Yale disappoints at Pre-Nationals

After struggling to compete with the best at Pre-Nationals this past weekend, it looks like both the men’s and women’s cross country teams have their work cut out for them as they continue on the quest for a bid to Nationals in November.

In a disappointing showing in Terre Haute, Ind., the women’s team placed 22nd in their race with a total of 546 points. Stanford dominated the 35 other teams at the meet, placing four runners in the top 10 to finish with a score of 45 points. Wake Forest’s Michelle Sikes ’07 took the top spot in 20:17, followed closely by Stanford’s Arianna Lambie ’07 in 20:20.

Although the Elis underperformed their expectations, top runner Lindsay Donaldson ’08 proved that she was able to compete with the best, finishing tenth in 20:32. Ashley Campell ’07 took 115th overall in 21:48, followed by Kelli Buck ’09 (21:56), Bevin Peters ’09 (22:05) and Stephanie Pearl ’10 (22:06). Captain Katie McKinstry ’07 failed to make it into the Bulldogs’ top five, finishing 193rd overall.

After showing improvement from last year in many of their meets earlier this season, the Elis slipped four places behind their 18th place finish at Pre-Nationals in 2005. They also fell behind Boston College at Pre-Nationals, despite having bested BC at the Eagles’ invitational in early September.

“They had a good day and we didn’t,” McKinstry said. “[We] didn’t run badly, but [we] didn’t have our breakout days. It was disappointing, but I still think that we are right there with them. We haven’t run well at Pre-Nationals for a while, but we have run well at Heps and Regionals, so if that pattern continues, we will be fine.”

The additional traveling time and unfamiliar course also contributed to the Bulldogs’ poor performances. After racing on the same 5K course at Franklin Park in three of their four previous meets this season, the 6K course at Indiana State proved to be a challenge for the Elis.

“It’s a very different type of course: flat, open and loopy,” McKinstry said. “We had quite a lot of travel to get there, so I think that was hard. It was a fine race overall for the team, but I know we can do better, and we’re looking forward to being back in more familiar territory for the Ivy League Championships.”

To their disappointment, the men’s team was assigned to the open race for Pre-Nationals based on their 18th place finish at the Paul Short Invitational in the end of September. Top-performing teams from regional competitions are divided into two evenly-matched races — blue and white — for Pre-Nationals. The remaining teams, as well as runners beyond the top seven from each team, compete in an open division.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” captain David Napper ’07 said. “We want to be in the blue and white races every year, but that’s the cards we were dealt.”

Even so, the Elis’ top runners performed well on the 8K course. Andrew Pitts ’07 led the way, finishing fifth overall in 25:04, a time that would have placed him in the middle of the pack in the blue and white races. Brian Gertzen ’07 placed eighth in 25:13, followed by Jake Gallagher ’09 (25:21). Rounding out the top five for the Elis were Napper (25:50) and Murat Kayali ’09 (25:52), who finished 35th and 36th respectively.

Despite solid performances by the top three in particular, Yale fell into second in the open race, 34 points behind perennial rival Harvard. The Elis were not pleased with this result, particularly after having dominated the Harvard-Yale dual meet earlier in the season.

“We were disappointed as a team, [although] we had a few good individual performances,” Kayali said. “Our top three outperformed their top three, but we did not do as well in the back.”

Despite the loss, the Elis still feel confident about upcoming races, which include the Ivy League Championship and Regionals, two of the most important events of the season and opportunities to avenge this weekend’s losses. According to Napper, these later-season events have much more weight for the team than Pre-Nationals.

“Obviously, the Ivy League Championship is one of the biggest races that we have, so that’s definitely a focus of ours,” he said. “Our coach trained us in a way in which we peak later in the season during championship time.”

With a weekend to rest coming up, the Elis will focus on placing in at least the top four at Ivy League Championships on October 27.

“We’re all in shape right now, and it’s just a matter of if our top seven guys can put together races in their potential,” Kayali said. “Then we should be able to finish in the top half of the table.”

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