Cross country teams race to top-10 finishes in regionals

by Matt Krivan | 11/18/19 2:05am

The men’s and women’s cross country teams bounced back after disappointing performances at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships last week to place in the top 10 at the NCAA Northeast Regional in Buffalo, NY. The men placed sixth out of 34 teams, while the women came in eighth out of 37. Despite their strong finishes, neither team earned a qualifying bid for the NCAA championships next week.

The men’s 10k and women’s 6k races were relocated to a road course due to snowy and muddy conditions.

“The meet was supposed to be held on a golf course by the University of Buffalo, but they got seven inches of snow in the week leading up to the race and they just could not get the course safely runnable,” said men’s head coach Barry Harwick. “So, they moved the course to a road race on the University of Buffalo campus, which has never happened in the 28 years I’ve been at Dartmouth.”

The last-minute change in the location of the race came as a surprise to the runners — but, after replacing their spiked shoes with flat shoes that were more compatible with road racing, the teams excelled.

“One thing we tried to keep in mind was that the change from the scheduled course to the roads would probably mess with a lot of people’s heads,” said women’s team captain Lauren Sapone ’20. “So we just tried to keep in mind that it’s still the same distance and the same people we race with and try to let it mess with our heads less than other people’s.” 

Harwick also said he believed his team handled the sudden change well.

The women’s team, led by its upperclassmen, scored 263 points. Sapone ended her collegiate career on a high note, finishing first for the Big Green and 20th overall with a time of 20:09. This marked the second-straight year that Sapone earned all-region honors. Sapone was followed closely by Rachel Ludwikowski ’21 who came in 31st place with a time of 20:21. Three seniors accounted for the Big Green’s other scoring times: Claire Dougherty ’20 came in 61st (20:56), Diana Vizza ’20 came in 69th (20:58), and Julia Stevenson ’20 came in 83rd (21:11). 

The men’s team scored 228 points. Sam Morton ’21 paced the team with a time of 29:26, good for 23rd place overall and a spot on the All-Northeast Region Team. Reed Horton ’20 was next to cross the finish line for the Big Green with the 34th-best time of 29:41. Quinn Cooney ’20 placed 40th with a time of 29:46 and was followed closely by Owen Ritz ’21, who placed 43rd with a time of 29:48. The race for the final scoring position for the Big Green came down to the wire, as Ben Matejka ’21 beat out teammate Nick Feffer ’21 by less than a second to claim 88th place and the fifth-best time for the team. 

Both teams got revenge against some Ivy League rivals after coming in last place at the Heptagonal championships last week. 

“They felt that they had underperformed at the Heptagonal championships, and they were determined not to let that happen again and it showed in the way they raced,” Harwick said. “They worked together as a group and they were very aggressive. I am not surprised that our results were tremendously better.”

The men’s team edged Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University and Yale University to come in second among Ivy League teams. The Big Green trailed only first-place Harvard University. The women had less success against Ivy League schools due to higher finishes for Harvard, Cornell, Columbia and Yale. The Big Green finished well ahead of Brown, which came in 16th place.

“I think our team has a lot of potential moving forward and definitely hit a lot of bumps in the road with injuries, but I think we have all come away from the season learning a lot,” Sapone said.

The meet marks the end of the season for each team. Automatic bids for the NCAA championships were awarded to the top-two finishers at regionals, and the Big Green did not receive individual or team at-large bids. However, Dartmouth’s top-10 finishes mark a positive end to the senior’s collegiate careers and are encouraging for next year’s teams.

“I think that this year’s team ended on a high note, but I certainly think that next year’s team will be even better.” Harwick said.