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*LRC Men’s Race Preview: 2014 Ivy League Heps Men’s Cross Country Preview: The Most Wide-Open Race in A Long, Long Time Should Be Exciting.
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by Robert Johnson
October 30, 2014
Heps fans, let me apologize. After writing more than I did for my junior paper at Princeton on the 2014 men’s Heps (8,000+ words; I always said once you got into Princeton, it wasn’t too hard to get out except for the fact you had to do independent work), I’ve got to admit I don’t have the energy or expertise to write as much about the women’s race.
In many ways, the women’s race is similar to the men’s. Graduation, just as was the case on the men’s side, hit the league hard. The top teams aren’t as good this year as last nor are the top individuals as the men lost Maksim Korolev and the women Abbey D’Agostino.
The women’s race features the same top two teams as the men’s – Princeton and Dartmouth – but neither is a sure thing and a slew of teams behind them, with up and down results, are dreaming of capitalizing on a mistake by the Tigers or Big Green.
As one Heps coach said, “I don’t think there is any one team from either gender that has had the kind of stand-out season that says, ‘Come and get us.’ I’ve never seen it this wide-open – probably someone will end up winning by a wide margin but I just don’t know who it will be.
“Other than Princeton, no one from Heps returns their #1 and #2 runners from last year. That’s why I think everyone has been so inconsistent. There are a lot of good people out there but some really good people graduated from last year.”
Princeton and Dartmouth are very close on paper. The Tigers are ranked #25; Dartmouth is #26. Neither teams has lost to another Ivy team all year but neither team has a real impressive win either. Let me take a look at both teams now.
2013 Team Scores
1. Dartmouth, 38
2. Cornell, 66
3. Harvard, 73
4. Princeton, 95
5. Columbia, 101
6. Penn, 166
7. Brown, 174
8. Yale, 182
1 D’Agostino, Abbey SR-4 Dartmouth 19:40.8
Princeton – Princeton (21 points) handily beat Yale (47) and Harvard (68) to start the season, then crushed Penn at Notre Dame (215 to 407) and handily beat Yale again at Pre-Nats (288 to 518).
Sophomore Meghan Curham was fourth last year as a frosh and seems to be the Heps individual favorite. Yes, she lost her season opener to Yale’s Kira Garry but since then she’s been spectacular has gotten better each race, finishing seventh at Notre Dame and second at Pre-Nats where she got ample revenge on Gary by 37.6 seconds.
The scary thing about Princeton is they are very young. Their top four at Notre Dame went sophomore, sophomore, freshman, junior. #2 runner Kathryn Fluehr, who was 18th at Heps as a frosh, has been running great as well as she was 12th at Notre Dame and 21st at Pre-Nats. The Tigers’ #3 is super frosh Natalie Rathjen of Highland Park, Tex. (Editor’s note: The home of LetsRun.com co-founders Robert and Weldon Johnson from age 0 to 4). Rathjen, the Texas XC athlete of the year last year during which she was state champ and an NXN and Foot Locker qualifier, hasn’t had any trouble with the transition to college running as she was 38th at Notre Dame and 54th at Pre-Nats.
Coach Peter Farrell on Why The Tigers Should Be Excited About Heps:
“The Princeton program is in very good shape. The team jelled well at Pre Nats and you know what Heps means to these kids. We’re off from school this week (fall break) so I’m expecting a well-rested, energized bunch of Tigers to take the field on Saturday. That’s our field – Princeton’s home course. The team has been excited about this meet for a long time.”
Coach Peter Farrell on Why The Tigers Should Be Nervous About Heps:
“Well…the weather doesn’t look promising but the weather is the same for all. It should be a very competitive close race. Two teams have been consistently ranked in the top 30. Others have shown glimpses of pulling it together. We’ll settle it out on West Windsor Field.
“The Heps, as you know, has such a great tradition. They’ll be getting after it come Saturday.”
Dartmouth – Defending champion Dartmouth also is undefeated against Ivy League schools this year. With new coach Courtney Jaworski at the helm, they nearly were perfect against Brown to start the year (16 to 51), then beat Harvard, Cornell and Columbia in Boston where it was pretty tight. Dartmouth was fifth with 207 points and a 17:54 average, Harvard was eighth with 250 and an 18:04 average and Cornell was 9th with a 254 and a 17:54 average. Columbia was 13th with 286 and an 18:09 average.
At Wisconsin, Dartmouth again beat Harvard, Cornell and Columbia but this time it was by a much more comfortable margin. Dartmouth was 19th with 511 points and a 21:12 average, Columbia was 28th with 657 and a 21:30 average, Cornell 31st with 690 and a 21:35 average, and Harvard 34th with 798 and a 21:46 average.
