Kate O’Neill ’03 is leaving Yale with a bang.
The veteran distance runner continues to add laurels to her collegiate resume with just one regular season meet left. On April 24, O’Neill became the first Yale women’s track runner ever to win an individual title at the Penn Relays by taking the 5,000-meter championship.
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” captain Sarah Smith ’03 said.
With a time of 15:51.86, O’Neill was nearly 18 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Mary Cullen of Providence. Kate O’Neill’s twin sister, Laura O’Neill ’03, finished fourth in the same event. Both runners qualified for the NCAA regional meet.
Kate O’Neill bested her own Yale record of 16:01.99, set last year.
“I was pleased with my time [at the Penn Relays],” O’Neill said. “I had been hoping to run around 15:50, so I was about one second off of that.”
O’Neill’s victory highlighted Yale’s trip to the 109th annual Penn Relays, a four-day event, held April 23 to 26 at Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field. The meet, scored on an individual basis, is widely regarded as the largest track competition in the world, outside the Olympics. A variety of athletes, from elementary school children to Olympians, compete at the meet.
“The atmosphere at Penn Relays is amazing,” O’Neill said. “Teams from as far away as Jamaica and England come to compete. Racing can be stressful, but you can’t help feeling excited when you walk into a stadium with that many people.”
Another one of Yale’s top performances came from Molly Lederman ’06 on the pole vault. Lederman finished second in her event, clearing 12 feet, 7.75 inches, just 2 inches below Clemon’s Joana Costa, the winner in the event.
Lederman is no stranger to this arena. This was her seventh time competing at the Penn Relays.
Fellow Bulldog rookie, Joslyn Woodard ’06, placed seventh in the Eastern long jump with a mark of 19 feet, 3.25 inches.
In the 3000-meter steeplechase, Lindsay Mitchell ’03 and Anne Martin ’05 finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in their heat.
Yale’s distance medley relay squad earned ninth place with a time of 11:54.55. At the NCAA Indoor track and field championship in March, the DMR set a Yale record by running 11:27.28.
“None of the relay teams performed particularly well,” Smith said. “It’s easy to get pumped up about a meet against Harvard or Princeton, but when you go into the huge pool of the Penn Relays, it’s difficult to pull ahead.”
On Sunday, the women who did not participate at the Penn Relays competed at the Yale Springtime Invitational at Yale’s Dewitt Cuyler Field.
In the track events, the Bulldogs received wins from Lindsay Finch ’03 in the 5,000-meter run and Katherine Lawson ’06 in the 400-meter hurdles.
“It was a huge personal record for [Lindsay],” Smith said. “It was a wonderful way for her to close out the season.”
On the field, Lisa Wygant ’04 won the high jump with a mark of 5 feet 3 inches. Teammate Margo Angelopoulos ’06 finished third in both the shot put and discus throw.
The Bulldogs use their Invitational as a prep meet for upcoming the 69th annual Heptagonal Games Association Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
“We are channeling all our energy into Heps,” Smith said. “This is one of the strongest teams in years, and we will definitely be contenders [for the title].”
The meet, which includes the Ancient Eight and the U.S. Naval Academy, will be held at Yale May 3 and 4. The Bulldogs won their sole Heps title in 1987, when they hosted. Yale, which has a perfect 4-0 record in the outdoor season, lost the indoor title to Cornell earlier this year.
“I’ve never been on a track team that was so deep in so many areas,” Kate O’Neill said. “It’s really exciting to think about what we could accomplish at Heps. We are one of the favorites to win the meet. Right now everyone feels prepared to live up to that expectation.”