The No. 17 women’s cross country team had an unremarkable showing at their fourth meet of the season, the New England Championship in Boston, where they finished 20th out of the 35-team field.
With many of the team’s top athletes taking the week off in preparation for the upcoming Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, only five Elis competed this weekend. Despite solid showings from all the runners, the Bulldogs were not among the top teams at the meet and followed behind Ivy League competitors such as Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown, which finished in second, sixth and 15th place, respectively.
“For most of us, this meet was really just about building off of our current fitness levels and taking a step forward in the right direction,” Emily Kaplan ’19. “This weekend was just a good opportunity for us to get out there and enjoy the process of getting fit and running fast.”
The team was led by Emily Barnes ’17, who ran for the first time this season with a time only 18.59 seconds slower than her personal best, which she also recorded at the New England Championships. With a final time of 18:45.39, Barnes placed 43rd among a field of 234 runners, a particularly encouraging result given that this was her first race after an injury that has kept her on the sidelines this fall.
According to Barnes, many of the runners were returning from injuries and illnesses, and their finish was reassuring for the recovering squad.
“It was great to get out there and feel the support,” Barnes said. “The New England Championship is an intimidating race, and it was an intense, physical first mile — anyone who thinks that cross country isn’t a contact sport should have seen the elbowing going on in that first stretch. But the second mile was a hill so, being from Colorado, I got excited about that, and that was definitely the strongest part of my race.”
Barnes finished significantly ahead of the other four Bulldogs who raced this weekend, all of whom finished close together almost a minute later. Rachel Jones ’18 was the second Eli across the finish line with a time of 19:27.0 that earned her 108th place. Running closely behind her, and finishing just four seconds later, was Jennie Callan ’17, who finished with a time of 19:31.1 for 111th place.
The final three Elis who competed this past weekend — Kaplan, Julia Borowski ’18 and Calleigh Higgins ’18 — all ran close together and finished within four seconds of each other, with times of 19:39.16, 19:40.76 and 19:43.96, respectively. According to several members of the team, running together in packs is something that has been emphasized in the squad’s trainings, and it has helped Yale to strong finishes in previous meets.
This week, although the Elis’ overall ranking was fairly low, the competitors succeeded once again in running closely together. Apart from Barnes, the remaining four runners finished within 15 seconds of each other.
Kaplan made her collegiate debut at the meet, running for the first time as a Bulldog. She was held back from the first races of the season by a high-school injury that has been healing for 10 months.
“Running in the Yale uniform is a privilege that I don’t take for granted,” Kaplan said. “Running my first 5k in a long time was very intimidating, but it was made a lot easier by having my teammates there next to me every step of the way, both in training and in the race.”
The next race for the Bulldogs is the highly anticipated Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, a meet to which the team has been looking ahead since the start of the season. The Elis will face a lineup of ranked competition, featuring No. 1 Providence, No. 3 North Carolina State and No. 6 Michigan State.
According to captain Frances Schmiede ’17, while the other teams may be the best in country, the Yale team is excited to see how it compares.
“While the [NCAA] coaches poll gives us a ranking, at the end of the day, it’s only racing that really shows where we stand nationally,” Schmiede said. “This is an exciting test.”