere near as consistent as we are now, and we still ended up 15th in the NCAA that year.”

The Harvard men are positioned well for the Ivy League championships in two weeks. After being unranked before the race, beating No. 13 Washington, No. 16 Butler, No. 18 North Carolina, and No. 21 Southern Utah catapulted the Crimson into the top 25. The Harvard men are now only trailing Princeton in the Ancient Eight for national rankings and are ranked first in the Northeast region. This sets up the Crimson for a competitive rematch against the Tigers at Heps and another good chance to win regionals.

The Harvard women also had a strong performance in the badger state. In the 6k event amidst a heat of over 260 runners, the Crimson women finished in 25th, seven spots better than their finish in 2019.

The Harvard women had a number of standout performances, including first-year Maia Ramsden who continued her strong breakout season, crossing the finish line in 59th with a time of 21:32. Sophomore Iz Sagar finished close behind Ramsden in 65th with a time of 21:06. This top two pack for the Crimson kept them competitive against some of the top teams in the country. Rounding out the scoring for Harvard included senior co-captain Anna Juul who finished in 144th with a time of 21:37, sophomore Eloise Freitag who finished in 178th with a time of 21:51, and fellow senior co-captain Judy Pendergast who finished in 201st with a time of 22:08.

The Crimson women were the top finishing Ivy League team, slipping only to Syracuse’s strong performance at Nuttycombe in the Northeast regional rankings to No. 4. The Harvard women will similarly be competing primarily with Princeton for the Ivy League title at Heps in two weeks, outperforming fellow competitors Yale, Columbia, and Penn so far this season.

“Judy and I are emphasizing the importance of rest,” said Juul on the focus for the team going into the second half of the season. “We are entering an intense training block, so everyone needs to take time to sleep and eat. This is good for mental and physical health, both of which are key. We were relatively pleased with our performance, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

With two weeks off before Heps, both teams are entering one of the hardest blocks of training during the season before the tapering begins ahead of Heps and NCAAs. Both captains were pleased with the performance of the Harvard program but know that the ceiling is much higher. The Crimson will race next on October 30th at the Ivy League Championships at Princeton’s home course in N.J.

— Staff writer William Connaughton can be reached at william.connaughton@thecrimson.com.

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Track and Cross Country