What’s What: Cross Country

Get Ready, Get Set…

Runners are organized by team when they come to the starting line. Each team gets a “box” in which to organize its runners in a specific order — not all of the athletes fit on the front line. It is important to get off the line quickly, because the runners are jockeying for the prime positions. They want the inside of the turns so they can have the advantage when the width of the course decreases in the heavily wooded portions of the race.

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Wait, Cross Country Runners on a Track?

Cross country athletes run on tracks during the winter and the spring when they compete in the distance events for track. The actual cross country season is in the fall, and it is all natural terrain. Every course is different — some are hillier than others, some more wooded. The races are also affected by the fickle New England weather; there have been seasons when the team has had to run through mud and puddles to reach the finish line.

1 for the Money, 2 for the Show, 5 for the Win

At most races, seven athletes participate, with the top five places contributing to the team score. In other words, a perfect score for Yale would consist of five Elis finishing first through fifth for a combined score of 15. If there is a tie, the position of the number-six runner on either team determines the winner.

Tired Yet?

At most races, the women run 6k and the men run 10k. For those of you who are kilometer-illiterate, that’s 3.75 miles for the women and 6.25 miles for the men.

Runderwear

The female cross country uniform consists of underwear-like shorts and spandex tops. The men wear short-shorts with mesh tops. Both the men and women sport a huge white Y on the front of their jerseys. The runners also wear shoes with interchangeable spikes. The length of spike used is dependent upon the condition of the course — longer spikes are used for surfaces that tend to be more difficult to grip.

How Fast Am I Going?

Not all runners wears watches during their race — most of the pacing is done by feel. Bevin Peters ’09 said that when it “feels really hard” you just try to run more quickly. But there are usually coaches or teammates positioned at the one-mile mark to shout out splits — the time elapsed — to their athletes.

When the Sons and Daughters of Eli Run Cross the Line

The annual Ivy League Championships will be held this Friday at 11:30 a.m. on the traditional course — Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, NY. The race is referred to as the Heptagonal Championships, or Heps, because the first championship, in 1939, featured only seven of the Ivys. Columbia did not participate the first year.

Hotshots

Two runners to look out for this year are Jake Gallagher ’09 and Lindsay Donaldson ’08. Gallagher placed 120th at the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet two weeks ago. Donaldson, who finished 28th at the same race, holds the Yale course record for the Heps race at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, NY. This superstar athlete won Heps last year and also placed third at the 2006 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Working Hard for the Money

The team worked out hard this past Monday, running on the golf course to practice hills similar to those they will encounter this weekend. The rest of the week the team will be tapering, meaning that the workouts leading up to the race will be less strenuous so that the runners can recuperate.

Heart of a Champion

Overall, both the Yale men and women’s teams finished fourth at Heps last year and, based on season results thus far, hope to place in the top four again this year. Princeton swept Heps last year, winning the overall points trophy for both men and women. Ranked number four in the nation right now, Princeton is the team to beat this weekend.

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