Looking to Louisville: Cross Country Posts Pair of Top-10 Finishes at Regionals

Co-captain Emily Reese led the charge for the Harvard women's squad at Northeast Regionals Friday (Photo courtesy: Tim O'Dowd).

MADISON, Conn. –
Both the Harvard men's and women's cross country teams positioned themselves for possible at-large bids to the NCAA Championships as both squads finished within the top six at NCAA Northeast Regionals Friday at Hammonassett State Park. The men's team finished sixth, marking its best result since 2006, and also saw two of its runners qualify for nationals on the strength of top-five finishes. The women's team placed fourth overall, good for its best result at the meet since 2008.

Iona, the top-ranked men's team in the Northeast region, captured the meet title thanks to a quintet of top-20 finishes, while Providence placed four runners within the top 10 to grab the women's crown.

"I am extremely pleased with the way the women and men competed today," said director of Harvard track and field/cross country Jason Saretsky. "The women have gotten better all season long and Coach Bayley has done a fantastic job getting them to run their best when it matters most. On the men's side, I was thrilled with the front running of Maks (Korolev) and James (Leakos) and proud of the way we bounced back from Heps. I am excited to be heading to Louisville with both guys and am anxiously waiting to see if the women will be joining us."

The men's team entered the race ranked seventh in the region, but juniors Maksim Korolev and James Leakos saw to it to help Harvard finish above its pre-race position. Korolev, who came into the race as Harvard's strongest runner, attacked the 10k course, posting a time of 30:16.2, the second-fastest time out of a field of 239 runners. The runner-up result is the best by a Harvard runner since Daniel Chenoweth '11 placed third at Regionals in his junior and senior seasons. Leakos provided a huge boost to the Crimson team score, as he crossed the line in fifth place, covering the course in 30:27.6, one of just 23 runners to eclipse the 31-minute mark.

The Crimson had to rely on its rookie representation to support its top two runners and Dan Milechman and Tom Purnell did not disappoint, registering a pair of top-55 finishes. Milechman fended off a Columbia runner in the final stretch to record a time of 31:25.4, good for 43rd overall, and Purnell edged out a challenger from Providence by less than a second to claim 55th with a time of 31:37.2. Veteran Jakob Lindaas' time of 31:38.7 was good for 58th in the race, giving Harvard all five scoring runners in the top 60. The sixth-place finish saw the Crimson men end as the third-highest Ivy League squad at the meet, with Harvard defeating Cornell after a narrow loss to the Big Red at the Heptagonal Championships.

All season, the women's strength has been in their ability to group runners and that tactic paid off for Harvard in a fourth-place result Friday. Junior captain Emily Reese led the charge for Harvard, finishing comfortably within the top 20 at 19th with a time of 20:27.9 on the 6k course. Sophomore Viviana Hanley made it two Crimson runners in the top 20, running a time of 20:36.2 to finish right behind Reese in the standings.

Junior Morgan Kelly wasn't far behind, finishing less than 10 seconds behind Hanley in 20:44.2, good for 27th in the race. Sammy Silva, coming off a sixth-place finish at Heps two weekends ago, was Harvard's fourth runner across the line, covering the course in 20:53.6. Sophomore Alaina Alvaerz rounded out Harvard's top five, posting a time of 21:05.4, good for 48th overall out of the 250-person field. Having all five scoring runners finish within the top 48 marked a significant improvement from last season's regional, when Harvard's top runner placed 49th in the race.

Thanks to their top-five finishes Friday, Korolev and Leakos qualified for the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky. The women's runners will hope for an at-large bid, following the conclusion of all Regional Championship races.