Considering Dartmouth beat all of those teams by at least 18 seconds on average over 6k, it’s hard to see them losing to any of those teams at Heps without a monumental blowup. Dartmouth is very strong up front. Returning All-American Dana Giordano, the Heps 1500 champ and indoor 3000 champ last year who also was an NCAA qualifier in the 5000 outdoors, was fifth last year at Heps in a meet where four of the top six departed. Expect her and Meghan Curham to battle it out for the individual title although that’s not a foregone conclusion. Giordano did lose to Cornell’s Taylor Spillane in Boston but then beat her by 37 seconds in Wisconsin for revenge.
Coach Courtney Jaworski on Why The Big Green Should Be Excited About Heps:
“This year’s team is relatively deep. Outside the consistent top three performers (Dana Giordano, Sarah DeLozier and Ellie Gonzalez) we’ve had Reid Watson, Alison Lanois, Leigh Moffett and Sarah Bennett rotate in our four and five spots at least once this season. Watson and Helen Schlachtenhaufen, too, have seen huge improvements in their running when compared to last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schlachtenhaufen in our top seven at Heps.”
Coach Courtney Jaworski on Why The Big Green Should Be Nervous About Heps:
”I’m expecting a good fight up front between Giordano and Megan Curham of Princeton. Curham had a wonderful day at Pre-Nats, impressively beating Katrina Coogan and Erin Finn to name a few. Taylor Spillane of Cornell, too, may be in the mix as she had a great race at Boston College’s C2CBNB earlier this year.”
So Who Is Better: Dartmouth Or Princeton?
We’ll found out on Saturday. There is a reason these teams are ranked right next to each other.
There are stats that point towards both teams.
Pointing towards Princeton is the fact that in Boston, Dartmouth could only come within 29 seconds per woman of either Georgetown and Michigan (losing to Georgetown by 29 seconds per woman and Michigan by 40). At Pre-Nats, Princeton lost to Georgetown and Michigan but came within 23 seconds (losing to Michigan by 18 and Georgetown by 23). Of course, Curham’s really low time really helps Princeton average time a lot but realize that the race in Boston was just 5k and the race at Pre-Nats was a kilometer longer. So Princeton was closer to Georgetown/Michigan at 6k than Dartmouth was at 5k.
Of course, Dartmouth fans will point out that BYU beat Princeton at Notre Dame but lost to Dartmouth at Wisconsin.
Another Ivy League coach said he thinks Dartmouth is the favorite.
“I think Dartmouth is the favorite. They seem to be a little stronger but Princeton has a great #1 and #2. I think two of your top four are Princeton and Dartmouth but after that it’s wide open.”
The Rest of The League
Behind the two favorites, there are a number of teams hoping to take advantage of an off day by the top two. Figuring out which team is most likely to do that is a bit tough.
In Boston, Harvard beat Cornell and Columbia although in some ways it was a tie between Cornell and Harvard as Harvard had to 250 to Cornell’s 254 but Cornell had a better average time. In Wisconsin, the places were reversed. Columbia finished the highest with Cornell in the middle and Harvard last. Since Harvard was also crushed by both Princeton and Yale at HYP, I’m going to rule them out for third.
Yale and Brown also deserve mention as being roughly the same caliber of teams. At Paul Short, Yale beat Cornell (202 to 230) with Brown just right behind (235). In terms of five-woman average time though, it was Cornell (20:56), Yale (20:57), Brown (21:07). Yale might be the most improved team in the Heps as they have three freshmen in their top five.
Penn seems like the eighth-place team at Heps, but at Notre Dame they were 29 seconds behind Princeton per woman on average – the same deficit that Yale was behind Princeton at Pre-Nats.
Picking between these teams is next to impossible in many ways.
I provide quotes from all six coaches below and then make some predictions.
Brown Coach Mitchell Baker on Why Brown Fans Should Be Excited:
“Like the men, the women are training at a new level across the board. Our 1-5 split has also been solid throughout the season. By any measure, we are improved.”
Columbia Coach Dan Ireland on Why Columbia Fans Should Be Excited:
“I think we should be excited as Olivia Sadler is starting to run very well up front. She should be competing for a spot in the top five,” said Ireland of Sadler, who was third in the Heps 1500 last spring but only 78th in Heps cross last year.
“And we basically will return almost everybody for next year so the future is bright,” added Ireland.
