As the outdoor track season nears its peak, the Yale men’s and women’s track and field teams will take on two big opportunities to close their year on a strong note, competing in the Penn Relays on Thursday and the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at home on May 6.
Though the Penn Relays is the oldest and largest track and field competition in the country, few Bulldogs will head to Philadelphia this weekend. Instead, the bulk of the rosters will gear up for Heps, the culmination of the season for most of the athletes.
“The goal this year as a team is to simply improve upon on the men’s and women’s finishes from last year’s outdoor Heps,” hurdler Sydney Holmes ’20 said. “We’re always looking to set new personal bests for times and heights and distances, and doing that at Heps would be a great way to show our competitors that we’re bringing our A game.”
The men’s team looks to be in good competitive shape heading into the Penn Relays and Heps. The Bulldogs’ surprising fourth-place showing at the indoor Heps meet on February 26 and its nine All-Ivy honorees in the indoor season have set high expectations for the squad at the outdoor season finale.
Yale has compiled several impressive times and marks in recent meets, setting the stage for improved finishes at the conference championship. At the Virginia Challenge last weekend, distance runner James Randon ’17 placed fourth in the 1500-meter run with a 3:42.65 time. Jumper Bruno Jednacak ’20 joined Randon in Virginia and placed second in the long jump with a 7.13 meter leap.
Based on the season’s best marks, several Elis will most likely be among the top five in their respective events during Heps.
While Bulldog contingents competed both in the Old Dominion and in Princeton, the highlight of the weekend came courtesy of the sprinters at Auburn’s War Eagle Invitational. Captain and sprinter Marc-André Alexandre ’17 recorded the fastest 200-meter time in the Ivy League this season with a fifth-place mark of 20.99, and hurdler Paedyn Gomes ’18 claimed the Ancient Eight’s second-fastest 110-meter hurdle time of 2017 with a personal best.
Yale’s 4×100 relay, composed of Alexandre, Kyle Macauley ’20, Vincent Vaughns ’20 and Alex McIntyre ’19, provided still another memorable performance, breaking a nearly 50-year-old Yale record with a blistering 40.27-second time, besting the Ivy League’s previous season best by a comfortable 0.8 seconds.
Featuring a squad that may be the fastest in school history, the Bulldog sprinters will be in prime position to succeed at Heps on their home track.
“I want us to have the same mentality as in indoor season,” Alexandre said. “I would love to see us improve a little bit and finish top four. Overall, I want to see improvements and progression.”
The women’s side also strung together some notable performances in its competition leading up to Heps. Distance runners Meredith Rizzo ’17 and Frances Schmiede ’17 each set records in last weekend’s competitions. Rizzo set a school record in the 3000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:07.93 at Princeton’s Larry Ellis Invitational, and Schmiede broke her own 1500-meter record at the Virginia Challenge with a 4:17.50 time which ranks in the nation’s top 30.
Though Schmiede’s standing in Division I will most likely earn her a spot at NCAA regionals after Heps, the 2016 cross country captain is focused on the success of her Yale team.
“For Heps, I would love for our 4×800 team to really put ourselves out there this year, as that is something I won’t have another chance to race on again,” she said.
With the win at Harvard and a few record-holders — Holmes holds two hurdles records — the Bulldogs will eye an improvement over their last-place finish at the 2017 indoor Heps, where they came within nine points of surpassing Brown for seventh place. With the growth that the Elis have shown throughout the spring season, an improved finish is well within striking distance. The women’s team has not placed above eighth at outdoor Heps in the past decade.
Yale will host the Springtime Invitational between the Penn Relays and Heps on April 30.