Going into the 2015 season, not many people would have placed the Harvard women in contention for either the HepsXC team or individual title. But come September, fans were beginning to reconsider. The Harvard women won the Harvard-Yale-Princeton tri-meet by 1 point over favored Princeton. Two weeks later, the team finished as the top Ivy squad (beating defending HepsXC champions Dartmouth) at the Battle in Beantown with a 7th place team finish. This got attention from USTFCCCA where the Crimson women began to receive votes in the national poll and top-5 regional standings. These two meets were contested over a 5km distance. Once the team experienced the 6km distance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, the Crimson faltered slightly as they finished 26th overall and as the fourth best Ivy team in the meet (bested by Princeton, Columbia, and Dartmouth). While the Crimson are still being recognized in the USTFCCCA polls, the recognition could end if they don’t adjust to the 6km distance for HepsXC as that is the official championship distance. But don’t worry – they still have a good chance to finish in the top half of the conference and improve their 2014 HepsXC finish (5th).
If the fans were to select the Most Improved Female Athlete this season, it might just have to go to sophomore Courtney Smith. As a freshman, Smith finished 56th overall in her HepsXC debut, not even scoring for the team as she was the #10 Harvard runner. But this year, she’s finished as Harvard’s #1 in each race she’s entered. She’s also finished as among one of the top-2 Ivy finishers in each of her races – she was the top Ivy at the Battle in Beantown, and she finished as #2 Ivy behind Princeton’s Elizabeth Bird at both the HYP meet and Wisconsin Invitational. Going from a non-scorer to a potential First-Team All-Ivy scorer in the span of one year is quite impressive.
While the Crimson have their low stick entry, they will need to replicate their performance from the HYP meet in order to break into the top half of the conference standings. Senior captain Paige Kouba has plenty of Heps racing experience – she’s the top returning athlete from the 2014 HepsXC team and has been a reliable #2 finisher for the team so far this season. She is a strong middle distance and steeplechaser, and steeplechasers tend to have a good amount of length strength to handle the terrain changes at Van Cortlandt Park. Senior Emma Payne has yet to compete at a Heps championship (including during any of the track seasons), but she could finally get the opportunity to this Friday. She was the #4 runner at Wisconsin so she can contribute. Sophomore Elliana Shwayder has also improved in the last year, as she scored for the team at both the Battle in Beantown and Wisconsin races. Last year, she finished 43rd at HepsXC. Rookie Kathryn Gillespie is looking to make an impact at her first HepsXC as she’s scored for the each in each A-team outing, while Madeleine Ankhelyi hopes to get the change to improve upon her 86th placing from 2014 HepsXC as she’s led the B-teams at both the New England Championships and Rothenberg Invitational earlier this month.
photo by Brian Panoff