Harriers from across the Ancient Eight will meet at Princeton on Saturday to vie for an all-important HEPS title. With only eight teams, the Ivy League sports one of the smallest conference meets in the nation, allowing us to look, team-by-team, at what will define the championships.
The Lions of Columbia enter the championships as the favorite and are slotted at #21 in the TSR rankings. Columbia’s season opened at the Iona Meet of Champions where they lost a tiebreaker to meet champion Indiana (current TSR#9). They then traveled to Wisconsin for the Nuttycombe Invitational, placing 11th, five points behind TSR#11 NC State. Finally, the Lions faced off with TSR#6 Villanova at the Princeton Invitational, placing 2nd with 38 points.
This team has not come away with any major victories yet, but they are battle tested and have yet to disappoint. Columbia is currently projected to win the Northeast Regional and has earned two wins against other projected top two teams as well as wins against potential at-large qualifiers. Columbia is also the defending champion from 2017. Combine these factors and the Lions will only be satisfied returning to New York City with the trophy. Expect Columbia’s recent race on the course to prepare them well for their title defense on Saturday.
Individually, Columbia does not return any All-Ivy performers from 2017. Their 2018 squad has been led by the trio of Erin Gregoire, Lauren Ryan, and Libby Kokes who have finished in a strong pack at both Princeton and Nuttycombe. Katie Wasserman was the fourth Lion across the line in both of those meets, only 12 seconds behind on both occasions. Finally, expect Abigail McLaughlin, Serena Tripodi, or Maria Kogan to be the fifth scorer for Columbia. The 1-5 spread should be the key to Columbia’s success this weekend as they’ve kept it under 30 seconds in their last two races.
Dartmouth Big Green
The 2nd place team at last year’s championship was Dartmouth. This season, Dartmouth has placed 5th at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown where they had the second fastest #5 runner at the meet. Dartmouth also raced their top squad at the Penn State National Open, placing 5th again. In national meet qualifying news, Dartmouth has secured one win against a projected top two team (Syracuse) and will most likely be looking for an automatic qualification to earn the trip to Nationals. Dartmouth’s depth is their biggest strength, and the Big Green will look to use it to dethrone Columbia. In a battle of packs, this race may be won in the 20's.
Individually, Dartmouth returns 2017 5th place finisher Olivia Lantz, 11th placer Julia Stevenson, and 13th place finisher Ella Ketchum, all three own All-Ivy status. Both Lantz and Stevenson, however, have not led the team, but both have contributed in the 3-5 scoring places. Ketchum has not placed in the top five at either Beantown or Penn State. Junior Lauren Sapone has been stepping up for the Dartmouth team as the de facto leader so far. Sapone has two 27th place finishes in her last two meets. Georgia Fear finished first for the team in State College, placing 24th. While the individual performances may not stand out, expect this team to step it up on Saturday as senior leadership and All-Ivy success should calm the nerves.
A 3rd place finish at Heps last season will most certainly be in the minds of the Bulldogs this weekend. While Yale is currently unranked, the Bulldogs did hold a TSR#25 ranking after an impressive win over a different Bulldog team, Georgia, at the Paul Short Gold Race. Yale then placed 11th in a deep Pre-Nats White Race. Not to be forgotten, Yale fought for a close 2nd place finish at the annual H-Y-P meet, losing to Princeton by a single point. In terms of NCAA qualifying, Yale is on the outside looking in, relying on a win over Georgia at Paul Short as their only potential Kolas win (note: Georgia is currently projected to be pushed in, meaning Yale would not earn a point from that victory). That does not mean that Yale cannot take home the HEPS title. In a race that could be a pack battle between Columbia and Dartmouth, Yale brings the front-runner.
Individually, Andrea Masterson is the clear leader of the Bulldogs. She ran her way to a runner-up finish in 2017, only .6 seconds behind the winner (Gabrielle Forrest of Princeton) who we will discuss in the next paragraphs. Masterson won the H-Y-P meet earlier this season and placed 4th at Paul Short Gold. She also placed 27th in the Pre-Nats White Race. Expect Masterson to challenge for the win again. Behind her, Yale returns Sevanne Ghazarian and Kayley DeLay who finished 5th and 12th respectfully at this meet last season. Additionally, Jocelyn Chau and Morgan McCormick were able to rise to the occasion at Paul Short. Chau continued her success at Nuttycombe, placing 54th overall.
If Chau, McCormick, Ghazarian, and DeLay can form a pack and finish with the Columbia and Dartmouth squads, Masterson’s front-running will win the Bulldogs a title they have not won since 2001.
The Tigers of Princeton finished 4th in the 2017 championship and will look to improve upon that finish on their home course in 2018. As mentioned above, Princeton beat Yale by one point at a competitive H-Y-P meet in September. The Princeton women then competed at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational, beating D2 Grand Valley State, Ohio State, and Illinois among others. In their final HEPS prep, the Tigers raced at the Penn State Open for 4th place, beating Ivy League challenger Dartmouth by 4 points. In fact, Princeton has beaten every Ivy League team this season with the exception of Columbia. To qualify for Nationals, they will need to secure an automatic bid at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, having not beaten any projected qualifiers so far.
