2013 Ivy League Heps Men’s Cross-Country Preview: Will Columbia Hold Off Princeton, Which Is Looking For Its Fourth Straight Title?

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*2013 Ivy League Heps Women’s Cross-Country Preview

by Robert Johnson
October 26, 2013

The men’s 2013 Ivy League/Heptagonal Championships take place next Saturday, November 2nd at Princeton.

As a former coach in the league for 10 years, I figured I should preview the meet’s action. So go ahead and send this to your mom or dad so they can know what to expect. I always asked my mom, “How did you know if what we ran in cross-country was good, as some meets top 10 is good and in others top 100 is good?” The reply? “Well, I just looked at your face.”

So mom and dad won’t have to look at your face after reading this.

The meet really is a tale of two halves. There are four very strong teams in defending champion Princeton, Columbia, Harvard and Dartmouth that are or have been nationally ranked at some point this season.

Then there are four others who barring a TOTAL catastrophe from the top four will be battling it out for at best fifth – Yale, Cornell, Penn and Brown. There is a very large gap between the top four and bottom four. Heading into Pre-Nats weekend, on paper, Harvard looked like the #4 choice (now they look like #3, more on that later) and Yale #5. Well, guess what? Harvard raced Yale earlier this year and Harvard skunked Yale by going 1-2-3-4-5 in the 100th Harvard-Yale clash. Last week, Princeton raced Yale, Cornell and Penn at Pre-Nats and they put four in before the any of the other teams even had one in and Brown on paper is worse than Yale, Penn or Cornell.

The Big Four Is Really The Big Two

Currently in the national rankings, Columbia is #10, Princeton #15, Harvard #21 and Dartmouth is unranked but receiving a vote, meaning they are sort of unofficially #39.

I’ll be shocked if this meet doesn’t end up with Princeton and Columbia up top. They likely will go 1-2 in some order, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the league in recent years, as it will be the fifth time in six years that they have gone 1-2 in some order and sixth time in the last eight years. With Columbia putting nearly all of their resources on the men’s side into mid-d and distance runners and with Princeton’s incredible name, facilities and support of track/XC resulting in blue-chip recruiting class after blue-chip class (I’m not sure what it’s like this year, but one year a few years ago Princeton had 7 sub-9 guys on its roster), it’s become very hard for anyone else to break them up at the top unless they have a really good year and Princeton or Columbia falters a bit. It’s similar to the Princeton-Cornell situation on the men’s side in track – it takes a near miracle to break that up for the other teams, although it’s considerably easier to do it in XC with five scorers.

Princeton Or Columbia For #1?

Casual observers who see the national rankings and realize that Columbia and Princeton raced at Notre Dame at the beginning of October and Columbia beat Princeton (Columbia won with 113 points, Princeton third with 147) may think the race is Columbia’s to lose.

I certainly don’t view Columbia as the big favorite. I’m not sure if I even view them as the favorites. After they beat Princeton at Notre Dame, I went ahead and took out the runners from the other schools and scored the meet as a dual meet. Here are the results.

Princeton has been winning a lot recently.

Notre Dame Scored As A Dual Meet

Princeton 28 – 1,2,6, 8, 11
Columbia 28 – 3, 4, 5, 7, 9

Place Name Year Team Time
1 Udland, Tyler SR-4 Princeton 24:38.8
2 Bendtsen, Chris SR-4 Princeton 24:40.4
3 Composto, Nico SR-4 Columbia 24:41.6
4 Sienko, Jake SR-4 Columbia 24:42.0
5 Everett, Daniel JR-3 Columbia 24:42.7
6 McDonald, Matt JR-3 Princeton 24:50.7
7 Gregorek, John SR-4 Columbia 24:53.0
8 Pons, Sam JR-3 Princeton 24:54.7
9 Boyle, Jack FR-1 Columbia 25:15.1
10 Golestan, Ben SO-2 Columbia 25:26.5
11 Arroyo-Yamin, Alejandro SR-4 Princeton 25:34.1

28-28. Are you kidding me? Wow.

