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PHILADELPHIA - The men's cross country team, No. 12 in the latest Mid-Atlantic Region poll, is set to take on the rest of the Ancient Eight this weekend at Princeton's West Windsor Fields in the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships. Though up against a stacked field, the Quakers have come on strong this season and are primed to improve off last season's eighth place showing.
Led throughout the season by a precocious group of freshmen, Penn finished second two weeks ago at the Leopard Invitational after winning the Brown Race at the Paul Short Invitational to end the month of September. In the four races that the Quakers have taken part in this season, Brendan Smith has been the top Penn scorer in three of them, with Thomas Awad taking that honor in the other. Brandon Clark has also been a consistent presence for the Red and Blue, while seniors such as George Dickson, Kevin Foy and John Foye have provided depth and leadership for Steve Dolan in his first year at the helm.
Even with the Quakers hitting their stride at the right time, Saturday's race won't be easy. Both Columbia and Princeton are ranked nationally - Nos. 10 and 23, respectively - and the other five Ivy League schools all are among the top 15 teams in the Northeast region, with Harvard checking in at No. 4.
Following Heps, Penn will continue its season in two weeks' time at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, hosted by Penn State. Though the Quakers haven't run in State College this year, they've seen the course before, having competed in the Penn State Invitational the previous three seasons. That Nov. 9 race is slated for an 11 a.m. start.