Today, senior Bruce Hyde will attempt to become the first male cross-country runner in over 20 years to repeat as the individual champion at the Heptagonal Cross-Country Championships. The race will be held at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. Hyde won the event last year, crossing the line in 24:35.5. Dartmouth’s Jim Sapienza was the last individual to win consecutive championships, in 1982, ’83 and ’84.
Winning again will be no simple feat for Hyde, as several other Ivy League runners have had impressive seasons as well. Princeton’s Frank MacCreery and Dartmouth’s Ben True should give Hyde a strong front group to run with.
“Bruce is going to have his hands full,” said distance coach Robert Johnson. “Those three will really battle it out for the win.”
Johnson has confidence in Hyde, however, noting that even though his times to date may not predict a win, he generally comes on stronger towards the end of the season when it counts.
“Historically, Bruce has stepped it up when it counts,” Johnson said, noting his victories in both Heps and Regionals last year. “His times this year are almost identical to his times at this time last year. Last year, his time at Heps came down 27 seconds from the first time he ran the course in September.”
Another runner to keep an eye on in the men’s race will be junior Brad Baird, who will look to improve on his 31st place finish last year. Baird has already brought his time down from last year’s Heps by an impressive 40 seconds. His time of 25:10 at the Iona Meet of Champions in September is the fourth fastest on the course out of everyone who will be competing this weekend.
Dartmouth is the overwhelming favorite for the team title, having four of the eight top returning runners from last year’s race.
“Based on returning points, we will be fourth, but quite honestly we have some guys capable of running better than before. You never know. There is a reason to run a race,” Johnson said.
The Red will count on senior Bryan Jarrett, junior Ricky Lader, sophomores Sage Canaday and Jimmy Wyner, and freshman Sam Luff to round out the top-7. Sickness has plagued Wyner over the past few weeks, but after a round of antibiotics, he should be back in top condition. Each of the top-7, excluding Canaday and Luff, have been to Heps in previous years.
“We have a battle-tested, consistent team, which should work in our favor,” Johnson said.
The women’s team will also be up against some tough competition, individually and as a team. Last year’s team champion, Columbia, will be the team to beat. Currently ranked seventh in the nation, the Lions will return to the event with six of their top-7 finishers from last year, including individual champion Caroline Bierbaum.
Junior Nyam Kagwima, who has had stronger performances this season than in the past, is the Red’s top returning finisher from last year’s event, when she placed 36th in 18:42.7. The Red lost four of its top-7 runners from last year to graduation. A strong group of younger competitors has replaced them, but inexperience in a large championship race may not work to the Red’s advantage.
Until now, the women have been running relatively close to one another, keeping the spread between them small.
“If our top person can get in the mix, then I think we have a chance to do well because our pack should be tight,” said head coach Lou Duesing.
Kagwima will be joined by freshman Aerial Emig, Marie Parks and Danielle Schaub to lead the way for the Red.
For much of the men’s and women’s cross-country teams, today will be the climax to the season that began over two months ago.
According to Johnson, the hard work and dedication they have put in during practices and races was simply preparation for Heps.
“Cross-country is a sport with a 100 percent final exam,” Johnson said. “And if you do well, you get extra credit – [a trip to the] Regionals.”
Archived article by Erin Garry
Sun Staff Writer