Harvard men’s and women’s cross country posted mixed results on Friday in the prestigious Nuttycombe Invitational, a race considered by many to be the most competitive regular season meet in the nation. Running against most of the top teams in the NCAA, including No. 1 Northern Arizona and No. 5 Stanford on the men’s side and No.1 Arkansas and No. 4 Stanford for the women, the men finished 28th out of 32 teams and the women finished 32nd out of 36.
Both Crimson teams also faced off against conference rivals, with the men falling to No. 23 Princeton, who finished 17th, and beating 32nd-place Columbia. On the women’s side, the team came in behind No. 24 Columbia, who also placed 17th.
In the Men’s 8K, Harvard was once again led by senior Kieran Tuntivate, who crossed the line in 24:21, good for 57th place. The defending Ivy League champion, who narrowly missed All-American status in 2018 with a 47th place at NCAAs, led the crowded field at the halfway point before faltering slightly down the stretch. Tuntivate eventually found himself 26 spots behind Princeton senior Conor Lundy, who Tuntivate beat at last year’s HEPs.
Finishing one second behind Tuntivate was first year Colin Baker, who passed dozens of runners in the final half of the race to secure 60th place in his college debut. The South Carolina native and eighth place finisher at last year’s Foot Locker high school National Championships looks to be a vital part of the Crimson’s postseason hopes in 2019.
Rounding out the scoring for Harvard was senior Will Battershill, Harvard’s third runner at HEPs in 2018 (12th overall), who finished 166th in his season debut, and freshman Acer Iverson and junior Matthew Pereira, who finished 191st and 200th, respectively. In a concerning development, junior Hugo Milner, the junior out of Derby, England who finished 65th at the NCAA Championships last year, dropped out of the race after 4000 meters.
Overall, the meet, which provided an opportunity for the Crimson to make a statement on the National scale, ended in disappointing fashion, but according to captain Charlie Davis, the team’s goals have not changed.
“We are definitely capable of more as a team than what the Wisconsin results show,” said Davis. “Heps, regionals, and nationals have been our main focus the entire season, so I’m excited for us to get on the line and execute the races we’re all capable of.”
The Crimson hope to get the entire team healthy and ready to run in two weeks as they look to knock off Princeton to win the Ivy League and make a run at qualifying for NCAAs for the first time since 2013.
On the women’s side, Harvard ran an incomplete squad but still turned in stellar performances, showcasing a depth that should help them come November.
“The race went well,” said co-captain Gillian Meeks. “We had good races from a lot of the team who did race, which puts us in a good place when we add back in key scoring members.”
Without senior Lisa Tertsch, junior Abbe Goldstein, and junior Anna Juul, Harvard’s first, second and fifth finishers at 2018 HEPs, the team saw strong performances from its younger runners. Freshman Iz Sagar continued her outstanding rookie year, again pacing the Crimson with a 21:08 6K that put her in 75th place. Sophomore Maya Rayle and Freshman Shaked Leibovitz also scored, placing fourth and fifth on the team and 183rd and 242nd overall.
“It’s great to have our younger members doing so well,” remarked Meeks. “It can be really difficult, especially for freshmen, to adjust to the higher level of competition and just the bigger races in general. I’ve been really happy to see some of the younger members really stepping up and having some gritty performances.”
Veteran contributors junior Brooke Starn and Meeks also turned in solid races, finishing second and third on the team, separated by just three seconds and six spots at 121st and 127th. The team now turns their focus to continuing to train and let injuries heal before the postseason.
Noting that the Crimson women have not run their full championship squad all year, Meeks expressed confidence.
“I think we’re going to surprise people and are capable of a great team performance,” said Meeks.
Harvard’s next race is the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on November 1st at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, N.Y.