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Season Preview: Runners Look to Make Great Strides in 2009

The Harvard men’s and women’s cross country teams look to improve upon last year’s successes with hopes of sending more runners to Terre Haute, Ind., for the NCAA Championship. Both the men’s and women’s teams will use the Iona Meet of Champions on Sept. 19 as the starting block to set the tone for the rest of the season.

With victories over Yale early in the season last year, the Crimson runners were able to carry that competitiveness throughout the rest of the meets. The men kicked off the 2008 season with a victory over Yale in the 95th Harvard-Yale dual race. Their success continued as Daniel Chenoweth and Chas Gillespie led the Crimson to a 26th-place finish in the blue race at Pre-Nationals. The women also started off strong, defeating Yale in the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, and continued at a fast pace with a 21st-place finish in the white race at Pre-Nationals. Claire Richardson led the pack as the top Harvard finisher in every meet that she competed in last season.

With 42 members of the 2008 squad returning, the Crimson looks to use experience to guide them through the season. There are 20 newcomers to the program who hope to make an immediate impact on the team.

This year, senior captain Gillespie will use his accomplishments last season to guide the team. He placed fifth at the Heptagonal Championships last season, the highest Crimson finish at the meet since 2001. Chenoweth returns, looking to further establish himself as one of the top runners in the Ivy League. He was 1.1 seconds and two places off All-America honors at the NCAA Cross Country Championship after placing sixth at the NCAA Regional meet. Although he barely missed that honor, he did earn the best finish by a Crimson runner since 1995 at that event and was the top Ivy League finisher. Stephen Chester is back for his senior season after a successful junior campaign. He was the top Harvard runner at the UAlbany Invitational, finishing 26th overall.

Junior co-captain Jamie Olson will lead the women’s side as they look to use momentum from 2008 to start this season off on the right foot. Last year at the NCAA Regional, all five of Harvard’s scorers placed in the top 60, which landed the Crimson seventh overall. Richardson looks to return to the NCAA Championship for a second season in a row. After being the top Harvard finisher at the UAlbany Invitational last season, junior Cara Sprague returns to help the Crimson improve its results this season.

“I am really excited about the upcoming season,” said Jason Saretsky, director of track and field and cross country. “Both the men’s and women’s teams are the most talented since I have been here. We have a great combination of veteran leadership and exuberant underclassmen looking to make an impact. It should be a fun year.”

Harvard opens the season Sept. 19 with its first of three meets of the season at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. The Iona Meet of Champions will feature top runners from schools across the country including Ivy League rivals Yale, Penn and Columbia. Two weeks later the Crimson compete in Boston against Yale for the first of two meets on their home course in Franklin Park this season. 

The squads will split on Oct. 17 as some travel to the 43rd UAlbany Invitational and others are off to Terre Haute, Ind., for Pre-Nationals.  The team will travel back to Van Cortlandt Park on Oct. 30 for the Heptagonal Championships, before returning home for the NCAA Regional, held at Franklin Park on Nov. 14. The season wraps up on Nov. 23 with the NCAA Championship in Terre Haute, Ind.