Men’s and women’s cross country compete at Heps
Women’s cross country secured their best Heps team finish since 2018 by taking third, while the men’s team secured sixth place.
On Oct. 28, men’s and women’s cross country competed in the 2023 Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championship at Franklin Park in Boston. More commonly known as Heps, the meet is one of the most anticipated cross country events of the year.
The women’s team’s performance is one of their highest team finishes at Heps since 2018 — when they secured second place — finishing third in the Ivy League with 90 points. Harvard University took first place with 47 points. Dartmouth had two runners — Madeleine Locher ’25 and Emily Levonas ’24 — finishing in eighth and ninth, respectively. Both Locher and Levonas achieved Second Team All-Ivy honors. Other Big Green runners finished strong as well: Katherine Strong ’26 in 20th, Ellie Tymorek ’25 in 23rd and Anna Banovac ’25 in 31st.
Locher explained that going into the event, the team knew they had the ability to outperform expectations.
“We knew going in that fifth place was probably about where we were expected to finish, but we were pretty close to that third and fourth spot,” Locher said. “So I think that was the main goal of the race, just to take a risk and run a little bit farther up in the race than maybe we were used to, and just hoping that it would work out, and we’d be able to hold our positions.”
Women’s cross country head coach Kendra Foley described how the team’s pre-race strategy helped lead the team to success.
“Each individual girl knew what her job was, and for a lower score, it was almost about displacing other teams,” Foley said.
Foley explained that all 10 runners had a crucial role to play to run cohesively as a team and lower other competitors’ scores.
“That made the difference,” Foley said.
Locher explained that the team certainly felt the positive impact of Foley’s coaching.
“I think the team culture and team dynamic has been just really positive this year,” Locher said. “We’ve stressed open communication and just supporting one another in general … It’s just been a couple years with [Foley], so I think her training is really starting to take effect now.”
Levonas echoed Locher’s sentiments regarding the positive culture Foley has helped develop.
“I think as a team, we try to focus a lot on working together with [our] teammates and being able to not just run for yourself as an individual, but for the group as a whole,” Levonas said. “We talk a lot about that with our coach and amongst ourselves.”
The Big Green men’s team finished sixth at the competition with 146 points. Princeton University took first place with 40 points. Will Daley ’24 — who recently received an Academic All-Ivy team recognition for his athletic and academic performances — led the team with a 17th place finish. Albert Velikonja ’25 was right behind, finishing in 19th. Dartmouth’s point scorers were rounded out by Declan O’Scannlain ’24 in 30th, James Lawrence ’23 in 40th and finally Maclean Hadden ’25 in 44th.
Men's cross country head coach Sean McNulty relayed his thoughts on the challenging race.
“The team had some objectives that they set out — we certainly feel like we maybe left a couple of cards on the table, but at the same time there were plenty of positives to take away from the meet,” McNulty said.
One of the biggest obstacles of the race for both teams was the heat, unusually warm given the time of year. Around 75 degrees at sunny Franklin Park, the conditions were vastly different than previous races this year, posing a new challenge for the athletes.
“It becomes a pretty significant challenge, especially for some of our athletes that don’t deal with the heat as well as colder temperatures,” McNulty said. “They certainly did their best in terms of pre-race preparation in terms of hydration and mental preparation to deal with that heat.”
Aside from the results of the competition, Heps weekend itself is a unique and special experience for athletes. Members of both teams spoke on the passionate, competitive nature of the meet, especially given its smaller size, with only eight participating teams.
“Heps is a championship that you put on the calendar from the moment that you step foot on campus as a freshman,” McNulty said. “The camaraderie amongst all Ivy League student-athletes is really unique.”
Levonas also acknowledged the pressure that comes with the race and the energy surrounding it.
“It's really energetic, but it can be a bit overwhelming, and it’s tough accommodating to that pressure,” Levonas said. “But once you let the energy become a motivating factor instead of something that stresses you out, it’s a really exciting event.”
Looking ahead, both teams will compete in this weekend’s NCAA Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx, New York on Nov. 10. If either team qualifies for the national championship, they will travel to Charlottesville, Virginia the following weekend. As the cross country season closes, both teams look to continue maintaining positivity to finish the season strong.
“We want to continue being present every day to do our best in practice,” Locher said. “We want to continue encouraging one another.”