The women’s cross country team revived colorful memories of last season and spun fresh legends when they seized the Ivy League championship Friday in the Bronx, N.Y.
Five Yale runners placed among the fastest 25 to cover five kilometers of hills and forested pathways in Van Cortlandt Park.
Kate O’Neill ’03 placed first overall, with a time of 17:33.1. Laura O’Neill ’03 (3rd), Amanda Brewster ’03 (12th), Lindsay Mitchell ’03 (20th) and Rebecca Hunter ’04 (24th) completed a winning score of 60 points for Yale. Cornell’s team totaled 11 points higher in their runner-up effort.
The Bulldogs were ranked No. 21 in the nation Friday, and are on their way to the NCAA Qualifiers in Boston Nov. 10.
The Heptagonal Championship — which features the eight Ivy League teams and Navy — has been dubbed “the Super Bowl of Ivy Long Distance Running” by writer and former Dartmouth runner Colin Ingram.
For Yale runners, Ingram’s sentiment is especially poignant.
“I think Heps is unique in that over four years our goals change regarding how we want to perform in nationals — but it’s always our goal to win Heps, ” Yale captain Millie Grinstead ’02 said. “You always get the sense that you’re running for Yale against teams that Yale cares about beating.”
And not only is the course dauntingly high-profile for Yale runners, it is just plain daunting.
“It’s one of the more challenging courses that we run, with a lot of steep hills,” Mitchell said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a breeze.”
The course showcases the athletes on an open field, rubbing shoulders with spectators for the first mile. It then veers off into the woodsy “cow path” region and what Hunter called “the realm where only runners exist.”
Once the runners enter the woods, the course winds up and down hills for one mile, before approaching flatness again, Hunter said.
Mitchell cited Cornell and Columbia universities as the causes of prerace fears that competed with Van Cortlandt’s verticality for her team’s nerves and mental energy. But the team stayed confident and goal-oriented throughout the day.
“We knew what our goal was,” Mitchell said. “There was a new feeling because last year was the first time any of us had won an Ivy League championship, and now we were the ones that everyone was going after. That we defended our title was very satisfying.”
Hunter agreed, and added that this year’s Heptagonal had “a really special atmosphere.”
“We were excited and hungry for the meet, and because we defended [our title], it was doubly fun to win,” Hunter said.
Hunter says that she and her teammates were prepared to win on Friday, but still called the official announcement of their victory after the placement points had been tallied “a huge surprise.”
The men’s team finished seventh overall, led by captain Alexis Surovov ’02, who finished 15th with a time of 25:35.7. The Bulldogs finished 17 points behind fifth place Harvard and Columbia. Dartmouth won the meet with a total of 76 points.