With the pressure of the postseason now upon them, the Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams both posted their most impressive performances of the season this weekend, placing third and second, respectively, against a field of Ivy League foes.
In Friday’s Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, the Bulldogs narrowly missed two first-place rankings, as the conference’s annual competition saw one of its closest finishes in recent history. The second-place finish for the Eli women was their best showing at Heps since 2002, and not since 2003 have the men posted a result as high as third place. The two teams placed in the top three at once for the first time in 25 years.
“The team as a whole has consistently improved throughout the season,” captain Shannon McDonnell ’16 said. “As we prepare for [NCAA Northeast] Regionals and beyond, we aren’t looking to change anything but simply continue to progress.”
A pair of top-10 finishes propelled the women to the front of the field at the race, which was hosted by Columbia at Van Cortland Park in New York City. Separated by exactly one second, Frances Schmiede ’17 and Dana Klein ’18 crossed the finish back to back in seventh and eighth place. Meet champion Princeton was the only other Ivy squad to have more than one member place in the top 10 on Friday.
Continuing the trend of running in pairs, Kelli Reagan ’18 and Ellie Atkinson ’19 kept close together as they crossed the finish line, earning 18th and 22nd place, respectively. Atkinson’s 22:03.7 time in the 6,000-meter race was an improvement of almost a minute from her first race at Van Cortlandt Park earlier this season, when she posted a time of 23:00.7 in the Sept. 19 Iona Meet of Champions. However, Heps may have been Atkinson’s last race of the season, as she suffered a stress fracture in the last leg of the race.
Finishing 45 seconds behind Yale leader Schmiede, Meredith Rizzo ’17 ran the course in 22:10.9, putting her in 28th place to round out the Bulldog scorers.
“[We had] a lot of really impressive runs,” Atkinson said. “Frances and Dana ran the whole race step-and-step with each other, [and] Meredith Rizzo really stepped up. The team has a lot more [successful races to come] by doing what we’ve been doing.”
For the men, an impressive team performance was highlighted by a second-place overall finish by captain Kevin Dooney ’16 in a field of 86 athletes. Crossing the finish of the five-mile course in just 24:29.5, Dooney was only three seconds behind the winner of the race, Penn’s Thomas Awad, who took the title for the second consecutive year. Dooney shaved three seconds off his mile pace from his fifth-place finish in the same meet in 2014.
Following Dooney was teammate James Randon ’17, who kept close to Dooney for the majority of the race and finished just seven seconds behind in 24:36.7, good for fifth overall. Yale was the only team in the race to place two runners in the top five.
Heps proved to be a major showing of progress for Adam Houston ’18, the third Bulldog to make it to the finish. At the 2.1-kilometer split, Houston ranked 45th in the field with a time of 6:11. Over the course of the remaining kilometers, he passed 28 runners, pushing him into 17th place, a key performance for Yale.
Duncan Tomlin ’16 and Cameron Stanish ’18 rounded out the scoring portion of the squad with respective 25th- and 26th- place finishes, giving the squad 75 points — a 48-point improvement over last season, and just six more than Penn and 10 more than meet champion Columbia.
“We ran phenomenally well,” Dooney said. “We worked our way through the pack. We all managed to pick up key spots in the last 900 meters. To see everyone come through when it mattered was really a big thing for us.”
The race marked impressive improvement for the Yale men, who placed behind Ivy competitors Cornell, Princeton and Dartmouth earlier in the season but managed to outrank all three on Friday.
With such positive performances this past weekend, both teams are hoping to build on their momentum before heading to the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 13.
Dooney said he believes achieving a bid to the NCAA National Championship — which requires being one of the top two teams in the region — is possible, although a victory over Columbia, Friday’s champion, will be key. The women are also hoping for another big race to keep their season alive, but are proud of their progress.
“It’s important to note that this is just the start of good things to come,” Atkinson said. “The team is really going to develop from here, and in future years Princeton will be our rivals. We will be there to win next year.”
The Elis have raced at Franklin Park, the course of the NCAA Northeast Regionals, twice already this season.