Right after seeing that my first thought was, “Déjà vu. Here we go again. Columbia’s going to go into Heps as the favorite but watch out for Princeton because Princeton put two ahead of Columbia’s first and who would you rather be relying on at #5 – a freshman or a senior like Arroyo-Yamin, who was second at Heps last year and has been a star for four years?”

Also consider this: In our weekly recaps, we love to strip away the names from runners and compare them so you aren’t biased. So I’ve done just that. Here are the top 5 of Columbia and Princeton from Notre Dame lined up against each other on paper. You tell me which team you’d rather have.

Team A Vs. Team B

Team A
Runner #1: Sr. 14:05/29:39 – 4th at Heps last year.
Runner #2: Sr. 13:57/29:32 – Won Heps last year.
Runner #3: Jr. 14:28 – 14th at Heps last year.
Runner #4: Jr. 14:14 – 50th at Heps last year.
Runner #5: Sr. 14:02/29:27 – 2nd at Heps last year.
On The Bench:
Jr. 8:53 steeple – 12th Heps last year
Team B
Runner #1: 14:14/29:42 – 33rd at Heps last year
Runner #2: Sr. 14:20/29:20 – 13th last year
Runner #3: Jr. 4:00 mile/13:57 – 16th last year
Runner #4: Sr. 8:52 steeple – 40th last year
Runner #5: Freshman – 8:50s in high school.
On The Bench:
So. 9:20 steeple – 25th last year.
Team A
Team A
Team B
Tie/maybe B
Team ATeam A

Most people would say Team A.

Team A is Princeton (Tyler Udland, Chris Bendsten, Matt McDonald, Sam Pons, and Alejandro Arroyo-Yamin with Eddie Owens on the bench) and Team B is Columbia (Nico Composto, Jake Sienko, Daniel Everett, John Gregorek and Jack Boyle with Ben Golestan on the bench).

Also, does anyone remember last year? Columbia went in ranked #10. Princeton was #23 and the Tigers proceeded to put on an clinic on how to dominate a cross-country meet as they left with a 26 to 58 victory. In track, outdoors, Princeton did more of the same. They crushed everyone outdoors in the 5,000 and 10,000 as they had three juniors score in both of the long races.

On Paper Based On Last Year’s Results, There Is No Reason To Run The Race

Based on last year’s results in XC and on the track, this race shouldn’t even be close. Princeton should dominate. The fact that Columbia is even being mentioned as a potential winner is a testament to how well Willy Wood‘s (Columbia coach) guys have been running so far this year.

When I was coaching, on the bus ride back to Ithaca, NY from Heps each year, I always started to think, “Okay, what’s going to happen next year?”

I then would get out a pen and scratch out all of the seniors and re-score the meet for the next year. It’s not a perfect way to predict things, particularly if there are a few key injuries (I’d normally manually add in a total stud that I knew was out), but it works pretty well.

Here’s what you get when you do that with last year’s results.

Returning Non-Seniors From Last Year’s Meet
Princeton 19 – 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
Columbia 74 – 9, 11, 14, 17, 23
Dartmouth 80 – 4, 12, 16, 21, 27
Harvard 104 – 13, 15, 18, 22, 36
Yale 134 – 6, 24, 32, 35, 37
Cornell 134 – 7, 20, 30, 38, 39
Penn 174 – 19, 25, 28, 49, 53
Brown 215 – 33, 40, 44, 48, 50

(You can see the full results showing the individuals at the bottom of this article)

Now, the meet is run for a reason. They don’t score it on paper. If the meet was scored on paper, there would be no reason to hold a Heps, as Princeton would be handed the XC trophy nearly every year.

The Battle For Third Between Dartmouth And Harvard

In recent years, Dartmouth has more often than not been the third place team at Heps behind Princeton and Columbia (three out of the last four years). This year, at Paul Short, they beat Harvard 106 to 167, but at Wisconsin, Harvard turned the tables on them and beat Dartmouth by scoring 391 to Dartmouth’s 536.

