Women's Cross Country Heads to NCAA Northeast Regional

Women's Cross Country Heads to NCAA Northeast Regional

Junior Courtney Smith is ranked No. 6 in the nation in the 2016 Saucony Flo50 Women's Individual XC Rankings (Gil Talbot)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard women's cross country team and men's team member Kieran Tuntivate will compete at the NCAA Northeast Regional on Friday, Nov. 11, hosted by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at Van Cortlandt Park in New York. The women's 6K will begin at 11:00 a.m., followed by the men's 8K, which will begin at noon.

About the NCAA Northeast Regional
The MAAC hosts the 2016 NCAA Northeast Regional, where student-athletes from 40 women's teams and 41 men's teams will compete. The Harvard women's team enters the competition ranked No. 2 in the latest USTFCCCA regional rankings, the highest mark in program history. Harvard finished sixth at the event last season. The Crimson enters the weekend with a 29-17 record, including an 8-3 record against other ranked opponents.

About Van Cortlandt Park
Van Cortlandt Park's Cross Country running trail has been an important venue for the sport for 100 years. The course opened in 1913 looping throughout the park. In the past races took place on the golf course and on other trails. The park's hilly geology of Fordham Gneiss outcrops offers great challenges for runners. The steepest part, known as "The Wall," tests every runner's stamina. Starting in the flats of the Parade Ground and circling over Vault Hill, the course winds through the Northwest Woods and ends back at the Parade Ground.

The Last Time Out
It was a historic day for the Harvard women's cross country team at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at West Windsor Fields. Junior Courtney Smith won the individual title in 20:19.6 to lead the Crimson to its first Heps title since 1985 and seventh overall in program history. Smith's finish, the first individual title for Harvard since Suzanne Jones in 1989, was part of an outstanding team performance for the Crimson.

Harvard's top five finishers placed in the top 12 of the race, as the Crimson totaled 33 points, ahead of Yale (69 points), and Penn (77 points) on the podium. Smith was followed by freshman Erin Dietz, who placed fifth in 20:37.8 and freshman Judy Pendergast, who finished sixth in 20:39.4. Another member of Harvard's standout freshman class, Lisa Tertsch, finished ninth in 20:47.6. Junior Elianna Shwayder placed 12th in 20:51.7 to round out the scoring for Harvard.

The men's team, led by sophomore Kieran Tuntivate's 18th place finish, finished in eighth place with 194 points.

Ivy Laurels
The top five finishers from the Harvard women's cross country team earned All-Ivy League recognition after a historic performance for the Crimson at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. In addition, associate head coach Patrick Wales-Dinan was named Ivy League Women's Coach of the Year.

Courtney Smith earned All-Ivy League First Team recognition by way of her top-seven finish, marking the second consecutive year that she has earned first team honors. Freshman Erin Dietz, who placed fifth and freshman Judy Pendergast, who finished sixth were also first team selections. Harvard's All-Ivy Second Team members were freshman Lisa Tertsch (ninth at Heps) and junior Elianna Shwayder (12th at Heps).

In The Rankings
Harvard moved up to No. 18 in the National Coaches Poll released on Oct. 31 by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Harvard is ranked No. 16 in the Saucony Flo50 team rankings, and Courtney Smith is ranked No. 6 in the nation in the Saucony Flo50 individual rankings.

Thus far in 2016, Harvard has faced off against six Ivy men's programs while the women have competed against six Ancient Eight foes as well. The Harvard women's team is 6-3 against Ivy competition this season.

A Year Ago
The Harvard women's team finished sixth at the NCAA Regionals, led by Courtney Smith's fifth place showing, helping her qualify for the NCAA Championships. Smith finished 60th in the field of 254 runners, narrowly missing All-America recognition with her time of 20:36.6. The Crimson placed seventh at the 2015 Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, led by Smith's third place finish. The women's team won the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, the programs' first victory in the event since 1995, as Smith and senior Paige Kouba finished second and third respectively to lead the Crimson.

Scouting Harvard
The women's team enters the 2016 season ranked No. 13 in the Saucony Flo50 XC countdown and No. 25 in the USTFCCCA preseason coaches' poll, the second time in program history the Crimson have been ranked in the coaches' poll. Harvard is led by junior Courtney Smith, who qualified for the NCAA championships last fall. Smith was an indoor All-American during the track season, and qualified for the USATF Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters after running 32:08.32 at the Stanford Invitational – a top-10 mark in NCAA history. Harvard also returns junior Elianna Shwayder, who was consistently a top-three finisher for the Crimson. On the men's side, the Crimson began the season ranked in the USTFCCCA Northeast regional preseason poll. Harvard senior Brandon Price is Harvard's leading returner. Price was Harvard's top finisher last season at Coast to Coast Battle of Beantown.

At the Helm
Jason Saretsky is in his 11th season as the William W. "Bill" McCurdy Director of Track and Field/Cross Country, and during his tenure the Crimson has landed 29 student-athletes on All-America teams. A five time Women's USTFCCCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year winner, Saretsky has mentored 40 combined NCAA qualifiers at Harvard.

What's Next?
Harvard will await selection to the NCAA National Championship, held at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 19.