Columbia Coach Dan Ireland on Why Columbia Fans Should Be Excited:
“The downside (of being young) is we have a lot of girls who haven’t scored at the Heps before – very few of our women have run at Heps – let alone scored at Heps. Of Columbia’s top five at Wisconsin, only one of them was higher than 50th at last year’s Heps meet (Pegah Kamrani who was 27th).
Cornell Coach Artie Smith on Why Cornell Fans Should Be Excited:
“This is as committed of a group as I’ve ever been around. Given the types of majors they have, they are real problem solvers, whenever we’ve had a frustrating race, they’ve immediately figured out how to correct it. I think they are really interested in figuring out how to be good. I’ve been seeing it come together in practice and we’re excited to see it come together in a meet.
“I think all fans – not just Cornell – should be excited to just see a thrilling Heps that is kind of wide open and just so competitive,” said Smith who also found it refreshing that the no individual is undefeated in Ivy competition as was the case in recent years with Abbey D’Agostino.
Cornell Coach Artie Smith on What Makes Him Nervous:
“I think it’s like anybody – you are hoping your team shows up healthy – and right now we are. But there is a lot of sickness floating around college campuses this time of year.But if we show up healthy, I think we’ll have a great day.”
Harvard Coach Jason Saretsky on Why Harvard Fans Should Be Excited:
“This is the most wide open Heps I can remember in the close to 20 years I have been associated with the League. It is going to be a fantastic meet.”
Harvard Coach Jason Saretsky on What Makes Him Nervous:
“Anything can happen out there once the gun goes off but that is also what makes it so exciting.”
Penn Coach Steve Dolan on Why Penn Fans Should Be Excited:
“On the women’s side, I”m pretty optimistic about things as we had arguably our best race of the season at Princeton [in our last race]. It seems that they are coming on at the right moment. If you look at lineup, we haven’t had the same lead runner in any one week. We have a very solid pack. We have more than two or three runners to watch – there are seven or eight that could be scorers.”
Penn Coach Steve Dolan on Why Penn Fans Should Be Nervous:
“Our two teams are very different. (The men have a low stick in Tommy Awad). With the women, it’s the just opposite, we have a very good pack. Can we find that low number?” said Dolan on his squad, which featured a two-second spread between#1 and #3 in their last race and just 28 seconds between #1 and #5.
Yale Coach Amy Gosztyla on Why Yale Fans Should Be Excited:
“Yale fans are very excited about Heps this weekend. The women’s team has a lot of depth this fall in our pack and we have Kira Garry leading the way as a strong front-runner for our team. It’s been an exciting season so far with a fairly young group, but it has been a consistent group, due to some great leadership from senior Kira Garry, and juniors Emily Stark and Elizabeth McDonald. We’re in a position to have our best Heps finish in quite some time, and we feel very relaxed and confident headed into this weekend. It’s going to be a fun one!”
Yale Coach Amy Gosztyla on Why Yale Fans Should Be Nervous:
“I don’t think fans need to be nervous about this weekend. The most interesting thing for Heps this year is how close the meet will be from top to bottom. The league has a lot of depth and it is going to come down to who performs the best on the day. It’s going to be an exciting meet for both genders.”
Predictions: Well I picked Dartmouth on the men’s side so that means I gotta go with Princeton for the women.
1) Princeton – If they don’t win this year, they win next.
2) Dartmouth – Where’s Abbey D when you need her?
3) Cornell – They haven’t had a great race all year, finishing between Harvard and Columbia the last two times out so I’m picking them to have a breakout race. (Yes, I’ll admit I’m biased as I coached there from 2002 to 2012. On the men’s side I’m afraid to go with my Cornell bias as I don’t want to anger my former co-coaches. On the women’s side, I’m more fearful of angering good friend Artie Smith. Columbia on paper could be #3 based on their last race but they are unproven whereas the Cornell squad is more experienced.)
4) Columbia – You deserve a #3 ranking but you are inexperienced and I’m biased.
5) Yale – Kira Garry seems to be winning the title of most-improved runner in the league this year. She’s had an unreal year so far. She took down Curham at HYP, was 9th at Paul Short and 24th at Pre-Nats. Not bad for someone who was just 63rd last year, didn’t score at indoor Heps and was third in the steeple outdoors. With three frosh in top five, look for Yale to be even better next year.
6) Brown – Soph Lucy Van Kleunen was the fourth Heps finisher at Paul Short.
7) Harvard – They were way back at Wisconsin and way back at HYP.
8) Penn – In the Ivy League, which is probably the deepest conference in the country first through last, it’s unfortunate someone has to be last.
Individual Race: Curham is your champ.
More: Discuss this year’s meet on our world famous messageboard: 2014 HEPS cross country thread.
Lots of great info can always be found on Hepstrack.com.
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