The Yale varsity cross country teams raced at the Franklin Park Invitational meet last weekend, with the men placing 21st out of 39 teams with 524 points, and the women 24th out of 38 with 628 points.
Following a successful performance at the Paul Short Invitational last week — in which both the men’s and women’s varsity teams placed fourth out of 41 contenders — the Bulldogs elected to rest several top runners. The Franklin Park Invitational fell only one week before the 79-team Pre-National Invitational race in Terre Haute, Indiana, a race that can determine if Yale receives a spot in the national championship meet.
“The people that ran in Franklin Park are not running in Pre-Nationals,” captain Hannah Alpert ’15 said. “We’re not having people run in both. Since it’s the week before, [those running at Pre-Nationals] will get good training in and be ready to have a really good race in Indiana.”
For the Bulldogs, the meet structure of Franklin Park lent itself to such tactics. Franklin Park is open to a variety of teams across all three major divisions of the NCAA.
According to Claire Ewing-Nelson ’18, Yale created a competitive ‘B team’ in order to compete in the races without entering its fastest athletes.
“[Franklin Park] is an interesting meet because it’s a lot of Division III teams who load up teams to beat D-I teams,” Ewing-Nelson said. “A lot of D-I teams will run a B team, the way we did, or not run their top girls. There are so many big meets surrounding it where people want their top runners to be well-rested and good to go.”
With their eyes on Indiana, the Bulldogs chose to rest several top runners, allowing younger runners time to shine. Among those runners were Sarah Healy ’18, Julia Borowski ’18 and Casey Celestin ’18, all of whom had two or fewer races under their belts when they took to the field on Saturday.
Alpert was one of three seniors who raced. Alpert captains a young team — this year, there are only eight upperclassmen on the women’s varsity team out of 29 total racers.
“We have 13 freshmen,” Alpert said. “That’s been great for the team because we were a small team and we’re a lot bigger now. We’re a deeper team than we ever were. There’s always people to step up and fill in. Lots of our freshmen are doing well, which is a good sign for the future.”
One of these freshmen is Healy. Before Saturday, Healy, who was Yale’s fifth-place finisher and 173rd overall, had never raced as a member of Yale’s varsity squad. A strained muscle at the beginning of the season kept her out of the first few races.
“It was definitely good to be out there,” Healy said. “I’m glad I made it through.”
On the men’s side, the top three finishers were Isa Qasim ’15, Celestin and Max Payson ’16. Qasim came in 40th overall, with Celestin 11 seconds and 23 places behind him.
The men’s team is also young, as 15 of its 26 members are underclassmen.
In terms of building on past success, both teams have several opportunities to prove themselves in the next few weeks.
“We have a Central Connecticut State mini-meet next week,” Healy said. “Almost everyone on the team runs in that. After that, there’s Heps [the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country championship], which is the big one, and regionals.”
In the meantime, the Elis are going to continue training and developing their younger members. The men’s and women’s teams, which practice separately and under two different coaches, are independently working to improve.
While this may mean resting the fastest runners, it also means capitalizing on the team’s youth.