Individually, Melia Chittenden and Gillian Wagner are the team’s leaders. Wagner led the team at Loyola Lakefront and H-Y-P while Chittenden led the squad at Penn State (where Wagner was absent). With a strong pack of Alie Fordyce, Allie Klimkiewicz, and Page Lester, expect the Tigers to be challenging both Columbia and Dartmouth in the pack battle.
The potential X-factor for Princeton is Gabrielle Forrest, the defending Ivy League champion. She has yet to race this season, but could appear at HEPS as is customary for runners in the Ivy League, especially if they are battling injury. Forrest was an All-American on the grass in 2017, and would upgrade the Tigers to co-favorites with Columbia if she runs.
Cornell Big Red
The Big Red of Cornell enter having placed 5th in 2017. Cornell’s major results this season include a 4th place at the Spiked Shoe Invitational, another 4th place finish in the Paul Short Gold race, and an 18th place finish at the Penn State National Open. Cornell won the UB Stampede as well over Vermont and Connecticut in September
Individually, the Big Red are led by U23 World Triathlon champion Taylor Knibb who placed 36th at Penn State National and 9th at the Paul Short Gold race. With championship experience like Knibb, you should expect to see her at the front of the race in the final 2k. However, a long triathlon and cross country season could see her fade throughout the race as a number of Ivy rivals beat her at Penn State. Gabrielle Orie placed 7th for Cornell in 2017, but has not returned to that form in 2018. Pending a miraculous turn-around, Orie will likely not enter the scoring five for Cornell.
The group from Providence placed 6th in 2017, but will look to contend for a top-half placing in 2018. Brown placed an impressive 6th place at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown, only 20 points behind Dartmouth. They also placed 7th at the Penn State National Open. Brown has earned 1 win against top-2 projected Syracuse, and would likely need a top 2 finish at the Northeast Regional to qualify for NCAAs.
Individually, Carleen Jeffers and Maya Smith look to lead this Squad. Smith finished 12th and Jeffers 17th at Beantown, while Jeffers placed 10th and Smith 22nd at Penn State. Smith was the top Ivy finisher at Beantown, with Jeffers leading the HEPS crowd in State College. Having defeated so many conference rivals already this season, Brown could be looking for two First-Team All-Ivy finishes.
Allison Bellows should cross the line third for the Bears, finding herself inside the battle of the Princeton, Columbia, and Dartmouth packs. If she finishes ahead of them, Brown could upset a few teams and (at the very least) have their top three inflate the scores of their opponents (via displacement).
In order for the Bears to be in contention for a win, they need to close the gap between their #4 and #5. Their fifth runner gave up 49 and 57 points to Dartmouth’s and Princeton’s fifths at Penn State, while finishing alongside them would’ve had the Bears beat both teams. A smaller meet should benefit Brown more than the other programs, but the league’s 6th and 7th runners could spoil the day for Brown.
The Quakers enter this weekend looking to redeem themselves after a 7th place finish the year before. Penn’s most recent result was 17th place at the Penn State National Open, one spot above Cornell. Penn’s other major race was the Paul Short Gold race where they placed 11th. Penn is on the outside-looking-in for this weekend and for NCAA qualification.
Individually, Penn will be looking to Maddie Villalba to lead the team. Her best placing at a major invitational was 18th at Paul Short, while she placed 59th at Penn State National. The Quakers will also be looking for Danielle Orie, who placed 8th at the Ivy League Championships last fall to battle back from injuries and return to All-Ivy status (Danielle’s injury status was reported by The Daily Pennsylvanian).
2017 was not kind to the Harvard Crimson as they finished at the bottom of the league. An improved team may help them improve their finish this year. Harvard finished 15th in the Pre-Nats White race and secured a 4th place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational, after losing to Princeton and Yale at their tri-meet. NCAA qualification looks slim as Harvard is projected to finish behind their Ivy League counterparts at the Northeast regional. As of right now, the Crimson have yet to accumulate any Kolas points.
Individually, Lisa Tertsch should lead their squad after an impressive 18th place finish at the Pre-Nats White race. Her finish there was the top Ivy League performance where she was only two seconds behind Anna Rohrer of Notre Dame. Abbe Goldstein should be the #2 runner for Harvard after her 77th place finish in Wisconsin and a 4th place finish at H-Y-P. Harvard will need the back of their lineup to step up to improve their finish from 2017.
1. Andrea Masterson (Yale)
2. Lisa Tertsch (Harvard)
3. Carleen Jeffers (Brown)
4. Gillian Wagner (Princeton)
5. Jocelyn Chau (Yale)
6. Maya Smith (Brown)
7. Lauren Sapone (Dartmouth)
8. Georgia Fear (Dartmouth)
9. Melia Chittenden (Princeton)
10. Sevanne Ghazarian (Yale)
11. Erin Gregoire (Columbia)
12. Lauren Ryan (Columbia)
13. Libby Kokes (Columbia)
14. Julia Stevenson (Dartmouth)
15. Allison Bellows (Brown)
16. Taylor Knibb (Cornell)
17. Kayley DeLay (Yale)
18. Katie Wasserman (Columbia)
19. Maddie Villalba (Penn)
20. Allie Klimkiewicz (Princeton)
1. Yale Bulldogs (60)
2. Columbia Lions (77)
3. Dartmouth Big Green (79)
4. Princeton Tigers (84)
5. Brown Bears (97)
6. Harvard Crimson (152)
7. Penn Quakers (170)
8. Cornell Big Red (194)