CROSS COUNTRY: 14 personal bests at Heps

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Photo by Anna Sophia Harling.

Racing on a flat Princeton course in near-perfect fall conditions, members of the men’s and women’s cross country teams shattered 14 personal records in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Saturday.

While those accomplishments did not translate into victory for either team, the Bulldogs caught glimmers of success on the weekend. The men’s team raced to fifth place, its best performance at the Heps since 2006, while the women’s team settled for eighth.

“The Ivy League is extremely competitive, and while we had an OK day, in order to achieve a higher place, we needed a little bit more,” Liana Epstein ’14 said in an email.

The frontrunner for the Bulldogs in the men’s race was Kevin Dooney ’16. Dooney finished the 8,000-meter course in 23 minutes, 56.6 seconds, breaking his personal record by 34 seconds and placing eighth overall out of the 95 athletes in the race.

Dooney was 12th in the field after three miles, but a push in the final two miles allowed him to pass four runners and secure a finish ahead of the top racers from Dartmouth, Cornell and Brown.

“Coach [Paul] Harkins and I talked before the race about hoping to get in the top 10, but starting out in the top 15,” Dooney said. “Once you get to about five or six kilometers, you start hunting for people.”

Dooney’s performance was the third time this year that he has set a personal record.

Nine other members of the men’s team set personal records in the race, including all four of the other Eli point-scorers.

“Coach Harkins puts on a great plan that definitely is geared toward peaking at the right time, which definitely showed on Saturday when we had 10 guys PR,” Dooney said. “That definitely shows that our training is going right.”

Epstein, the top finisher for the Yale women’s team, also set a personal record with a time of 21:31.8 over the 6,000-meter course. She placed 20th overall out of 90 runners.

Epstein noted that she felt motivated by the fact that this race was her last Heps as a Bulldog.

“Every opportunity to put on that ‘Y’ and represent Yale should be treasured,” Epstein said. “I wanted to put myself in a position to see what I was capable of, and for me that meant running a fast, hard mile, and then seeing how it went from there.”

The Yale women’s team saw personal bests from three other Bulldogs, including newcomers Meredith Rizzo ’17 and Chandler Olson ’17, who were able to score for Yale with times of 21:47.2 and 22:11.2, respectively.

The women’s team will get a chance to redeem itself at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in two weeks. Epstein said that Yale, which was just eight points away from seventh place on Saturday, can do better.

“The results were not exactly what we were hoping for, but they also do not accurately reflect the ability and potential of our team,” Epstein said.

Dooney was similarly disappointed with the fifth place finish for the men’s team, despite the improvement seen throughout the entire team. In addition to the 10 personal bests and the team’s best finish since 2006, the Bulldogs made up ground on rival Harvard in the race.

The Crimson’s top five runners placed above every Eli runner in the Harvard-Yale dual race in mid-September, but Yale’s top four runners on Saturday placed above the Crimson’s third place finisher. Harvard still managed to top the Bulldogs by 13 points to finish in fourth.

“Fifth place was about the lowest standard of what we were hoping for,” Dooney said. “We knew we were pretty solidly in fifth place, based off all the results so far this year. We were hoping to catch Harvard, obviously, and we came pretty close to them, so we were happy with that.”

The NCAA Northeast Regional Championships will host the Ivy League teams from the Northeast as well as other strong NCAA teams from throughout the region.

The two top finishers automatically qualify for the NCAA National Championships in Indiana, and Dooney said that as many as three or four more teams from the region can be offered an at-large bid.

The gun will fire for the Regional Championships on November 15 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

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