NEW YORK – Several things mark the official arrival of fall in New York City: orange and yellow leaves, colder temperatures, clear blue skies, and the arrival of the entirety of the Ivy League at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, for the annual running of the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in cross country. This year’s meet is slated to take place Friday, October 29.

Close to 400 runners from every school in the Ancient Eight will take part in the meet, which has been at Van Cortlandt Park 62 of the last 63 years. And both the men and the women’s teams at Columbia have their eyes on the prize: a 2010 team championship.

Championship Information
The women’s race will run first, with the 5k start at 11 a.m. That will be followed by the men’s five-mile race, slated to begin at 11:45. The awards ceremony, which takes place by the Tortise and the Hare statue on Broadway, will start at 12:30 p.m. More information is available on the Ivy League website, here.

Scouting the Ancient Eight (Women)
For the women, the Princeton Tigers will be the team for Columbia to beat once again in 2010. The Tigers have won four titles in a row, and return three of their top five from last year. Princeton is also making noise nationally, as they’re ranked No.18 in the nation, and No.3 in the Mid-Atlantic Region. But both Harvard and Cornell, along with the Lions, prove to be threats for the title. Cornell is ranked No.5 in the Northeast Region, and return four of their five runners from last year’s fourth place team. And Harvard holds the No.6 ranking in the Northeast Region, bringing back all five scorers from 2009, and a squad that finished second. With Yale and Penn also ranked Nos. 8 and 9 in the Northeast Region, this women’s race could be a serious battle, with every team looking to topple the Tigers.

Leading the Lions (Women)
The women’s team currently holds a No.7 ranking in the Northeast region, and returns three of the top five runners from last year’s third place team. The Lions will be led by senior Jacqueline Drouin, who was the top finisher for Columbia last year, placing eighth overall. She will be joined at the front of the pack by sophomore Caroline McDonough, who didn’t place at last year’s cross country Heps, but has been making major waves since then. She and Drouin have been the top two runners for the women this season, going 1-2 for the Lions in the last two races. McDonough was the top Lion at Pre-Nationals, as she came in 15th, and finished 13th at the prestigious Paul Short Invitational. Senior Julianne Quinn will also be a key runner for the Lions.

Scouting the Ancient Eight (Men)
The last two years, the men’s race has come down to the final seconds, as the teams crowd around and scores are calculated. In 2008, Princeton edged Columbia by just three points. In 2009, the Lions returned the favor, besting the Tigers by one point. Expect 2010 to be just as competitive for the men of the Ivy League. Princeton had three of their five back, including Brian Leung, who took third overall last year. The Tigers are ranked No.18 nationally, and No.1 in the Mid-Atlantic Region, but they’re one of several strong Ivy teams. Dartmouth is receiving votes in the national poll, and has a No.3 ranking in the Northeast Region, while Harvard is ranked No.8 in the region, and returns last year’s individual champion, Dan Chenoweth. Yale holds a No.7 spot in the Northeast, while Penn is No.6 in the Mid-Atlantic, and Cornell is No.6 in the Northeast. As is tradition at Heps, the men’s race will be a battle right to the finish line.

Leading the Lions (Men)
Columbia has improved vastly over the course of the season, with several key athletes returning from injuries. As such, the men have started receiving votes in the national poll, and hold a No.4 ranking in the Northeast Region. Seniors Thomas Poland and Dustin Martin are back on the squad providing senior leadership after having to sit out in 2009. Senior Brendan Martin is also in top form once again, and he will look to lead the Lions to a title, just as he did in 2009. Brendan Martin was Columbia’s top finisher last season, placing fifth overall. This year, he’ll have senior Anthony Merra, junior Justin Heck and sophomore Benjamin Veilleux supporting him in the team’s goal to once again come out on top.

Other Opinions
The Ivy League has complete previews of both the men’s and the women’s races, while HepsTrack has a team-by-team breakdown of its own.