There are only six members of the Harvard Crimson men’s team that experienced the success of the 2013 cross country season. That year, the men finished 4th at HepsXC and earned an at-large team berth for NCAAs through a strong regionals performance. Last year was a bit of a downer compared to 2013 as the team finished 7th at the 2014 HepsXC and did not return to NCAAs as a team. But this year, the upperclassmen hope to lead their young team back to the top half of the conference and get the opportunity to present their case to the NCAA selection committee on getting a berth to Louisville. They had a strong start to their season with good performances at Harvard-Yale-Princeton tri-meet (finished 2nd on a tie-break with Yale) and the Battle in Beantown (6th as the third best Ivy team in the field). But recently, the team had a sub-par at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational where they finished 32nd in the team field. Given how strong the conference competition is, the Crimson is going to need to regain their focus to perform their best on Friday.
The Crimson will be looking to senior Thomas Purnell to lead their team to a high finish on Friday. Purnell was the only Harvard man to earn an All-Ivy selection (8th place – second team All-Ivy) and get the opportunity to compete at NCAAs last year as an individual where he finished 170th overall. This year, he’s aiming to finish higher in his final Heps cross country season and hopefully get the opportunity to lead the Crimson men back to NCAAs. He’s had a good senior campaign so far: he won the annual HYP tri-meet in a nail-biting finish over Princeton’s Will Bertrand and finished as the Harvard #1 runner at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Classmate Chris Allen has been a reliable scoring member for the team as well – he finished as the #3 runner at both HYP and Wisconsin, while acting as the #5 runner at the Battle in Beantown. Allen hopes to improve upon his 2014 HepsXC performance where he finished 31st overall.
But to make the top half of the conference, some of the underclassmen are going to have to step up and be aggressive on the legendary Van Cortlandt Park course. Sophomore Ben Huffman has what it takes to be the team #2 runner as he performed as such at HYP and Wisconsin. Junior Brandon Price could finish anywhere in the scoring order – he was the #1 runner at the Battle in Beantown, while he was the #4 runner at both HYP and Wisconsin. Freshmen Austin Gilbert has scored for the team twice this season – once in his debut at HYP (#5) and at the Battle in Beantown where he earned HepsXC Rookie of the Week honors. Louis Coulson, rookie Samuel Oh, and Tyler Spear can also potentially be HepsXC scorers.
photo by Brian Panoff