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The men are the top ranked Ivy League team heading into this weekend's Championships.

Cross country will host the 2017 Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Championships on Friday in Van Cortlandt Park, where 12 men will take on the 8k course and 12 women will take on the 6k course for the Lions.

The men will face their fiercest competition from Penn, which won Heps last year, and Princeton, which has won Heps in four of the past seven years. Meanwhile, the women will experience their toughest competition from Dartmouth, which, according to the USTFCCCA rankings, currently sits at No. 30 nationally. The Dartmouth women and the Light Blue are the only two teams that remain undefeated against Ancient Eight competitors.

Last year at the Ivy League Cross Country Championships in Princeton, the men took third while the women finished in last place.

At the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Cross Country Invitational two weeks ago, the women experienced immense success and finished in 13th place out of 33 teams, bumping them up to No. 24 in the national rankings.

Also in Wisconsin, the men finished 33rd out of 35 teams and were beset by unfortunate circumstances, including illness and runners falling, which resulted in their removal from the national top 30.

Still, head coach Dan Ireland remains optimistic for Friday.

“They’ve been running for a long time. They understand that things like that happen,” Ireland said. “It’s just the nature of the way things are. I don’t think they’re letting that affect them.”

Last year at the Ivy Championships, then-first-year Kenny Vasbinder led the way for the men with a time of 24:09.5 and an 11th-place finish. Now a sophomore, he will look to guide the men with an improved finish.

Senior Nell Crosby, who has not yet lost against an Ivy League opponent this year, will look to continue her success from Wisconsin, where she finished in 35th place with a time of 20:28.9 and lead the women to an Ivy League title.

Although Ireland emphasized achieving goals one at a time, he knows that success at Heps would set a positive tone and bode well for future events, including the Regional Championship on Nov. 10.

“We try not to look past this weekend because of how important it is to the program,” Ireland said. “But obviously, to win Heps would be a springboard. It would give us a lot of momentum to carry on two weeks later [at Regionals].”

The 2017 Ivy League Heptagonal Championships are set to begin at 11:00 a.m. in Van Cortlandt Park on Friday.

alexander.brett@columbiaspectator.com@CUSpecSports

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