CROSS COUNTRY | Home, sweet home for women’s XC

Millie Chapman ’14, left, finished fifth overall in Yale’s win over Harvard Friday. Captain Nihal Kayali ’13, right, finished third.
Millie Chapman ’14, left, finished fifth overall in Yale’s win over Harvard Friday. Captain Nihal Kayali ’13, right, finished third. Photo by Anna-Sophie Harling.

Racing on their home course for the first time in two years, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams hoped to capitalize on the momentum gained from last week’s victories at the Fordham Fiasco. The teams had extra motivation: On Friday, they faced their archrival Harvard at the Course at Yale in a dual meet.

The women’s team took advantage of the opportunity, dominating Harvard’s squad en route to a 21-point win; the men’s team took a slight step back, losing their race by 17 points.

The women’s team continued its strong start to the season, placing all five of its scoring runners among the top six overall finishers for a score of 19 points. Liana Epstein ’14 paced the squad, finishing the five-kilometer course in 17:24.78 and winning the individual title. Samantha Silva of Harvard finished second behind Epstein but also represented Harvard as its only runner in the top seven. Captain Nihal Kayali ’13, Caitlin Hudson ’13, Melissa Chapman ’14 and Elizabeth Marvin ’13 finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

“There were only 23 seconds or so between our number one and our number five,” said Kayali, “which is a really nice sign in terms of us being able to train as a pack [and] race as a pack.”

Head coach Amy Gosztyla echoed that sentiment. “What I’m most excited about is that the girls really did work together,” she said.

The meet held special significance for Gosztyla, as she coached cross country at Harvard before departing to become head coach at Yale in the summer of 2011. Yet the coach also looked past this meet, saying that the team’s early season performance propels it into the mix among the top teams in the Ivy League.

“This really sets the tone for us for the rest of the season,” Gosztyla said.

With the win, Yale defeated Harvard in the dual meet for the second straight year. Before then, the Bulldogs had not defeated the Crimson in the annual meet since 2006.

The men’s team is still looking to make its mark in the Ivy League following Friday’s race.

When asked about the men’s race, head coach Paul Harkins said, “We’ve had better days.”

While the team managed to place three runners in the top six, the Bulldogs could not hold off a Harvard squad that finished with the top three spots in the race. Harvard’s Maksim Korolev ’15 won the individual title, covering the eight-kilometer course in 24:20.39, while captain Kevin Lunn ’13 led Yale’s runners by finishing in fourth place. Demetri Goutos ’13 and Matthew Nussbaum ’14 finished right behind Lunn in fifth and sixth place, respectively, and Matt Thwaites ’13 and Timothy Hillas ’13 rounded out the Bulldogs’ top five in eleventh and twelfth place.

“We had some ups and downs,” Harkins said. “We needed some back-up for those guys [running at the front of the race] and it didn’t happen today.”

The defeat hardly signals disaster for the team, however. Harkins noted that the dual meet setting does not play to the strengths of a Yale team that relies on tight packs and depth. The defeat still frustrated the team, Harkins said.

“Our guys like to win,” Harkins added. But he offered reassurance in saying, “I will guide them towards the end of the year.”

The men’s and women’s cross country teams will continue the season on Sept. 28 at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa. The teams will take on the entire Ivy League, except for Columbia’s women’s team.

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