Few Bulldogs could imagine a better note on which to head into the Ivy League season.
Captain Molly Lederman ’06 and Lindsay Donaldson ’08 both posted provisional qualifying marks for Nationals at this weekend’s Geigengack Invitational at Coxe Cage, headlining women’s track’s last meet before the indoor season’s latter and more important half begins.
Compared to what lay ahead, the Invitational appeared to be an afterthought on the schedule. Invites bring a wide variety of competitors aiming for personal bests and postseason qualifying scores rather than team points, which creates a somewhat enigmatic field of unattached competitors and big-time programs.
But for the Elis, the Invite was a necessary bridge between individual and team competition. With programs such as Penn, Georgetown and UConn in attendance, intensity was noticeably higher than in past meets.
And the Bulldogs did not disappoint under the pressure.
Lederman, who has improved in every meet this season, pole-vaulted a height of 4.00 meters, winning the event and reaching the provisional height necessary to qualify for Nationals in Fayetteville, Ark., in early March. But the vault was not high enough to ensure a definite spot. If enough athletes across the country surpass the 4.00-meter mark, Lederman could be left on the outside looking in.
Lederman said she cannot get too comfortable.
“I was excited to make the provisional qualifying height for Nationals, but at the same time I expect that 4.00 might not be high enough to qualify come March,” she said. “It was definitely a good start, but I have a lot of work to do.”
Not to be outdone, Donaldson finished second in the mile in 4:45.40 and joined Lederman as this weekend’s second provisional qualifier. The time was less than half a second slower than Donaldson’s personal best. More importantly, it squeezed under the 4:47.00 bar.
Donaldson’s performance marked the second time in just seven days that Donaldson notched a provisional qualifying time. Last weekend in Boston, she qualified in the 3K. A season ago she finished fourth at Nationals in the 3K as the only freshman in the country to qualify.
Like Lederman, Donaldson cannot rest easy. Nothing short of 4:38.50 in the mile can secure a guaranteed spot at Nationals.
Donaldson also ran with the distance medley relay team, which placed fourth on Friday with a time of 11:45.46. Despite the fourth-place finish, Donaldson’s time was the fifth best in Yale history.
Ingrid Sproll ’08 got in on the success too, winning the 1,000-meter run in 2:56.97. Saturday was the first time she had run the event since the season-opening Lidlifter Invite more than two months ago, and her performance improved by three places and more than five seconds.
But Sproll said she was most impressed by the substantial improvements from the Terrier Invitational the week before.
“I was pretty impressed with the middle-distance and distance runners,” Sproll said. “Even if people didn’t win, it’s a big step forward to improve your time in just a week.”
The Elis showed flashes of late-season form in the field events as well. Olakitan Awolesi ’08 and Dionna Thomas ’06 finished second and third in the triple jump with jumps of 11.88 meters and 11.63 meters, respectively. Margo Angelopoulos ’06 claimed third in the shot put with a throw of 12.96 meters and then placed fifth in the weight throw (14.60 meters).
Joslyn Woodard ’06, the team’s triple threat in the long jump, 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash, placed second in the long jump (5.74 meters) and fourth in the 200 meters (25.20 seconds). Both results were subpar for Woodard, who performed better in both events earlier in the season and will be depended upon to accumulate points in the team format of the winter’s next two meets.
Luckily for Woodard, the Geigengack Invitational was the last forum in which slip-ups could go relatively unnoticed. Once team meets begin, every point becomes crucial and the near-invisible fourth-place finishers of weeks past will take on paramount importance as they try to secure key extra points. The Elis continue the season with the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet next Saturday and then Heptagonal and ECAC championships in the weeks to follow.
Kelli Buck ’09, who ran a personal best in the 3K, said there will be an obvious shift in strategy starting next Saturday in Cambridge, Mass.
“It’s definitely a different mentality heading into H-Y-Ps,” she said. “Everyone has to step up, the competition level becomes more intense, and everyone will be looking for points wherever we can get them. We’ll need points from our first- and second-place finishers but from everyone else as well if we want to win the meet.”
Sproll said the team did a good job of using the elevated competition of the weekend as an opportunity to change gears. But the Bulldogs are looking inward rather than focusing on the omnipresent threat of Cornell, the four-time defending Ivy League champion.
“We’ve been building to this point all season,” Sproll said. “I think everyone was really happy because it was such a competitive meet, but we don’t try to focus on other teams. Together everyone is focusing on putting their best performances on the track every week.”