Even while dodging the water dripping from a leaky roof, the crowd at Coxe Cage spent much of the weekend with their eyes riveted to the track.

The Geigengack Invitational yielded a plethora of eye-opening race strategies and close finishes, several of which left members of the Yale men’s track team on the outside looking in. But standout performances from several team leaders left the Bulldogs confident for the Ivy League competition sitting on the near horizon.

Pat Dantzer ’06 led the way, winning the 3K in spectacular fashion. As the racers toed the starting line, one in particular stood out from the rest — Mike Banks, a sinewy “unattached” runner clad in neutral grey and a red headband that held his loose mop in check. By the 100-meter mark, Banks was already checking his splits on his watch. And by the 1-mile mark, the Hoya posing as an outsider was gone.

“I was lucky enough to know they were rabbits beforehand,” Dantzer said. “I knew those guys would be dropping out, so I just tried to keep my cool. I just had to make sure I kept all the Georgetown guys in view, kept contact.”

Dantzer did just that, biding his time in a pack of five Hoyas and a lone St. Joseph’s runner.

At the mile-and-a-half mark the pack had dwindled from seven at the start to a sparse three, with two more Georgetown runners having dropped into the infield off the banks of the first turn to catch their breath and watch teammate Brandon Bonsey press on. The pack remained intact heading into the last lap when Dantzer, tapping into the energy he had stored up while tiptoeing behind Bonsey for the first 2,800 meters, outkicked the remaining two runners and cruised to a 20-meter win in 8:17.87.

Banks, who said he has run as a rabbit four times this season already, was settling into his seat in the bleachers just after the race finished. He’d already had ample time to catch his breath after dropping out only five minutes in.

“You’re gonna make a lot of money as a rabbit some day,” a passerby joked, patting Banks on the back.

Despite Bonsey’s third-place finish, Banks said the race went as planned.

“Was the race unusual?” he asked rhetorically. “Yeah, I’d say so. But we came through the mile at a perfect pace and put our guys in a position to run fast times.”

The other premiere race of the day was the 4 x 400 relay. It occurred at the meet’s conclusion and was exactly what the spectators had been hoping for. Yale captain Rob deLaski ’06 and the final runners for Penn, Southern Connecticut and Georgetown all rounded the fourth turn of the final lap shoulder-to-shoulder. The crowd stood at attention, voices straining and fingers pointing.

Southern Connecticut’s anchor squeezed around the outside, lunged across the finish line and avoided a diving last effort from Georgetown. SCSU won by a mere six-hundredths of a second with a time of 3:14.41. Competitors gazed at the scoreboard as the Owls mobbed each other in the infield.

All four teams finished within four-tenths of a second of one another. The Owls were followed by Penn (3:14.47), Georgetown (3:14.51) and the Bulldogs (3:14.75), whose time placed the quartet fourth on the all-time Yale list.

Second leg Shomari Taylor ’06, whose weekend also included an excruciating second-place finish in the 500-meter run by five-hundredths of a second, said he was disappointed but encouraged nonetheless.

“It was really an exciting race,” he said. “You always like being a part of something like that, even if you didn’t win. It was still a step in the right direction, I think.”

A group of the usual suspects turned in typically strong weekends to compliment the excitement of the 3K, 4 x 4 and 500. Jihad Beauchman ’06 won the triple jump with a 14.60-meter effort, and then finished second in the high jump with a height of 2.06 meters. John Langhauser ’07 placed second in both the shot put and weight throw with heaves of 16.21 and 16.27 meters, respectively.

Dan O’Brien ’08 won the 60-meter hurdles in 8.16 seconds, a personal record. Brian Gertzen ’07 finished second in the 1,000-meter run in 2:30.33. And Kevin Alexander ’06 turned in a personal best of his own, a time of 22.07 seconds in the 200-meter dash that placed him third in the race and third all-time in Yale history.

Each of these performances left the Elis “feeling pretty good heading into H-Y-Ps,” Taylor said.

Dantzer said the meet created a solid bridge between the invitational atmosphere of the season’s first half and the high-pressure second portion.

“Coach Shoehalter basically said, ‘The first half of the season is over,'” Dantzer said. “The second half is only a few weeks long, though. All you want to do is win [at H-Y-Ps], but it’s a great chance to run fast because there will be some fast guys out there. We’re really gearing up to get ready for championship time now.”

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