Harvard has potentially the best top two on paper in the league in James Leakos and Maksim Korolev, but these two guys might be the most inconsistent runners in recent Heps history. Last year, neither was in the top 18 at Heps (Leakos was 19th and Korolev cratered and went from 2nd to 22nd in the last 600). But then two weeks later, they both qualified individually for NCAAs. Then a week later they totally bombed at NCAAs as Korolev was 201st and Leakos was a DNF.

This year, Leakos won the Paul Short run and Korolev was second at Wisconsin. But Korolev’s incredible run at Wisco only proves my point about how inconsistent he is. At Paul Short, he was a minute behind Leakos. At Wisconsin, he was 19 seconds ahead.

I just looked up the stats for Korolev and Leakos. They are even more unbelievably inconsistent than I remembered. Maybe I should amend what I wrote earlier and label them as perhaps the most inconsistent guys in all of the NCAA. Watching Korolev run is like watching Alan Webb – you just don’t know what you are going to get but you gotta watch.

What I forgot was Korolev did the same thing in track. He didn’t score at Heps outdoors, then made NCAAs in the 10,000 and then ran 33:55 at NCAAs. Yes, 33:55. Cornell’s Katie Kellner ran faster than that (33:45) in a tactical woman’s 10,000. As for Leakos – well, he also didn’t score at Heps despite having run 13:57 during the season.

Based on how they’ve been running so far this year, these guys should both be locks for the top 5 (they actually could go 1-2) – certainly top 10 – at Heps and if you do that, they will be hard for Dartmouth to beat for third.

The good news for Harvard is I can’t imagine they finish worse than fourth unless Leakos and Korolev are both DNFs. And here’s a GREAT stat for you. Guess when the last time the Harvard men were top 4 at Heps Cross-Country?

Guess again. I’m certain your guess is wrong. It way pre-dates Jason Saretsky, who is now in his eighth year at the helm at Harvard.


Now that’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?

I just had to throw that one in there for my brother and dad, who are Yale alums, but just to show I’m not biased, I’ll remind people that teams can put two in the top five and still not get top three. Yale’s done it twice since I started paying attention to the league. The year after my brother Weldon stopped competing for Yale, 1996, Yale’s Chris Gansen and Pat McMurray (Pat, if you are reading this, I think I still owe you a wedding gift from ten-plus years ago) went 3-4 and the team was fourth. Then in 2004, Yale’s Lucas Meyer and Casey Moriarity went 2-4 but Yale was only fifth.

Who Gets Fifth?

Speaking of Yale, they aren’t close to Harvard, as Harvard went 1-5 on them in their dual meet, but they likely will be fifth at Heps as they beat both Cornell and Penn at Pre-Nats and Brown is the eighth team on paper (Penn killed Brown at Paul Short by putting four before Brown had two in).

The good news for Yale fans is they are young.

In fact, if you are a fan of the bottom four teams, there is some good news for all of you as I’ve already started to think about 2014. The top teams lose a lot up front. Looking at the last meet, here’s how the teams stack up class-wise:

Columbia has three seniors in its top 5.
Princeton has three seniors in its top 5.
Harvard’s two stars are both seniors.
Dartmouth has four seniors in its top 5.
Yale has no seniors and only one junior in its top 5.
Cornell has no seniors and only one junior in its top 5.
Penn has one senior and only one junior in its top 5.
Brown has one senior (but three juniors) in its top 5.

That being said, there is a big divide between the bottom four and top four, so the graduation of a few guys isn’t going to just automatically catapult you up. You don’t contend for Heps titles by moving guys from up from the 40 to the 20s. You win it by putting five guys in the top 20, and most of the guys finishing below 40 this year will likely never be top 20 at Heps.

