Building on their early success this season, the Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams showed bursts of speed last Saturday, resulting in impressive finishes at the Virginia Panorama Farms Invitational.
In the first meet that counts toward seeding in the NCAA National Championships, the Bulldogs proved they can run alongside the fastest in the Northeast Region, with both Yale teams finishing in fourth place among a field of 15 squads from across the country.
For the men’s team — whose sole meet thus far saw the Bulldogs finish second in the three-team HYP race — this weekend’s race proved to be a great stride forward as the men outscored nationally ranked Eastern Kentucky by 49 points and Yalies on both teams earned personal bests.
“We’re definitely very happy to beat the 20th-best team in the country,” captain Kevin Dooney ’16 said. “That’s a big achievement for us. We have a lot more to give as we pick up the intensity.”
Once again, Dooney was the first to cross the finish line for the men on Saturday, completing the course in a time of 24:23.8 — good for 16th place overall. Teammate James Randon ’17 was right behind Dooney, finishing in a pack of runners with only a tenth of a second and two competitors between him and his captain.
Randon earned a personal best by nine seconds, shaving nearly 50 seconds off his HYP pace from two weekends ago. Dooney also dropped 40 seconds from his HYP finishing time.
Several other Elis also picked up the pace. The next three finishers for Yale — Cameron Stanish ’18, Duncan Tomlin ’16 and Andre Ivankovic ’17 — also dropped significant time from their HYP marks, finishing the University of Virginia-hosted race in 25th, 27th and 51st respectively. Adam Houston ’16 and Pascal Ungersboeck ’19 were the remaining runners to receive scores for the Bulldogs.
“All the teams that beat us are very good teams,” Dooney said. “There’s no shame in that. [This race] is reinforcement that we’re going in the right direction, and to see [results] on paper and in races is obviously the most important.”
The race was dominated by the host team Virginia, which had a team score of just 41, compared to Yale’s 130, due to seven of its nine runners finishing within the top 15. Still, Yale had a strong showing as they placed ahead of schools such as Auburn and Mississippi State, placing them in a good position for important meets throughout October.
The women saw similar success in their race, on the heels of a third-place finish at HYP and a sixth-place result in the 11-team field at the Iona Meet of Champions. Dana Klein ’18 emerged as the Bulldogs’ frontrunner, completing the 5K in just 17:32.1, less than 45 seconds off the winner’s pace. She was one of four Eli runners on the women’s team to earn a personal best — her second of the season after she dropped eight seconds off her time in the HYP.
Klein was followed closely by Frances Schmiede ’17, who completed the 5K in 17:50.8. Kelli Reagan ’18, Emily Waligurski ’17 and Andrea Masterson ’19 composed the Yale top five. The trio crossed the line in a tight cluster, separated by only six seconds and five places, ranging from 29th to 34th, respectively.
“Over the past few weeks, we have been focusing on running in packs, and we did a great job of doing the same during the race,” Masterson said. “The course at Virginia was one that had the potential to be particularly challenging mentally. By running in packs, we were able to push each other throughout the entire race.”
Gabrielle Rinne ’19 and Katherine Raphael ’18 both gave strong underclassman performances, finishing the course with new personal bests. The young talent was complemented by a strong veteran performance from Meredith Rizzo ’17, who capped off the top seven performers for the Elis.
Virginia also captured first place in the women’s race, with an even more impressive 30 points, fueled by having the top two finishers in the meet.
“Part of the reason we went to Virginia was to get the chance to race teams we don’t usually compete against,” Masterson said. “We expected to take anywhere from third to eighth place, and we were very happy with fourth. Our finish was a testament to the strong races run by every person on the team and was a result of our collective effort.”
After an auspicious start for both teams in their first major meet, many of the Bulldogs who ran at Virginia will have two weeks off from competition — one more than is typical between races — before running in the New England Championships.
Waligurski said the team will use the extended rest period to recover and maintain progress before heading into the October championships.
“Everyone is healthy and in great shape right now and as we look towards championship season, we are doing everything in our control to be sure that we stay that way,” Waligurski said. “It was exciting to see so many personal bests on a tough course like this, [which] indicates that we’re still improving as a team and the best is still yet to come.”
The New England Championship will be held at Boston’s Franklin Park on Oct. 10.