The Yale men’s and women’s track and field teams won several events in Saturday’s Yale Season Opener at Coxe Cage against eight local colleges and universities. The meet was the Elis’ first competition after months of training, and the freshmen’s first opportunity to compete at the collegiate level.
The women’s team won four events throughout the day, while the men’s team walked away with five first-place medals.
“First meets are just that, the beginning of a long two-season process,” director of track and field David Shoehalter said. “You can’t get too excited about great performances or too upset about poor performances. On the whole we had a great day.”
Perhaps the events most indicative of the team’s depth came in the women’s mile race and the men’s 1,000-meter event. Led by distance runner Katie Raphael ’18, the women swept the top five spots in the mile, and the Bulldogs ended up with six of the top 10 finishers. On the men’s side, Yale saw similar success in the 1,000-meter, in which Tim Cox ’17 led Yale to grab the first three finishing spots in the 12-person field.
Meanwhile in the women’s 1,000-meter competition, Yale middle-distance runner Shannon McDonnell ’16 handily captured first. The senior set a new personal record of 2:49.76, the fourth-best mark all-time in Yale history. McDonnell finished 11 seconds before her next-closest competitor, fellow Bulldog Emma Lower ’19.
“The freshmen especially had some phenomenal first-meet performances,” men’s captain and pole vaulter Brendan Sullivan ’16 said. “There’s always a lot of nervous energy going into your first collegiate meet, but the confidence and competitive spirit they established will hopefully not only set the tone for themselves, but also for the team as a whole.”
Sullivan dominated the pole vault competition, clearing 4.95 meters after electing to pass on the first seven rounds of vaults and save himself for the more challenging heights near the end of the event.
For Sullivan’s final four jumps, he was the sole pole vaulter remaining, and thus turned his attention to setting a new personal best.
“If you are the only one left, then you have won the meet, and thus, there’s nothing left to focus on except going for a new personal record,” said Sullivan, whose personal best is a 5.10-meter jump.
In a field of eight competitors from six schools, Yale’s Austin Laut ’19 finished in second place in the event after jumping 4.65 meters.
Following the pattern of a Yale upperclassman and freshman finishing first and second, men’s middle distance runner Alexander McDonald ’16 competed fiercely with Connor Hill ’19 in the 500-meter race, only to best Hill by 0.03 seconds for the win. The two stayed closely behind the only other competitor in their heat, an athlete from Queens College, until the final 150 meters when the Elis powered past him in a sprint to the finish.
Elsewhere in competition, Yale’s Emily Barnes ’17 dominated the 3,000-meter event. Halfway through the race, she began to lap her competitors, moving her way through the small packs made up by the 12 other runners. Similar to Sullivan, Barnes also saw the event as an opportunity to focus on herself rather than her field, noting that she knew entering the weekend that her previous times ranked favorably compared to her competition.
“Based off of seed times, I had an idea that I might be on my own for some portion of the race, so my plan going in was to focus on the clock,” said Barnes.
She finished the nearly two-mile race in 10:02.51, 29 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher and 22 seconds faster than her previous personal best.
Continuing Yale’s streak of sizable wins, the women’s 4×800-meter relay team won in 9:18.10, almost one full minute ahead of the second-place University of New Haven team. By Yale’s start of the final leg of the two-mile race, the Bulldogs were already one lap ahead of the Chargers, the lone other team competing. The women’s 4×400-meter relay team placed second in a field of 12 teams, finishing 4.65 seconds behind the team from Southern Connecticut State University with a time of 3:54.79.
The Yale men competed in only one team event, the 4×400-meter relay. The Elis won the race with a time of 3:22.08, besting their competitors thanks in part to a series of quick hand offs in an event that saw the top six teams finish within eight seconds of each other.
The meet provided multiple reasons for the Elis to be optimistic moving into the official competitions of the indoor season.
“One of our team goals is to improve upon last year’s finish in the Ivy League because we realize that we have a very talented group and we can be a serious contender in the Ivy League,” said women’s captain Sydney Cureton ’16, who finished second in the 60-meter dash.
While Yale did excel in the middle-distance and distance events, the team failed to earn a victory in any of the sprints or in any field events, excluding Sullivan’s pole-vaulting performance and a win for Michael Koller ’17 in the men’s high jump. However, the athletes emphasized that the event serves more as an experience-building competition, and Shoehalter referred to it as a “‘diagnostic test’ of sorts.”
The Bulldogs’ next meet, for both the men and women, is Saturday, Jan. 9 in New Haven at Coxe Cage.