It was a case of déjà vu this weekend for the Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams at NCAA Pre-Nationals. In similar fashion to the New England Championships a week before, the Eli women strode ahead of their main competition while the men fell once more into the middle of the pack.
The NCAA Pre-Nationals, held in Louisville, Kentucky this past Saturday, mark the first race that can influence whether Yale secures a bid to the NCAA Nationals in November. Though the Yale women’s team placed 14th out of a field of 45 in the event, that performance put the Bulldogs ahead of Ivy League competitors Brown and Cornell, as well as the rest of the Northeast region. Despite a series of personal bests on the men’s side, runners said that Yale’s 19th-place team finish, which was behind Cornell, was ultimately a disappointment.
“It is truly just an incredible opportunity for us to get out and compete against some of the best programs in the country,” women’s runner Kelli Reagan ’18 said. “At the end of the day, the race is just a final push before championship season, but our performance today really set the tone for what we are hoping to accomplish in the next couple of weeks.”
With more than a minute’s improvement on her best time of the 2014 season, Frances Schmiede ’17 led the Yale squad, finishing the 6000-meter race 57th overall with a time of 20:52.4. Teammate Dana Klein ’18 was less than two seconds behind, finishing in 61st place.
The next pair of Bulldogs, Emily Waligurski ’17 and Reagan, also finished within two seconds of each other with times of 21:12.2 and 21:13.7, respectively. They were followed by a trio of freshmen — Andrea Masterson ’19, Ellie Atkinson ’19 and Gabrielle Rinne ’19 — to round out the team’s point total to 474.
The squad saw four personal bests from Schmeide, Klein, Waligurski and Atkinson, while Reagan was less than a second off her best 6K finish. The team finished with a spread of just less than a minute between the first and seventh Eli finisher.
“Today was one of the best days we have had in a long time,” Reagan said. “Personal records speak for themselves, but we really stepped up as a team and ran tough from the start … We definitely surprised the field with our finish.”
A highlight for the women’s team came when it bested Northeast competition New Hampshire and Connecticut, who came into the weekend ranked higher than Yale by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association but finished 21st and 31st, respectively, in the race.
Despite just finishing a few positions lower than the women, as well as a few personal bests, members of the men’s team were frustrated and disappointed by their 19th-place finish, they said. Cameron Stanish ’18 noted that the Bulldogs had entered the race hoping to earn as high as 10th amongst the competition.
The quickest Eli time of the day came from James Randon ’17, who finished the 8000-meter course in 23:50.4, ranking 38th in the field of 288 competitors. He was followed by captain Kevin Dooney ’16, with a time of 24:01.1, and Stanish at 24:10.5.
“We performed well below our expectations as a team,” Duncan Tomlin ’16 said after the race. “I was especially frustrated with my own performance. There were some bright spots — [Randon’s] performance, for example — but overall it’ll be a pretty dour plane flight back.”
Another of those bright spots was the speed the squad showed over the weekend, something Stanish attributed to the flatness of the course.
Of the seven Bulldogs who competed on Saturday, six ran either personal bests or their fastest times of the season, including best times from all three top finishers.
“We didn’t do what we set out to do as a team, [but] it’s good to know that we have speed,” Stanish said. “It was fun to get to run against teams like Oregon and Colorado. It definitely gets us ready for Ivy League Championships in two weeks.”
Yale will race in the Central Connecticut State Mini-Meet in New Britain, Connecticut on Friday. While the top seven runners from each of Yale’s teams will not be racing, the Elis will resume their postseason run in two weeks at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.