Cross Country Powers Through Mud to Post Pair of Top-15 Finishes at Paul Short Invitational

Harvard faced its toughest competition of the year Friday at the Paul Short Invitational (Harvard Track & Field/Cross Country).

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A muddy course on the campus of Lehigh couldn't hold up the Harvard cross country team as both the men and women posted top-15 finishes Friday at the Paul Short Invitational. The men's team placed ninth out of 45 schools, totaling 279 points on the day and finished ahead of No. 19 Virginia and league rival No. 12 Princeton. The women finished 14th in a field of 45, which featured four of the nation's top-10 schools.

Oklahoma took home the men's title, placing four runners within the top seven finishers, and Providence claimed the women's title by just three points over Villanova.     

"I am really pleased with both the men's and women's performances," said director of Harvard track and field and cross country Jason Saretsky. "James Leakos especially had a breakout performance as he finished ahead of all of the other Ivy runners as well as all of the runners from the Northeast who were in the race.  It was unfortunate that a couple of our top guys got caught behind the big spill that happened 400 meters into the race, but I was really proud of the way they moved up throughout the race.  Our women continue to improve each week and I remain confident we will continue to get stronger as the season moves along."

The Crimson men turned in another full team effort, finishing in ninth position and placing all five scoring runners in the top 100. Harvard-Yale hero James Leakos got off to a strong start and had rookie teammate Billy Orman by his side through the early portion of the race. Sophomore Kurt Ruegg was just off the pace of the two Harvard front-runners in the early going, but kept the leaders in his sights throughout the competition.

With 200 meters to go, Leakos worked his way into the top five and held on through the home stretch to lead the Crimson with a time of 24:14, good for fifth in a field of over 400 runners, and first among Ivy League competitors. The freshman Orman proved again he is a force to be reckoned with, coming in at 24:58 in 32nd position and second among first-year runners. Ruegg crossed the line in 25:11 and did well to hold off a pack of runners behind him, placing 48th overall. After a tough start, sophomore Kellen Blumberg spent most of the race passing people and vaulted into 96th with a time of 25:32. Harvard's final scorer, sophomore Maksim Korolev, turned in a time of 25:32, good for 98th overall, despite having a pack of 10 runners go down in front of him just 400 meter into the race.   

Despite the slower race conditions, the Harvard men posted a faster average time than the last time the team competed at the Paul Short event in 2007. The top five runners posted an average time of 25:25 at the 2007 event, while the top five runners in 2011 averaged a time of 25:05, showing the depth of the team.

It was the seniors that did the most damage in the women's race as Kailyn Kuzmuk and Jeanne Mack were the top two finishers for Harvard. After leading the Crimson attack at the HY(P) meet, Kuzmuk was once again the strongest runner for Harvard, placing 73rd with a time of 21:51. Mack was right on her heels with a time of 22:01, finishing in 83rd position, while sophomore Emily Reese was just four seconds off Mack's pace with a 90th-best time of 22:05. Freshmen Viviana Hanley (95th, 22:09) and Alaina Alvarez (106th, 22:18) were the final scorers for the Crimson on the day.   

Harvard will take to the course next at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational Oct. 14 in Madison, Wis. Harvard will also be sending runners to the Brown Invite in Providence, R.I. the same day.