Heps Teams Scored Separately At Wisco
Columbia 28 – 3, 4, 5, 6, 10
Harvard 39 – 1, 2, 7, 14, 15
Dartmouth 53 – 8, 9, 11, 12, 13
Heps Teams Scored Separately At Pre-Nats  
Princeton 18 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 8
Yale 56 – 6, 7, 11, 12, 20  4
Cornell 72 – 9, 13, 15, 17, 18
Penn 83 – 5, 16, 19, 21, 22
1-5 Spread
28 seconds
89 seconds
25 seconds
1-5 Spread
36 seconds
41 seconds
25 seconds
57 seconds

Team Predictions

1. Princeton – If Eddie Owens was running as well as he did last year, I’d be a lot more confident in their chances. With their firepower up front, they should win, particularly if they bring it like they did last year at Heps XC and Heps outdoor track, but if someone has an off day, they don’t have a lot of backup.
2. Columbia – Close yet again. They may be the favorites for 2014, though, as Princeton loses a lot, and it will be interesting to see how the Princeton dynasty holds up the more removed they are from the Donn Cabral/Brian Leung era.
3. Harvard
 – 2013 is a great year for Boston sports teams. Welcome to the top four for the first time in 20 years.
4. Dartmouth
– Dartmouth often rises to the occasion at Heps but Harvard seems too loaded up front.
5. Yale
– I’m probably most confident in this pick and #8.
6. Cornell – My beloved former team ran way better than predicted at Heps last year to get fourth and only 6 points out of third, but injuries to key seniors have hurt them so far this year. 4:02 miler John Schilkowsky is still out after missing outdoors last year and 14:15 5,000 man Max Groves has only finished one race this year.
7. Penn – Give Steve Dolan at least five years to build the team. This is only year #2. Props to Connor Paez, who is doing great this fall in his comeback from his motorcycle accident. He’s gone from 4:14 for 1,500 last spring to 25:03 at Paul Short. Could place sixth if they get a real low score by Awad, as these other teams don’t seem to have any potential low sticks.
8. Brown
– Someone has to finish last. Bears, take solace in the fact that the Heps is often the deepest conference in the country.

I feel very confident in those team picks. It’s scary how those basically mimic the “remove the seniors” list from last year. I’d be VERY surprised if any of the teams finish more than one spot off of where they are placed. It makes me miss the days before the Internet when more than half the teams went to Heps probably thinking they had a chance to win it as so little info was known about everyone. Take 1995. A good friend of LetsRun, who was a captain of a men’s team that year, took a bottle of champagne to the meet convinced his team would emerge as the champions even though they didn’t finish in the top 4.

Individual Predictions

Leakos and Korolev from Harvard may have an advantage in the fact that the Princeton and Columbia guys may want to play it conservative to pack up and run for the team title. It would be incredibly cool just from a personal redemption story to see them go 1-2.

They might go 1-2 no matter what happens. At Paul Short, Leakos was 33 seconds better than the second Ivy League finisher (Dartmouth’s Geoghegan). At Wisconsin, Korolev was the top Ivy League finisher by 19 seconds. The second Ivy guy was Leakos, who was still 20 seconds ahead of the next Ivy League finisher (Sienko of Columbia).

Maksim Korolev’s 33:55 debacle at NCAAs in June will be all but forgotten if he wins Heps cross-country. More 2013 NCAA Track and Field Photos.

Top 11 Individual Predictions
1) Korolev – H
2) Leakos – H
3) Bendsten – Pr
4) Udland – Pr
5) Everett – Col
6) Sienko – Col
7) Gregorek – Col
8) Bleday – D
9) Arroyo-Yamin – Pr
10) Pons – Pr
11) Geoghegan – D

One thing worth noting if you look at the individual returners below is that only five of the top 15 graduated from last year (seniors normally take a more of the top spots at Heps). So there will be a number of top guys this year who are finishing worse than they did last year. That mentally can wear on someone. When you gear up for a big senior year, you envision training hard to win it, not finish eighth. How some guys handle that may determine the team battle.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Discuss this topic in our 2013 Heps Discussion Message Board Thread: HEPS XC 2013 OFFICIAL THREAD or email me.

