In Friday’s NCAA Northeast Regional, both the Yale men’s and No. 29 women’s cross country teams failed to qualify for the NCAA National Championship in what was their culminating meet at Franklin Park. Men’s captain Kevin Dooney ’16 is the lone runner representing the team as an individual qualifier this Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, after a eighth-place finish overall.
Coming off a historically successful Ivy Heptagonal Championships meet two weeks before, the Eli teams once again proved to be competitive with the region’s best, as the women placed fifth against 37 other teams and the men placed seventh against their field of 28 schools. Competing in a high-stakes conference where only the top two receive automatic bids to the season’s final meet, both teams missed the qualifying mark, ending their postseason hopes.
“Though our hopes for a National bid were not realized, I truly cannot express what an extraordinary season we have had this fall,” Kelli Reagan ’18 said. “We began in August with hopes for a mediocre season at best as our top two returners were out with injuries and ended up with a second-place Ivy finish, a National ranking and a serious chance at qualifying for the National meet.”
Earning its best finish since 2005, the women’s team placed five positions better than it ran in Regionals last season, posting a score of 156, just 14 points behind fourth-place Boston College. However, to qualify for the national meet, Yale needed a third-place run or better. Yet the Elis did prove their might in the Ivy League, coming out on top of many Ancient Eight foes, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia and Cornell, who were also top-ten finishers on Friday. Providence and Syracuse would ultimately take the two spots and will continue their postseason runs.
Friday’s race included several impressive finishes for the Bulldogs. The team’s top two finishers throughout the season, Frances Schmiede ’17 and Dana Klein ’18, both posted quick times, placing 13th and 22nd in the race, respectively. Less than a second behind Klein was Meredith Rizzo ’17, who shaved more than 50 seconds off her Heps time to come in third among the Elis, her highest finish in the team’s top five. Schmiede, Klein and Rizzo all earned All-Northeast Region Honors for being among the first 25 runners to complete the course.
“We had a number of athletes really step up with outstanding races,” Reagan said. “Though we were disappointed with our team finish, the depth and talent of our team was truly showcased on Friday.”
Rizzo was followed by young standout Andrea Masterson ’19, who finished in 43rd place, and Reagan, who capped off the top five. Reagan’s time of 22:01.2 was less than a minute behind Schmiede.
Of the Elis’ top seven runners at Regionals, none are seniors and all will compete with the team in the 2016 season.
“As such a young team, everything we were able to accomplish this year proves that we are capable of competing at the highest level,” Reagan said. “With everyone returning, we are strong contenders for the Ivy League title and a national appearance next fall. This time, it won’t go unrealized.”
The men’s race saw an extremely competitive field, even more so than in recent years. The Bulldogs tied sixth-place Providence with 169 points, but narrowly lost the tiebreaker to the Friars. Last year, Yale earned the same final position in the regional race, but with a score 31 points higher than the 2015 finish. The Elis were also within 20 points of fourth-place Dartmouth and fifth-place Columbia, but the Bulldogs were outside the qualifying positions.
Leading the men’s team on Friday, just as he has consistently all season, was Dooney. With a quick time of 30:46.3 in the 10K, he crossed the finish in eighth out of 247 runners.
“I’m obviously very pleased with how the race went personally,” Dooney said. “I was able to conserve some energy and get through with as little damage done as possible, which hopefully will serve me well for next weekend. While not qualifying as a team is tough, all the guys put themselves in the best position possible to achieve that goal.”
Following Dooney were two other Bulldogs who have posted big seasons for Yale, James Randon ’17 and Cameron Stanish ’18. The pair completed the race just eight seconds and three places apart, in 23rd and 26th, respectively. Dooney and Randon were awarded All-Northeast Region Honors for breaking into the top 25. Although he just missed the cutoff, Stanish posted a placement 30 higher than the one he earned in the 2014 race his freshman year.
The Elis’ top five was rounded out by Adam Houston ’18 and Duncan Tomlin ’16. Tomlin’s 60th-position finish was just 70 seconds behind Dooney.
Syracuse and Iona, the top two finishers, dominated the meet, with seven of the top 10 runners hailing from the two New York powerhouses, advancing to the NCAA Championships. There are 13 at-large bids available for teams who do not automatically qualify, although Yale will not receive one of these offers. However, Dooney’s placement will secure him a chance to compete in Louisville as an individual qualifier for the second consecutive year.
While Regionals marks the end of the postseason for the Bulldogs, runners see this season as evidence of the programs’ growth and their potential in seasons to come.
“Although we aren’t going to Nationals, we really raised the expectations we have for this program,” Stanish said. “With our third-place finish at the Ivy League championships, we have proven that this program is capable of going after Ivy League titles and nationals berths.”
Dooney will race in the national meet on Saturday, Nov. 21 in Louisville, Kentucky.