The storied athletic rivalry between Yale and Harvard gained another milestone this weekend, as the Yale men’s cross country runners faced their Crimson opponents for the 100th time at the annual Yale-Harvard duel meet.
In the meet, which also marked the opening race of the season for both the men’s and women’s cross country teams, neither squad proved able of rising to the occasion before them. The women’s team kept the event close, falling 39–20 to Harvard, while the Crimson men swept the top five positions to dominate the Elis by a score of 42-15.
“We were frustrated with our performance against Harvard because we knew it did not reflect our preparation,” team captain Ryan Laemel ’14 said. “We left Franklin Park with a pit in our stomachs, a feeling we will recall and use as motivation when we race Harvard in the future. However, it is early in the season, and we have a lot of work left to do.”
The women’s team put forth a game effort in the five-kilometer course. The meet was held in Boston’s Franklin Park for the first time since 2011. The route is relatively flat, although runners can often struggle on a slope midway through the race called the “Bear Cage Hill.”
But the hill did not seem to slow down Liana Epstein ’14. The Eli set the pace for Yale at the season-opening meet, cruising to a second-place finish overall in 17:57. She just missed the overall title by a second, beaten to the line by the Crimson’s Viviana Hanley.
“I was happy with my race overall, but there is always room for improvement,” Epstein said. “It’s important to analyze each performance to identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you can become a better competitor moving forward.”
While Epstein’s finish marked the only Yale top-five finish for either the men or the women, a number of other Eli competitors impressed on the women’s side.
Freshman standout Chandler Olson ’17 finished second for the Elis and sixth overall in 18:20. Rounding out Yale’s top five were veterans Millie Chapman ’14, Kira Garry ’15 and Hannah Alpert ’15, who finished ninth, 10th and 13th, respectively.
“Putting your uniform on for the first time for the year is always a bit scary. You forget what it is like to race, what it is like to toe the line and push yourself that much,” Chapman said. “There was no time to question our training, or see where we were at. We had to just go out there with confidence and run as hard as we could.”
The men’s race did not turn out any better for Eli fans. Unable to muster a single top-five finish, the squad was swept by its archrival.
But the leading Bulldog finishers provided fodder for future hope. Alex Connor ’17 crossed the line of the eight-kilometer course in 25:01, good for sixth place overall. Fellow freshman James Randon ’17 and junior John McGowan ’15 placed directly behind Connor in seventh and eighth overall, respectively, while Isa Qasim ’15 and Andre Ivankovic ’17 filled the remaining spots in Yale’s top five.
“Racing our rival, Harvard, makes for an exciting, high-pressure first competition,” Laemel said. “Because we value our sport’s history, we take Yale-Harvard as seriously as a post-season race.”
Bulldog fans must hope that when the actual postseason rolls around, the squad will be ready to prevail in its now century-old rivalry.
The Bulldogs will next compete at the Iona Meet of Champions at the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park on Sept. 21.