Oh yeah, please show this to your mom, dad and teammates as well.

More: 2013 Ivy League Heps Women’s Cross-Country Preview

Returning Points From Last Year’s Heps
Princeton  1, 2, 3, 5, 819
Columbia 9, 11, 14, 17, 2374
Dartmouth 4, 12, 16, 21, 2780
Harvard 13, 15, 18, 22, 36104
Yale 6, 24, 32, 35, 37134
Cornell 7, 20, 30, 38, 39134
Penn 19, 25, 28, 49, 53174
Brown 33, 40, 44, 48, 50215
PLACE  PTS NAME                      YR  TEAM                        TIME    PACE
1    1    1 Chris Bendtsen            JR  Princeton                  23:41.8  4:47
2    2    2 Alejandro Arroyo Yamin    JR  Princeton                  23:48.1  4:48
     3    3 Leighton Spencer          SR  Columbia                   23:50.6  4:48 
3    4    4 Tyler Udland              JR  Princeton                  23:51.3  4:48
4    5    5 Will Geoghegan            JR  Dartmouth                  23:54.2  4:49
     6    6 Phil Royer                SR  Dartmouth                  23:57.6  4:50 
5    7    7 Jonathan Vitez            JR  Princeton                  23:57.8  4:50
     8    8 Mike Murphy               SR  Columbia                   23:59.3  4:50 
    9    9 Nick Wade                 SR  Cornell                    24:02.8  4:51
6   10   10 Matt Nussbaum             SO  Yale                       24:05.0  4:51
7   11   11 Max Groves                JR  Cornell                    24:06.1  4:51
8   12   12 Eddie Owens               SO  Princeton                  24:06.6  4:51
9   13   13 Jake Sienko               JR  Columbia                   24:12.5  4:53
10   14   14 Matt McDonald             SO  Princeton                  24:13.0  4:53
    15   15 Brett Kelly               SR  Cornell                    24:13.1  4:53 
11   16   16 Daniel Everett            SO  Columbia                   24:14.3  4:53
12   17   17 Steve Mangan              JR  Dartmouth                  24:14.8  4:53
    18   18 Ben Veilleux              SR  Columbia                   24:16.0  4:53 
13   19   19 James Leakos              JR  Harvard                    24:16.6  4:53
    20   20 Matt McCullough           SR  Cornell                    24:17.5  4:54 
14   21   21 Byron Jones               JR  Columbia                   24:23.8  4:55
15   22   22 Maksim Korolev            JR  Harvard                    24:24.3  4:55
16   23   23 Dylan O’Sullivan          SO  Dartmouth                  24:25.6  4:55
    24   24 Mark Feigen               SR  Columbia                   24:25.8  4:55 
17   25      Ben Golestan              FR  Columbia                   24:27.6  4:56
18   26   25 Tom Purnell               FR  Harvard                    24:29.8  4:56
    27   26 Jonathan Gault            SR  Dartmouth                  24:30.3  4:56 
19   28   27 Brendan Smith             FR  Penn                       24:30.3  4:56
20   29   28 John Schilkowsky          JR  Cornell                    24:31.8  4:57
21   30   29 Curtis King               FR  Dartmouth                  24:32.3  4:57
22   31   30 Kurt Ruegg                JR  Harvard                    24:35.3  4:57
    32   31 Conor Grogan              SR  Brown                      24:38.5  4:58 
23   33      Nico Composto             JR  Columbia                   24:40.3  4:58
    34      Steve Iglehart            SR  Columbia                   24:41.5  4:59 
24   35   32 Alexander Conner          FR  Yale                       24:42.1  4:59
25   36   33 Thomas Awad               FR  Penn                       24:44.8  4:59
    37   34 Kevin Lunn                SR  Yale                       24:46.8  5:00 
   38   35 Billy Gaudreau            FR  Harvard                    24:48.3  5:00
    39   36 Michael Kiley             SR  Penn                       24:49.3  5:00 
26   40      John Gregorek             JR  Columbia                   24:49.3  5:00
27   41   37 Henry Sterling            JR  Dartmouth                  24:49.3  5:00
    42   38 Jakob Lindaas             SR  Harvard                    24:50.3  5:00 
