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Harvard Cross Country Sprints into 2023 Season with a Dominant Start and Ambitious Aspirations

Harvard runners compete in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Oct. 28, 2022. In that event, the women won the conference while the men came second. Led by then-junior Maia Ramsden and then-sophomore Graham Blanks, these Crimson athletes now captain the 2023-24 teams.
Harvard runners compete in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Oct. 28, 2022. In that event, the women won the conference while the men came second. Led by then-junior Maia Ramsden and then-sophomore Graham Blanks, these Crimson athletes now captain the 2023-24 teams. By Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications
By Natalie T. Weiner, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard men’s and women’s cross country teams have had a strong start to the fall season.

On Friday, Sept. 29, the Crimson teams competed in the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown, in Boston’s Franklin Park. The Crimson won both team titles, triumphing over 14 other teams, and had the individual champion in both races as well. Senior Captain Maia Ramsden’s first-place finish led the women’s team to a 61-point victory. Junior Captain Graham Blanks’ first-place finish led the men’s team to a 47-point victory.

Following Ramsden’s win in the 5K in 17:00.1, junior Ella Gilson finished in eighth place in 17:15.8, followed by sophomore Penelope Salomon in ninth in 17:16.3. Harvard’s 61-point finish was a whopping 42 points ahead of Penn’s second-place finish.

Following Blanks’ win in the 8K in 23:26, Junior Ben Rosa took seventh in 24:10.3, followed by sophomore Shane Brosnan in tenth in 24:19.2. The Crimson’s 47-point finish was a staggering 51 points ahead of the second-place team, local rival Northeastern.

Captains Ramsden and Blanks have been important assets to the teams. Ramsden — the 2023 NCAA DI Track and Field Outdoor Champion in the 1500 m — just recently signed a NIL deal with On Running. Blanks won the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship and finished 6th in the nation at the 2022 NCAA Championships, earning him First-Team All-American honors. Blanks looks to build on his successful season last year — his goal to win every race he can.

“Last year, I would have said that I had the same goal to win every race, but I did not have the same confidence as I do now,” Blanks said.

In addition to the experienced and accomplished cohort of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the Crimson have added nine recruits from the class of 2027.

“We have this really good young freshman class that has been contributing really early on,” Blanks highlighted. “Our team is a lot deeper than it's been, not even compared to last year, but in the past six years since our coach has been here. We have a big group of guys that are all at similar abilities which we haven't had in the past — so now we can work together in a race. We're definitely optimistic with our team right now.”

According to the USTFCCCA Rankings for the Week of Oct. 12, the men’s team is ranked second in the Northeast region behind Syracuse University — also ranked 16th in the nation — while the women’s team is ranked third in the Northeast behind Providence College and Syracuse University, respectively.

Last year, only the men’s team qualified for the NCAA Championships. This season, the women’s team is determined to also have its ticket punched for the national championship. Gilson emphasized that the women’s team goal for the season is “to make it to NCAAs —happy and healthy. The positive energy on the team has been so present, and we are even hungrier to make it to nationals this year.”

Before the Crimson compete in the NCAA Northeast Regional on Nov.10, Harvard cross country will split up this Friday, with some runners traveling to Wisconsin for the Nuttycombe Invite and others heading to New York City, N.Y. for the IC4A/ECAC Championship meet. Both meets will take place this Friday, Oct. 13.

In preparation for the upcoming meets this weekend, the team has exchanged strenuous long runs for shorter, quicker-paced workouts.

“We’ve been doing shorter hill sprints and running faster short segments to get some pop back in the legs for this weekend,” Blanks commented. “The Nuttycombe Invitational is a really smooth course, so it's really fast, and the competition is going to be about as stiff as it gets.”

After the meets this Friday, the Crimson will then return to Franklin Park to host the Ivy League Cross Country Championship meet on Saturday, Oct. 28.

— Staff writer Natalie T. Weiner can be reached at natalie.weiner@thecrimson.com.

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