The No. 21 Yale women’s cross country team finished the regular season with a dominant performance at the Central Connecticut State Mini Meet this past weekend.
The Bulldogs came first in both the varsity and junior varsity races by wide margins, outrunning 17 and eight teams, respectively. The team’s score in the varsity race was particularly impressive — the runner up, Boston College, finished with a score of 105, 80 points greater than Yale’s score of only 25. In the junior varsity race, meanwhile, the Elis finished five points ahead of second place New Hampshire, and Jane Miller ’20 finished first in the field of 88 runners with a time of 10:45.5.
“It was amazing to see how well the runners did in the JV race,” Emily Barnes ’17 said. “It definitely put the pressure on us seniors to do well ourselves, and their success really got us pumped up.”
In the varsity race, Gemma Shepherd ’20 led the team and finished third overall in a field of 127 runners, crossing the finish line with a time of 10:12.8. At three kilometers, this race was shorter than most of the tracks that the Bulldogs run throughout the season, and Shepherd, who is ranked third nationally in the UK in this distance, has excelled at this type of track before.
Shepherd had a strong start off the line, pulling ahead of the other runners to lead the pack for the first lap and was right on the heels of second-place Keelin Hollowood of Providence, crossing the finish line only 0:00.5 seconds behind her competitor.
“I enjoyed the first lap as I felt strong,” Shepherd said. “It was also great to have the support of the team to cheer me [on]. But despite the shorter distance, it was still hard work holding onto a faster pace.”
The rest of the scoring Bulldogs finished the race in a tight pack, taking fourth through seventh place. Kate Raphael ’17 finished fourth with a time of 10:22.1, followed by Melissa Fairchild ’18, Sarah Healy ’18 and Barnes, who finished just 2.2 seconds after Raphael.
The ability to run together in groups has been a focus of training, and this has helped the Elis to victories in previous meets.
“I think the biggest takeaway from the meet was just how strong our pack was in both the varsity and sub-varsity races,” Healy said. “In the varsity race we ran together for pretty much the whole race, which demonstrates how we can draw upon each other as motivation when the race starts to get tough.”
While Miller, Emily Kaplan ’19 and Kate Zendell ’19 finished out front of the junior varsity, the next three members finished within four seconds of each other, coming in eighth, 10th and 11th.
Barnes said this is the most cohesive team that she has raced with in her four years as a Bulldog, and the pack mentality helped the team to recover from a slightly slow start and to finish strong.
“It’s a special year for the team in terms of our ability to work together,” Barnes said. “We have a lot of positive energy, but its focused rather than frantic and excited. The strength of our pack means that pressure is taken off any one runner, because everyone on the team understands that we have to pull our own weight and win together as a team.”
This was the last race before the Bulldogs compete at the Heptagonal Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, New York.