After running a fast-paced race with more than 300 other runners, the men’s and women’s cross country teams walked away from the New England Championships in Boston’s Franklin Park on Saturday feeling confident in their performance and optimistic for their next meet. Out of 47 teams competing in each race, the women placed eighth and the men finished 16th.
While the women’s team said they had approached the meet as a chance to get more experience, they came out with impressive results: five of the seven racers competing broke their personal records.
“It felt really good to know we are improving,” Jacque Sahlberg ’12 said. “It’s a really special feeling when it’s not just one person improving but we’re improving together.”
Jennifer Downing ’12 was the first Bulldog to finish, placing 25th and running the approximately five-kilometer course in 18:18. Within the next minute, four more completed the course: Melissa Chapman ’14, Sahlberg, Caitlin Hudson ’13 and Jennifer Donnelly ’13, respectively. All five were within the first 100 runners to finish out of the 322 competing overall.
The runners said that the beginning of the course was very intense. When the race began, the Yale runners were boxed in, struggling to push ahead and fighting to maintain their usual speed. Sahlberg said that once they managed to break out of the pack, the Yalies aimed to pick off the runners ahead of them, one by one.
“There were always people to go after,” Sahlberg said.
The Bulldogs said that they were impressed with the course which had one segment meandering through a forest. The men’s and women’s team will return there next year for the annual Harvard-Yale cross country meet.
The men’s team consisted of five runners, the minimum needed to place as a team. Going into the meet, they said they understood that all of them had to race well and there was little room for error if they planned to finish in the top ten. But David Demres ’11 twisted his ankle in the forest with about half a mile to go, and the Bulldogs had to settle with 16th place in the approximiately eight-kilometer race. Kevin Lunn ’13 estimated that Yale would have finished in eighth had Demres not injured himself.
Since most of the men’s team was resting for the meet at Penn State this weekend, many runners were underclassmen. In fact, the first four Bulldogs to finish were freshmen and sophomores. Sam Kirtner ’13, led the pack with a time of 25:32 for 39th place. Michael Cunetta ’14, Lunn and Matt Thwaites ’13 all finished within 30 seconds of Kirtner.
“Every team there learned that you have to stay in the race, even when it goes out hard,” Lunn said.
The women’s team said it also learned a few lessons, both physically and mentally.
“We need to be careful on our starts; you waste a lot of energy fighting for position,” Sahlberg said. “We learned we have more potential.”
Both teams will next compete at Penn State on Oct. 16.