28   43   39 Brandon Clark             FR  Penn                       24:52.3  5:01
    44   40 Tim Hillas                SR  Yale                       24:53.6  5:01 
29   45      Silas Talbot              SO  Dartmouth                  24:56.8  5:02
30   46   41 Ben Potts                 SO  Cornell                    24:57.1  5:02
31   47      Brian Masterson           FR  Dartmouth                  24:57.6  5:02
32   48   42 Isa Qasim                 SO  Yale                       24:58.3  5:02
33   49   43 Brendan Boyle             JR  Brown                      24:59.0  5:02
34   50   44 Sam Pons                  SO  Princeton                  25:00.1  5:02
    51      Adam Doherty              SR  Dartmouth                  25:00.1  5:02 
    52   45 Austin Snyder             SR  Brown                      25:01.0  5:02 
    53      Max Kaulbach              SR  Princeton                  25:03.1  5:03 
    54      Mike Danaher              SR  Dartmouth                  25:03.8  5:03 
35   55   46 John McGowan              SO  Yale                       25:09.8  5:04
36   56   47 Dan Milechman             FR  Harvard                    25:10.6  5:04
37   57   48 Kevin Dooney              FR  Yale                       25:16.1  5:05
E   58      Sam Berger                FR  Princeton                  25:16.3  5:06
38   59   49 Ben Rainero               FR  Cornell                    25:16.6  5:06
    60      Demetri Goutos            SR  Yale                       25:16.8  5:06 
39   61      Tyler Eustance            SO  Cornell                    25:18.1  5:06
    62      Matt Thwaites             SR  Yale                       25:18.6  5:06 
    63   50 Kevin Foy                 SR  Penn                       25:19.1  5:06 
40   64   51 Ned Willig                FR  Brown                      25:20.1  5:06
41   65      Andrew Herring            JR  Cornell                    25:23.3  5:07
E   66      David Pugliese            FR  Princeton                  25:23.8  5:07
42   67      Will Geiken               SO  Harvard                    25:24.1  5:07
43   68      Connor Herr               FR  Cornell                    25:25.1  5:07
    69   52 George Dickson            SR  Penn                       25:29.3  5:08 
44   70      Mark McGurrin             SO  Brown                      25:31.3  5:09
45   71      Ryan Laemel               JR  Yale                       25:33.3  5:09
46   72      Andy Gonzalez             SO  Harvard                    25:35.1  5:09
47   73      Michael Cunetta           JR  Yale                       25:36.9  5:10
48   74      Jeff Bush                 JR  Brown                      25:40.0  5:10
E   75      Brian Eimstad             FR  Cornell                    25:40.6  5:10
E   76      Lukas Gemar               FR  Harvard                    25:43.1  5:11
49   77      Connor Jaramillo          SO  Penn                       25:43.8  5:11
E   78      Michael Sublette          FR  Princeton                  25:44.6  5:11
    79   56 Kevin Cooper              SR  Brown                      25:54.5  5:13 
50   80      Colin Savage              JR  Brown                      25:59.1  5:14
51   81      Will Sheeran              FR  Brown                      26:02.8  5:15
52   82      Kyler Evitt               JR  Brown                      26:03.0  5:15
E   83      Jacob Sandry              SO  Yale                       26:05.1  5:15
E   84      Sean Pohorence            SR  Harvard                    26:05.5  5:15
E   85      Chris Allen               FR  Harvard                    26:09.6  5:16
53   86      John Foye                 JR  Penn                       26:13.5  5:17
54   87      John Trueman              SO  Penn                       26:21.3  5:19
E   88      Ben Stephenson            SR  Brown                      26:34.1  5:21
55   89      Dustin Wilson             FR  Columbia                   27:12.8  5:29