Courtesy of Matthew McMasters

With two weeks until the Heptagonal Championships, the Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams both proved that they are poised to be threats within the Ivy League.

Racing at Princeton Invitational, the men’s team finished second out of the 23-team field, with captain James Randon ’17 crossing the finish line first overall. Meanwhile, the No. 17 women’s team held up well against an impressive lineup of opponents at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, finishing 11th in a race that included 18 nationally ranked teams.

“To have seven guys break 25 minutes on the Heps  course shows us that our training is paying off and gives us the confidence that we can do some damage in the Ivy league,” Andre Ivankovic ’17 said. “At the same time, our squad needs to finish higher up if we want a shot at winning. With some rest, sharpening up and tapering during the next two weeks leading up to Heps, I believe we will be charged up and ready on race day. I’m excited.”

The Eli men presented their strongest lineup of the season at Saturday’s Princeton Invitational. The Bulldogs — headed by Randon — made a powerful statement to the rest of the Ivy League on their potential at Heps, which happens in two weeks at the same course.

Randon led the team with a time of 24:01.5, besting a pool of 227 competitors. The senior, who sat out last weekend’s New England Championships, took advantage of his rest and ran for his second-fastest career time, averaging a time of 4:50.0 minutes per mile.

While a group of around 30 runners was closely chasing him at the one-mile and three-mile mark, Randon’s impressive average helped him separate himself from the most competitive pack of the meet. Randon then ran the last two miles accompanied only by University of Maryland Eastern Shore runner Khalid Khalil Rmidi Kinini, who finished only 1.4 seconds after Randon.

“The race … went out relatively slow, and we ran like a pack through the first three miles, but after that the race was blown open by Khalil Rmidi Kinini,” Randon said. “After that, we regrouped well as a team and had our second through fifth [runners] finish within 10 seconds of each other.”

The Elis had six different runners mark new personal records at the race. Hale Ross ’18  finished in 21st place and was among the Yale runners who lowered his personal best. His time of 24:42.9 was a whole minute faster than his best running time last season.

Coming just behind Ross in the 22nd position was sophomore debutante Trevor Reinhart ’19, who with a time of 24:43.0 had a successful first meet. Reinhart passed more than 15 runners in the final two miles of the race, and his remarkable performance provides the Bulldogs with an important addition to their running roster with Heps on the horizon.

The women’s team also had a successful weekend, finishing in the upper half of the 31-team field, which included No. 4 Washington, No. 3 North Carolina State and No. 1 Providence, teams that finished first, second and third, respectively.

Emily Waligurski ’17 was the first Bulldog to finish the race, placing 41st out of a field of 205 runners with a time of 20:54.1. Less than 10 seconds later, Meredith Rizzo ’17 crossed the finish line, with Kelli Reagan ’18 and Dana Klein ’18 following fewer than 15 seconds later. Ellie Atkinson ’19 rounded out the scoring Elis, finishing 84th with a time of 21:16.1, only slightly ahead of fellow Bulldog Andrea Masterson ’19, who finished a fraction of a second later in 85th. Captain Frances Schmiede ’17 completed the Bulldogs lineup with a time of 21:41.2 for 122nd place.

“This weekend was a really solid effort by everyone,” Rizzo said. “We went out and beat [all the teams] that we raced at [the] Paul Short [Run]. While we wish we could have done even better than 11th — and I believe it’s absolutely within our reach — it was a great opportunity for us to have a glimpse of what competing at nationals would be like and to learn what we need to work on for next time.”

According to Waligurski, the Bulldogs had a great start off of the line, but fell back towards the end of the first mile. However, the Elis were able to finish strong with a big effort in the last two kilometers of the six-kilometer course. Waligurski was particularly impressive in moving up 25 spots in order to finish in the top 50 competitors.

The team’s strategy of running closely together in packs was once again successful throughout the race. At the two-kilometer mark, all seven Elis were within two seconds of each other, and at the four-kilometer mark, there was only a six-second difference between the leading runner, Waligurski and Masterson, who was sixth among the Bulldogs. The 22-second difference between the first Eli across the finish line and the fifth-scorer is a testament to how well the team has been running together this fall.

“Staying in our tight pack was easier than anticipated in this large race,” Waligurski said. “Being able to stay so close for the entire race made it possible for our entire team to move up together. Our ability to make such a big move as a team in the last two kilometers also reveals that we all may have been capable of a harder effort through the middle section.”

According to Rizzo, the seniors were excited to return to the course for the first time since racing as a freshman. Three years ago, the Elis finished in last place, and the team’s improvement in the past few seasons reflects the strides the Yale program has taken during this time.

The men’s and women’s teams will both race at Heps on Oct. 29.