In their regular season finale, the Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams impressed with one of their best finishes of the year at the Central Connecticut State University mini meet.
The highlight of the weekend was a first-place finish for the women’s team in a field of 17, marking the first victory for either team this year. The men’s team also saw a successful finish, placing fifth out of 15 teams from across the northeast region.
“Overall, our team had a very impressive performance, with most if not all of the racers significantly improving their times from this meet last year,” Sarah Healy ’18 said. “I think this really attests to the progress that our team has seen over the course of this season and even [how we are] building off of last season.”
Five members of the women’s team crossed the finish line in the top 20 overall in a field of more than 100 runners. The Bulldogs’ top five finishers were separated by just 16 seconds, combining to earn the team’s total of 50 points, a mere point ahead of second-place finisher Monmouth.
Melissa Fairchild ’18 was the first Eli to complete the 3k in a time of just 10:21.5, a personal record that put her fourth overall. She was followed closely behind by a pair of Bulldogs, Emily Barnes ’17 and Sami Glass ’18, who finished within 1.3 seconds of each other to earn seventh and eighth place, respectively.
Another pair of consecutive finishes rounded out Yale’s top five, as Elizabeth McDonald ’16 and Healy took 17th and 18th place. The race marked a 42-second improvement on McDonald’s finish from her freshman run of the course in 2012. Next was Grace Brittan ’16, who crossed the line in 23rd, just 6.5 seconds behind Healy with a time that placed all six varsity runners in the top quarter of the field. However, Brittan’s result did not count toward Yale’s team score, as only the top five finishers earn team points.
“Our strategy was to get off the starting line fast and hard,” Glass said. “As a team we successfully accomplished this and were able to establish our position in the front of the pack. From that point forward we worked together as a team to maintain positions until the very end.”
Proving the depth of the squad, Yale also had five runners in a separate sub-varsity race, all of whom finished among the top 21 finishers in the 51-person field. This included a third-place finish from Emma Lower ’19, who posted a time of 10:47.8, not far off the varsity pace. That result would have placed the freshman 28th in the varsity competition.
On the men’s side, a fifth-place finish capped the regular season on a high note as well. The Bulldogs were led by Zach Capello ’19, who ran the 5k in a quick 15:14.9, less than 10 seconds off the winner’s pace. Capello was followed closely by another young Eli talent as Ryan Brady ’18 crossed the line 13 seconds behind his teammate.
The next set of Bulldogs finished in quick succession, with four places and less than five seconds separating Matt Chisholm ’18, Max Payson ’16, and Thomas Gmür ’18 to round out Yale’s scorers.
Central Connecticut took first place on its home course with 52 points, followed by Providence and Monmouth. But Yale, who finished with 120 points, did defeat local rival Quinnipiac by a margin of 57 points.
Many of the athletes who competed on Saturday are members of both the cross country and track programs, and meets like the CCSU mini meet grant these runners a chance to train in a competitive atmosphere for both seasons.
“This meet is [an] opportunity for our middle-distance runners to break down the monotony of the autumnal base training,” Gmür said. “By pinning a bib on our chest, we are getting a hint of the competitive adrenaline rush we miss from our track season while putting in a solid effort on an upper-distance [course], which perfectly fits in our current training regimen.”
Although the event marked the close of regular competition and the season in general for many runners on the team, the top competitors who rested this weekend after racing in Pre-Nationals on Oct. 17 will continue on to the championship portion of the season.
Next up for both the men and women are the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Friday.
“[The CCSU mini meet] is important because the effort and determination that everyone brought to the course truly sets the stage for the team’s next race, the Ivy League Championships,” Healy said. “Culminating from all of the impressive races this season, the team is in a very exciting place to improve off of last year’s efforts and definitely finish strong among the Ivy League teams.”
In last year’s iteration of the Heptagonal Championship, the men finished in fifth while the women earned a sixth-place result. The premiere Ivy event of the season will be run in Van Cortlandt Park in New York.