After placing second to Princeton in last weekend’s Iona Invitational, the women’s cross country team will get a chance Saturday to exact a measure of revenge.
The Bulldogs travel to Boston on Saturday to run in the annual Yale-Harvard-Princeton meet at Franklin Park. The Eli women have won the meet the last four years. Last year, the team narrowly beat Princeton 28-29 and soundly defeated Harvard 22-35. In cross country, the lowest score wins.
The H-Y-P meet epitomizes the competitive tradition that exists between the three rival schools, and it has a long tradition dating back to the first H-Y-P cross country meet in 1922.
To win this weekend, the Bulldogs have quite a bit of ground to make up. Last weekend in the Iona Invitational, Princeton placed three runners before the Bulldogs’ first runner, and seven Princeton Tigers finished before the third Bulldog. Harvard should end solidly in last place; the Crimson lost to Yale by 95 points.
Head coach Mark Young said this meet will be very different from last week’s invitational, providing more head-to-head competition. Large invitationals have upwards of 150 runners from 20 or more teams, and runners may not know their position relative to another team.
“It will be good for us to be able to see who it is we’re racing,” Young said. “[It is] easier to get matchups.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will have only two teams to worry about.
“Everybody will be running in the same race, which is a huge strategic and psychological advantage for a large, deep team like Yale,” captain Rebecca Hunter ’04 said.
Also different this week is the course distance. The Franklin Park course is the more ubiquitous five-kilometer length, significantly shorter than the six-kilometer Van Cortland Park used for the Iona Invitational. The difference is mainly mental, but could play a role in Saturday’s outcome.
The individual favorite has to be Princeton’s Emily Kroshus, who won last week’s Iona Invitational and finished sixth at last year’s Heptagonal Championship. Melissa Donais ’06, Cara Kiernan ’07, and Tiger sophomore Cack Ferrell, second at Iona, should vie for the other top spots.
Such a small meet is somewhat of an anomaly in today’s collegiate cross country scene. Programs today concentrate on big meets that occur late in the season, such as the Heptagonal Championships and the NCAA National Championship. Many season races can burnout harriers and adversely affect the workouts and mileage that become so essential at the end of the fall.
“You have to train sometime,” Young said.
Coaches train their runners to peak in late October and November for championship races. Runners do the bulk of their work during the early weeks and taper for the more important races at season end. Most early season meets occur during periods of intense training and provide race experience.
There is always a challenge in balancing the desire to do well in every meet with longer-term goals. While the Elis are focusing on Heps at the end of the month, the H-Y-P meet remains important for its tradition and bragging rights and as a sign of progress.