CROSS COUNTRY | Runners overcome snow

In freezing weather conditions late Saturday morning, Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at Princeton, N.J.

A downpour of rain turned into snow midway through the men’s 8k race. The women took to the course afterward, and were treated to snow, slush and mud. Despite the conditions, the women, who are in their first season under coach Amy Gosztyla, placed fourth overall, a steep improvement from their 2010 eighth-place finish. The men placed sixth, moving up one slot from last year’s seventh place.

Liana Epstein ’14 was the first Eli to finish the 5k race, placing seventh overall out of 91 competitors with a time of 22:16. Elizabeth Marvin ’13 finished alongside her teammate two seconds later with a time of 22:18 in eighth place. Nihal Kayali ’13, Melissa Chapman ’14 and Caitlin Hudson ’13 comprised the rest of the five scoring runners for Yale with 19th-, 35th- and 37th-place finishes, respectively.

“We were expecting the harsh weather conditions,” Marvin said. “Runners from Dartmouth and Cornell, who are used to harsher conditions, handled it better.”

Indeed, Cornell edged out Columbia by a narrow two-point margin to capture first place, breaking a five-year Princeton winning streak. If any Lions runner had finished one place higher, Columbia would have tied the meet. Princeton came in third, 10 points ahead of Yale.

Marvin said that while it was disappointing that the women’s team did not do better, they have no regrets. The women’s team has not placed higher since 2006. It last won the title in 2001.

Throughout the season, Marvin and Epstein have consistently been the top Yale runners. Both earned All-Ivy honors at this race for finishing in the top 14.

“It was really helpful to run together with Liana the whole race,” Marvin said. On and off the cross country track, the two good friends exemplify their team’s unified mentality.

In the men’s race, Kevin Lunn ’13 finished first among the Elis for the second consecutive week. His time of 25:25 was good for 13th place overall among 92 total runners. The rest of the top five for Yale included Jacob Saundry ’15, Michael Cunetta ’14, Matthew Thwaites ’13 and Sam Lynch ’12, all of whom finished within 30 seconds of each other and ranged from 32nd to 59th place.

“Going into the race, I was expecting us to all run close together as a pack and finish with a small spread,” Lunn said. “I was expecting us to place around fifth or sixth.”

Lunn, who earned second team All-Ivy Honors during this meet, added that, even though he is from California, he enjoyed running in the cold weather conditions.

Thwaites said that those conditions affected every runner differently, and that some less experienced were able to exceed expectations, while other teammates struggled to adapt.

“We were expecting to beat Harvard and Penn,” Thwaites said. “Harvard had beaten us pretty bad earlier at a dual meet.”

The Elis lived up to those expectations despite the absence of top runners Conor Dooney ’12 and Demetri Goutos ’13, and came in ahead of both Harvard and Penn.

For the past four years, the men’s team had placed seventh or below at Heptagonal Championships. The men last won the championship in 1942.

Placing sixth on Saturday is a step in the right direction, Thwaites said. The team will retain most of its top runners next year.

Both the men and women continue their championship season on Nov. 12 at Buffalo, N.Y. for the NCAA Regional Championships.

“We’ve done a lot in terms of changing the team inside out,” Lynch said. “Judging from the team dynamics, we are heading in the right direction.”

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