Expectations are high and prospects are looking good for both the men’s and women’s cross country teams as the Bulldogs prepare to head up to Harvard’s Franklin Park this weekend for their first official meet of the fall.
Over the summer, the Eli athletes built up mileage, strength and duration, maintaining rigorous and consistent routines in preparation for the 2013 season, which begins against their long-time rival this Saturday.
Seven new freshmen have joined the women’s cross country roster, which will be led by captain Millie Chapman ’14 and head coach Amy Gosztyla.
“Out of the seven, three are state champions — they are a very competitive group, and I anticipate them to make an immediate impact,” Gosztyla said.
In addition to the new freshman prospects, the women’s team has considerable experience.
“Our whole senior class will help this team be successful,” Gosztyla said. “A lot of leaders, in performance both on and off the race course. Our seniors and upperclassmen lead through actions rather than ‘rah-rah’ cheers.”
Last fall the women bested Harvard for the second time in a row at the annual meet, placing six runners in the top seven spots, while Harvard only managed to place three into the top 10. Liana Epstein ’14 earned first place in that race with a time of 17:34.78 and will be looking to repeat her strong performance this time around.
“The whole Ivy league is very strong, and this is really exciting,” Gosztyla said. “Cornell is the returning favorite this year, and Princeton and Harvard are nationally ranked. … We’ve set realistic and appropriate goals and expectations … [and] are definitely in the mix with those schools.”
After defeating Harvard, the women went on to finish the 2012 season in seventh place at the NCAA Division I Northeast Regional Championship meet, with four Bulldogs placing in the top 50 runners and all seven within the top 100. They achieved a top-25 national ranking last year, and with fresh legs and a lot of experience this year, energy and hopes within the team are high for the women to potentially surpass that.
The men’s squad lost to Harvard last fall, but the nine personal records set by the Eli runners in that race demonstrated the team’s potential. They continued to improve throughout the season, solidly finishing in eighth place at the NCAA Division I Northeast Regional Championship meet.
The men’s team has added six new freshmen to its cross-country roster. Both captain Ryan Laemel ’14 and head coach Paul Harkins said that the 2017 class is one of the strongest classes the team has ever brought in, and he expects them to contribute right away.
“Although size-wise this class is a little smaller in comparison to other Ivies, our quality is on par, if not better with the other schools’ recruiting class,” Laemel said.
He added that the team has been impressive in its workouts thus far, and Harkins noted that the Bulldogs’ “confidence in their consistency and repetition” that will bring success on the course. Harkins also expects at least two to three of the freshmen running in the top five to seven in the squad this year.
Harkins has high hopes for the team and believes it has the potential to win Yale’s first Ivy League title since 1960.
“We’ve made progress over the past two years — we’re not there yet, but we can be there. The goal will always be to get to the top of the Ivy League,” Harkins said. “We’ve made a lot of gains, especially from the end of last season. It should be interesting going in to face Harvard first.”
The first race for the Bulldog runners is set for this Saturday at 1 p.m.