Despite top finishes by Kate O’Neill ’03 and Laura O’Neill ’03 at the NCAA Northeast Regional cross country tournament last weekend, the women’s season ended with a fourth place finish.

For the second time, the O’Neills are headed to the national championship –to be held at Indiana State University Nov. 25 this year. Unlike last year, they will not have the rest of the Yale squad behind them. Last year, Kate O’Neill placed 11th and Laura O’Neill placed 26th at the national race.

This year, the men placed ninth at the regionals. Both NCAA regional races were held at the Van Cortlandt Park course in the Bronx. The men’s race was 6.2 miles and the women’s race was 3.72 miles.

For the men, Lucas Meyer ’05 finished in 10th place (30:59.2) at the regional match, leaving him just shy of a spot at the NCAA national race. Peter Furia ’05 finished 35th (32:05.7) and Casey Moriarty ’05 was 42nd (32:15.4).

At the NCAA national tournament, the O’Neill sisters will compete against the top four individuals from each region, as well as 31 of the nation’s best collegiate teams. In the Northeast region, the Columbia and Providence teams were chosen. The other two individual qualifiers, Maria Cicero and Jennifer Payne, hail from Boston College and Stony Brook University, respectively.

Although the women Elis will not advance to the national tournament, captain Lindsay Mitchell ’03 said the team was satisfied with its season.

“We definitely went into [the regional race] wanting to focus on having a good team performance,” Mitchell said. “And I think it was the strongest team performance yet this year.”

Mitchell said the team achieved specific goals, such as closing the time gaps between the team’s second and third runners and the fourth and fifth runners.

“The girls ran closely together as a pack,” Mitchell said. “Everyone ran very aggressively. There were quite a few personal records.”

Kate O’Neill also said that Friday was the team’s best effort of the season and because of the tournament’s scoring method, teams weaker than Yale’s advanced to the national title race — despite the individual improvements from some Elis.

“Some people improved their times by over a minute, which is a huge accomplishment, considering the weather,” Kate O’Neill said.

During the match, the wet, blustery weather affected all competing teams, but Mitchell said the Bulldogs were probably affected the least.

“We knew that the weather was going to be less than ideal, so we had prepared for that,” Mitchell said.

Meyer said his 10th place finish both satisfied and disappointed him.

“I would have loved to catch the guy ahead of me, but I ran the best race I could,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he now looks forward to the spring track season.

The men’s team finished ninth at the regional race out of 33 total teams, but behind all participating Ivy schools. Men’s coach Dan Ireland said the team’s youth factored into the low placement.

“Only two of our top seven had ever run 10,000 meters before,” Ireland said. “That’s double the distance they run in high school.”

Ireland said overall, Friday’s tournament was probably the best team effort of the season. And disregarding individual finishes, Meyer said, that was probably true.

“There were some good performances and some not-so-good performances, but as a team I thought we did really well,” Meyer said.

In addition to Meyer’s top team finish, Ireland said he especially was excited about the performances of Patrick Dantzer ’06 and Andrew Johnson ’06, two freshmen who will add to the team’s depth next year.

“Andrew [Johnson] and Patrick [Dantzer] probably had run better races this season [before the regional match], but I was very happy with the way they went out and the way they performed,” Ireland said. “The returning people will have had more experience next year.”

Mitchell said because three of the women’s top seven runners will graduate this season, the younger runners will especially need to take leadership roles.

“It’s a very good thing that we do have young runners running in the top seven,” Mitchell said. “They will have to continue playing the way they have been playing.”

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