HANOVER, N.H. - For Barry Harwick, the Dartmouth Invitational is the annual culmination of months worth of prep work and planning. When raceday finally arrives and it's no longer about tweaking the course, talking to official timers and assigning bib numbers.
Saturday morning at the Hanover Country Club is a return to coaching his team. Sure the Herbert Chase Head Coach, now in his 20th year at his alma mater, spends time with his team during practice sessions in the preseason, but raceday is a return to competition.
This year's race will see Syracuse line up alongside Middlebury and Dartmouth at the starting line at 10:30 a.m. The Orange are one of the top team's in the Northeast and come to Hanover ranked second in the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) regional poll after earning the top spot at the conclusion of last season.
But Saturday's race is more about the Big Green and what they are going to accomplish this fall.
"We lost Ethan Shaw '12 to graduation, which obviously hurts, but on the other hand, I expect us to have more depth than last year," Harwick said. "We have a lot of guys improving from the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2012 and our top seven runners and beyond are very strong this year because of that."
Senior Jonathan Gault (Bedford, Mass.) and junior John Bleday (Westwood, Mass.) are two of the team's top returning harriers from a year ago. Both had good spring seasons in outdoor, posting good times in the distance events.
"John improved so much from the fall to the spring that I know he will be one of the top runners competing for the Heps title in October," Harwick added. "He was an indoor Heps champion last year and worked very hard this offseason. Replacing Ethan is tough, but I feel comfortable moving forward with guys like John (Bleday) and the others we have here now."
Harwick also expects Steve Mangan (Honeoye Falls, N.Y.) and Henry Sterling (South Freeport, Maine) along with senior Adam Doherty (Lagrangeville, N.Y.) to regularly contribute each week to the team's point total.
Will Geoghegan (Brunswick, Maine), Dylan O'Sullivan (Harrowsmith, Ontario) and Phil Royer (Portsmouth, R.I.) are just some of the other harriers that will add depth to a team that is coming off a fifth-place finish a year ago.
Bleday, Mangan and Gault all finished in the scoring for the Big Green in 2011 and know what it takes to continue to move in the right direction to get back to the top of the podium.
It won't be hard looking for motivation come Saturday as one of the most successful Dartmouth teams ever will be on hand in Hanover to take in the race.
The gathering off the 1987 team after the race will mark the 25th anniversary of a group that won the Heps crown and finished the year as the National Runners-Up at the NCAA Championship Meet.
For the current team on the cusp of doing great things, seeing former Big Green harriers on hand who were able to be enormously successful at Dartmouth should serve as their inspiration to duplicate those feats done a quarter century ago.
The first step to achieving those goals begins Saturday morning on the new 8K course at the Hanover Country Club.
Fans attending the Dartmouth Invitational on Saturday morning are encouraged to park at the Dartmouth Rugby Clubhouse, rather than at the Hanover Country as the start and finish lines are located across the street on the edge of the golf course. The rugby clubhouse can be accessed by taking the first right on the rotary heading north on Route 10 followed by the first right.