The Yale men’s cross country team flew to South Bend, Indiana this past Friday to compete against some of the nation’s top teams at the 61st iteration of the Joe Paine Notre Dame Invitational.
The five-mile race presented an intense level of competition for the Bulldogs. Facing seven nationally-ranked teams and an afternoon of light mist and rain, the Elis placed 24th out of 25 teams with 607 total points. Captain James Randon ’17 was the only runner on the team to finish in the top third of the competition, with nearly 100 runners separating him from the rest of the Yale squad.
“While [the Notre Dame meet] wasn’t an ideal result, it was nevertheless a speed bump in a long season,” Randon said. “With six weeks still left [in the season], there will be plenty of time to run against great competition.”
The flat, fast ground of the Notre Dame golf course presented an uncomfortable challenge for the Elis and their nearly 200-strong competitors. Though Randon fought through the converging mass of runners to stay within two seconds of the lead at the one-mile mark, teammates Andre Ivankovic ’17 and Allen Siegler ’20 had already fallen nearly 11 seconds off the lead in 147th and 190th place, respectively.
As 150 competitors crossed the four-kilometer mark within a span of 45 seconds, Randon still led the chase for the Bulldogs at an 11:52.4 mark. Yale, then in 19th place, was overtaken by Baylor, University of Texas at Arlington, North Carolina and Nebraska during the last mile of the event.
“Any time we run out of our region, we travel to the highest competition,” Randon said. “With that comes racing against the best athletes in the country.”
Randon’s final time of 24:24.8 was nearly 30 seconds faster than that of his winning time at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet two weekends ago. However, his run was overpowered by representatives from several NCAA top-30 schools, and the Yale captain could do no better than a 42nd place finish.
Ivankovic was the next Bulldog to finish the race, crossing the line in 133rd place with a time of 25:16.4. Yale’s third through fifth scorers all finished within five seconds of each other, with Adam Houston ’18, Siegler -— whose 25:36.5 time represented a personal record in the distance — and Ryan Brady ’18 finishing in 154th, 160th and 163rd place, respectively.
Sean Tobin and M.J. Erb, both runners from No. 20 Mississippi, were among the standouts at the Notre Dame Invitationa. The duo finished first and fourth, respectively, recovering from one-mile splits that had placed them in 40th and 107th to secure the win for the Rebels.
Despite his team’s second-to-last finish, Ivankovic insisted that building momentum and acclimating to the competition level are most important in the season’s early stages.
“We are currently in a tough phase of training and focused on aerobic fitness,” Ivankovic said. “As we transition to more speed work we will perform better at races, but the hope is to have this peak occur during championship season.”
With three meets remaining before the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and five left until NCAA Nationals, the team continues its training with the hope of reaching its peak at the end of the season. The Bulldogs look to improve on their third place finish at the 2015 Ivy League championships later this month.
The Bulldogs race next at the New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston on Oct. 8.