NCAA tourney bid on the line for x-country

After a recent streak of unlucky falls, members of the women’s cross country team hope their luck will change this weekend and allow them to receive a bid to the NCAA Cross Country Championship Nov. 24.

The Eli women will join the men’s cross country team in traveling to Franklin Park in Boston to compete Saturday in the NCAA Northeast Regional meet. Both teams would like to place first or second to snare automatic berths in the championship meet a week and a half from now.

The women’s squad placed fourth at the Heptagonal Championships Oct. 31 behind nationally ranked No. 9 Columbia and No. 14 Princeton and unranked Dartmouth, despite a trip to the emergency room by Alexandra Sawicki ’04 and a disastrous fall by Melissa Donais ’06.

“The Heps race was a bit of a disappointment,” Emily Vince ’06 said. “I think we are all ready to be competitive and fulfill our team’s potential this weekend.”

The Bulldogs will get another chance against Columbia and Dartmouth Saturday. Princeton competes in the Mid-Atlantic region. No. 8 Providence will likely vie with Columbia for the title, and barring a meltdown or injury, those two teams should take the automatic berths in the championship.

“Realistically, my guess is Providence will take the first two places, and Columbia will take the team [competition],” head coach Mark Young ’68 said.

If the Bulldogs can finish third, they could potentially earn an at-large bid to nationals. The at-large selections are based mostly on regional finish and head-to-head results against other qualifiers or potential qualifiers.

“We’re definitely aiming for third,” Susan Chan ’05 said. “We think we can still qualify if we beat [Boston College] and Dartmouth.”

While they lost to the Big Green at Heps, the Bulldogs beat them at the Iona Invitational Sept. 27. The Bulldogs also lost to No. 26 Boston College in their only meeting Oct. 18 at Pre-Nationals.

Should the Bulldogs manage to finish third, they will probably be among the last couple of teams being considered for a spot at nationals.

“When you get down to the last two or three teams, a lot comes down to what happens in other places,” Young said. “Who you beat [earlier in the season] becomes important after Saturday.”

But luck alone will not guarantee a spot for the Bulldogs. They will need all of their runners to run their best races.

“We feel like we haven’t had a race where everybody’s been on,” Chan said. “We’re due for a race where we’re all on.”

The men will likewise need a combination of good races and good luck to make it to nationals.

“We definitely have a shot at the top two,” head coach Dan Ireland said. “[But] a couple of things need to happen.”

In their best performance at Heps since 1990 when they placed second, the Bulldogs finished third behind Brown and Columbia, both of which will run in the Northeast Regional on Saturday. The other top teams are No. 4 Iona and No. 21 Providence.

The Elis need some of those teams to have an off day and their own runners to perform well.

“To qualify for nationals we all need to run our best races of the season,” Casey Moriarty ’05 said.

The Bulldogs have a strong top three: Lucas Meyer ’05, Moriarty, and David Napper ’07. This trio finished before first-place Brown’s second runner at Heps, but the Bears managed to put their fourth and fifth runners well ahead of their Bulldog counterparts. Yale’s top three will need to continue to do well, but the team’s performance will really depend on the fourth and fifth finishers.

“We’re going to try to sneak into that number two spot,” Ireland said.

Both Moriarty and Ireland believe Saturday’s 10-kilometer distance will benefit the Bulldogs. Regular collegiate races are 8-kilometers long.

“The 10K distance suits us well,” Moriarty said. “We are all very strong right now after running hundreds of miles during the season and training on the hilly Yale golf course. We feel that once we get through 8K, we will be able to pass many people who are not as comfortable with a 10K race as we are.”

Even if neither team qualifies for NCAA Championship, each has a shot at sending individuals. The top four finishers who are not on a qualifying team get to compete at nationals. On the men’s side, Ireland thinks Meyer, who was fourth at Heps, has the best chance. On the women’s side, a couple of runners could earn a place.

“I think it’s very likely that both Cara [Kiernan '07] and Melissa [Donais '06] would have a good chance,” Young said.

Comments