CROSS COUNTRY | Bulldogs fall short at Heps

The Yale women came into the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships with a No. 22 national ranking, but finished fifth in the tournament.
The Yale women came into the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships with a No. 22 national ranking, but finished fifth in the tournament. Photo by Anna-Sophie Harling.

After the women’s cross country race at Princeton University this weekend, head coach Amy Gosztyla told the Bulldogs that the meet was the team’s first bad race in two years, captain Nihal Kayali ’13 said. The No. 22 team in the country picked the wrong time for a subpar performance, closing an otherwise successful season with a fifth-place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.

Neither the women’s team nor the men’s team ran the race it wanted to at Saturday’s championship meet. The women scored 108 points en route to a fifth-place finish, while the men placed sixth with a score of 158. No. 7 Cornell captured the women’s title with 31 points and No. 23 Princeton grabbed the men’s championship with 26 points.

As the only nationally ranked squad in the Ivy League other than Cornell, the women’s team began the day with high expectations. Yet despite several strong individual performances, the Bulldogs struggled to capitalize on the momentum of a season that saw the team earn its first national ranking in seven years. The team dropped a spot from its fourth-place finish last year as well.

Kayali, who covered the six-kilometer course in 20:49.00, and Liana Epstein ’14 at 20:53.5 led the way for the Bulldogs, finishing ninth and 11th overall, respectively. Their performances earned them both second-team all-Ivy honors. Emily Stark ’16, Caitlin Hudson ’13 and Anna Demaree ’15 also scored for the Elis, placing 21st, 33rd and 34th, respectively.

“We were disappointed by our team performance today,” Gosztyla said in an email to the News. “We didn’t implement our pack running strategy that has been the strength of our team this fall, which then hurt our overall result.”

A number of other factors also contributed to the Elis’ poor performance. A hip injury sidelined standout athlete Millie Chapman ’14, and another of Yale’s top runners, Elizabeth Marvin ’13, slid to the back of the race because of illness. Kayali also said that the Bulldogs may have been negatively affected by the pressure to live up to its ranking.

Although expectations for the men’s team were not quite as high, head coach Paul Harkins noted that the team left room for improvement.

“I thought [the team’s performance] was solid,” Harkins said. “We’re still not 100 percent clicking on the same page or at the same time, but I thought it was solid.”

Matthew Nussbaum paced Yale’s squad, finishing the eight-kilometer course in 24:05.00 and earning second-team all-Ivy honors. Alexander Conner ’16, Kevin Lunn ’13 and Tim Hillas ’13 followed Nussbaum, placing 32nd, 34th and 40th, respectively. Isa Qasim ’15 rounded out the scoring Bulldogs and broke into Yale’s full-strength top five for the first time this season.

“There were a lot of positives,” Harkins said. “Yeah, we wanted a higher finish, but I’ll take the blame a little bit for sending out some of the guys a little too aggressive.”

Harkins added that although the team continues to improve, it will take more time for the improvements to show because of the conference’s strength. The squad also finished sixth at last year’s Ivy championships at Princeton; that team’s top seven averaged a time of 25:46.30, while this year’s squad averaged a time of 24:41.20

The men’s and women’s cross country teams will look to rebound on Nov. 9 at the NCAA Regional Championships at Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Conn.

Correction: Oct. 31

A previous version of this article misidentified the class year of Isa Qasim ’15.

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