NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Harvard men's and women's cross country squads have each been selected sixth in the 2014 USTFCCCA Northeast Preseason Poll, announced by the organization this week. The rankings match where both teams finished the 2013 season.
The men's team, which reached the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1979 last season, returns three of its top-five finishers from that squad. Despite losing All-American Maksim Korolev and Kurt Ruegg to graduation, the Crimson returns seniors Will Geiken and Adam Cotton, as well as junior Tom Purnell.
Geiken was the second Crimson runner to cross the line at the NCAA Championships last season. He put together strong performances at the Paul Short Invitational and Heps last season in solidifying his spot among the Crimson top five. Cotton was the top finisher for Harvard last season at the Princeton meet, as well as scoring at Heps. Purnell returns for his junior year after capturing All-Ivy League second team honors last year. The Gloucestershire, U.K., native had standout performances at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational and Heps a year ago.
Another upperclassman that will look to make an impact this season is senior Daniel Milechman. A top-five scorer during his sophomore campaign, Milechman posted a top-20 finish at the Princeton Invitational that year. He was the third Crimson finisher last season at the IC4A/ECAC Championships.
Harvard's women also lost a pair of top-five scorers to graduation last spring, but return three key contributors from a team that took sixth at the 2013 Northeast Regional meet. Seniors Viviana Hanley and Molly Renfer will be back in the Crimson for their final season, with sophomore Madeleine Ankhelyi joining them. Hanley was Harvard's top female finisher at the regional meet last year, capturing 18th place, while Renfer took 30th. Ankhelyi's first season as a Crimson runner culminated with a 59th-place finish at Regionals.
Two newcomers expected to make an impact earlier on for Harvard are Courtney Smith and Marissa Saenger. Smith was selected to the all-state team in Pennsylvania three times in her high school career at Unionville. She was also honored as the 2012 PIAA Cross Country Runner of the Year in 2012, was a Gatorade Cross Country Student-Athlete of the Year and capped her career with 2013 Cross Country All-America accolades. Saenger joins the Crimson with a long list of high school honors as well. The Clarence, N.Y., native was a 2012 Foot Locker national finalist and Western New York Runner of the Year, a four-time ECIC All-League first team selection and a 2013 Wendy's High School Heisman Award winner.
The Crimson opens the 2014 season with a trip to Yale on September 12. Harvard will race on its home course on September 26, competing in the Coast to Coast Battle of Beantown at Franklin Park.