Battling freezing rain and unseasonable snow, Ethan Shaw ’12 and Abbey D’Agostino ’14 each ran their way to first place finishes at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Saturday. The Dartmouth men’s and women’s cross country teams finished third and fifth overall, respectively, while Princeton University won the men’s team title and Cornell University won the women’s.
The two individual wins marked the first time in Dartmouth history that the Big Green has won both races.
Shaw out-lunged Columbia University senior Kyle Merber the pre-race favorite in near-record breaking fashion. The .01 second margin of victory marked the second-closest finish of all time, bested only by Jim Sapienza ’85 and Frank Powers ’86 Th’90, who finished at the same time in 1984.
“I had to lean for my spot,” Shaw said.
D’Agostino, who is Dartmouth’s first individual female champion in 14 years, easily outpaced the field to win by over four seconds.
“Abbey is the best runner in the Ivy League, period,” women’s head coach Mark Coogan said. “She has all the tools. She can kick as well as anybody.”
The poor weather, which men’s head coach and 20-year coaching veteran Barry Harwick called “easily the worst I’ve ever seen,” slowed down racing times and affected some runners’ confidence.
Three Big Green runners particularly struggled due to the weather. Jonathan Gault ’13 fell at the one mile mark, Adam Doherty ’13 lost his shoe and did not finish the race and Phil Royer ’13 the team’s pre-race number-two runner did not cross the finish line due to an injured ankle, Harwick said.
“It was a crazy day,” Shaw said.
Coogan said the hazardous conditions made many inexperienced women’s team members “question their confidence.” Unable to get out to a good start, the squad other than D’Agostino “was just too far back” to pose any serious threat to the top runners.
Despite its slow start, the women’s fifth-place finish was its first top-five result at the Championships since 2004.
Traditionally held at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, construction on the park moved the race to Princeton. While many initially thought the move would favor the Tigers, Shaw said those concerns proved unfounded.
“The bad weather was a big equalizer,” he said. “It really made it so everyone was on the same level.”
As an underdog who said he generally runs well in bad weather, Shaw added that the conditions may have aided his performance.
“I tend to run well in crappy weather, so I was pretty excited to see this,” he said.
Shaw calculated a predetermined point in the race where he “wanted to make a move,” he said. On a slight uphill after the five-kilometer mark, Shaw turned it up another gear. While the extra effort separated him from the majority of the pack, he was still deadlocked with Merber.
“He passed me with 200 meters to go,” Shaw said.
Because Merber is known as a strong finisher, Shaw was surprised to see him “getting tired very quickly” in the last 50 meters.
“He just left the door open a little too long,” Shaw said. “I just snuck in in the last second. It just happened to be my day. I think if we race 10 times, there would be 10 different finishes.”
While Shaw’s finish was a last-second dash, D’Agostino’s race was a methodical conquest. Coogan said D’Agostino had a solid race strategy, which was to “get into the top three or four and just stay there, and over the last 400 meters just run really hard and win.”
While the bad weather slowed down the pace and kept the front pack together for a surprising three miles, D’Agostino said she knew that with one kilometer left, “if [she] was going to make a move it needed to be there.”
From there, D’Agostino concentrated on her own running pace, ignoring the cold and striding her way to the finish, she said.
In addition to D’Agostino’s winning time of 21:58.2, co-captain Alexi Pappas ’12 finished 20th with a time of 22:52.6. Hannah Rowe ’14 finished right behind her, coming in 22nd with a time of 22:57.3.
The Big Green’s fourth female runner, Kate Sullivan ’13, finished tied for 37th with a time of 23:12.9. Bridget End ’14 also scored for Dartmouth with a 39th-place time of 23:23.9.
For the men, Brad Kenimer ’12 came in 16th place overall with a time of 25:28.7, while John Bleday ’14 finished in 17th with a time of 25.28.8. Steve Mangan ’14 ran to a 21st-place time of 25:32.0 and Gault rounded out the Big Green’s top five with a time of 25:35:0.
Princeton’s women’s team failed to win the title for the first time in five years. Cornell’s 49 points were enough to edge out Columbia’s 51, while Princeton finished in third with 94. Yale finished fourth with 104 points and Dartmouth finished fifth with 119.
“The best team definitely won today,” Coogan said.
Princeton’s men’s team outlasted resilient Columbia and Dartmouth teams to take home its 17th League championship. Harwick said Columbia led in the first half of the race, but Princton secured the title with four top-10 finishes.
The Tigers won with 37 points, while Columbia scored 51 points and Dartmouth scored 79. Both Princeton and Columbia are nationally ranked teams.
Dartmouth has two weeks off before traveling to Buffalo, N.Y., for the NCAA Regional Championships on Nov. 12. The racing season concludes the following week at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
Gault is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.