One last complete weekend of cross country action for the Ivy League will start Friday morning with tickets to Nationals on the line.
The first race of the day involving Heps’ teams will be the women’s Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and Harvard is poised to not just advance, but to win the race. The young Crimson squad ran particularly well in winning its first Heps title since 1985 while preseason No. 1 Providence has fallen late this season. It would seem that Harvard and Yale taking first and second might be a bit of a stretch, but it is not out of the question if the Friars struggle.
Even a third-place showing for Yale would likely send the Bulldogs to the NCAAs for the first time since 2001, when the O’Neill twins ran side by side. Harvard is led by superstar Courtney Smith, who won Heps by a wide margin two weeks ago. Yale will look to Emily Waligurski and Frances Schmiede for leadership. Brown’s Natalie Schudrowitz will try to land an at-large berth for the second straight year. The gun will fire at 11 am on Friday.
On the men’s side, expect defending national champion Syracuse and Iona — both ranked in the nation’s top 10 — to claim the automatic spots. That leaves a likely at-large berth for the third-place finisher, which could be Providence, Columbia, Dartmouth or Yale. The Lions have two young runners to watch in sophomore Brian Zabilski and freshman Kenny Vasbinder while the Bulldogs’ fortune will be greatly impacted by Heps’ champion James Randon. That race will commence at high noon. The Weather Channel claims it will 60 degrees, but windy at race time.
Only Penn and Princeton will run the Mid-Atlantic Regional, which will be held in State College, Pa. And it is Penn that could have team qualifiers on both sides.
The Penn women have never advanced to the NCAA Championship as a team, but this might be the best chance the Quakers have ever had. Penn State is probably going to win the regional on its home course, but vying for second automatic qualifier with Penn will likely be Villanova or Georgetown. One of the advantages for the Red and Blue is the leadership of senior Ashley Montgomery, who advanced to NCAAs individually last year. The women’s race will begin at noon.
The Quaker men, who recently won their first Heps title in 43 years, are a close second to Georgetown in the Mid-Atlantic ratings. But it is important that the Quakers earn that automatic berth with at least a second-place finish because Navy and Princeton may knock them out of the NCAA Championship. If Penn doesn’t make it as a team, expect either Nick Tuck or Brendan Shearn to earn an at-large berth. For Princeton, both Conor Lundy and William Paulson will be vying for an at-large if the team comes up short. The men’s run will start at 1 pm. Expect it to be 10 degrees cooler than in New York during the races with a similar wind.