After wrapping up a successful regular season, in which it placed in four of six meets and had numerous runners achieve personal bests, the Yale men’s cross country team will vie for a conference title this weekend at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
The Bulldogs enter Heps, the penultimate race of the season and the only contest that features every Ivy League team, with high expectations. Building off last season’s third place finish, the team’s best result since 2003, and a successful race at the Heps course earlier in the year, captain James Randon ’17 and the Elis will look to start their postseason on a high note.
“Heps is the loudest, highest pressure race of the season,” Randon said. “It’s easy to go out too fast, it’s easy to feel inferior to the rest of the competition, and it’s easy to lose focus when there’s a few hundred alums screaming their minds off at you, but that’s what makes it such a special meet … everyone really cares.”
Last year, the team finished behind Penn and Columbia at the event. The Bulldogs placed two runners in the top five overall, including Randon and Kevin Dooney ’16. The captain has already won two races this year: the Harvard–Yale–Princeton meet and the Princeton Invitational.
The team raced well overall at this year’s Heps course at Princeton Invitational on Oct. 15. Yale finished second as a team and edged out Penn but was defeated by Columbia, trailing the Lions both in total time and average time by only one second. About a week ago, the Quakers were ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA standings but dropped below that mark, although they still received votes in the most recent poll.
“We’re in a really good spot as a team right now,” Hale Ross ’18 said. “We’ve been working out very well together in practice and have translated that work into confidence in our racing abilities. The Princeton [Invitational] a couple weekends ago highlighted our fitness and presented us another opportunity to preview the Heps course. We’re peaking at the right time and [are] excited to build on our success from last year’s Ivy League championship [race].”
For the Elis to emerge victorious, they will need another strong performance from Randon, as well as other from runners such as Ross and Trevor Reinhart ’19, who both finished in the top 25 out of the 227 competitors at the Princeton meet.
Yale usually sends between 10 and 12 runners to Heps, and this year’s squad will include every Bulldog runner who competed at the Princeton Invitational. Other spots may be available for runners such as Ryan Brady ’18, who posted the fastest time for the Elis at both the Central Connecticut State Mini-Meet last weekend as well as at the New England Championships on Oct. 8.
The championship is an eight-kilometer race that will feature all members of the Ivy League. This event is the first stage of the postseason, along with the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships and NCAA Championships, and helps runners prepare for the intensity and competitiveness of running with the nation’s best teams.
“We are going to need to be prepared for war,” head coach Paul Harkins said. “This league has a ton of parity, so a lot of how the results shake out really depends on who is most ready on the day and who’s mindset is prepared to embrace the pain. Assuming we execute the race plan well, I am optimistic about our group.”
For the three seniors on Yale’s Heps roster — Randon, Andre Ivankovic ’17 and Spike Sievert ’17 — this will be their final Ivy League cross country race. Ivankovic and Randon have competed in Heps since their freshman year, while Sievert is making his second appearance.
In the last ten years, the Elis have only finished in the top half of the Ancient Eight twice and have never placed higher than third. In order to capture the Ivy crown, the team will have to showcase its depth over all eight kilometers.
“Cross country is a team sport in which every individual’s performance is crucial to securing team success,” Ross said. “Our ability to run as a tight pack and minimize gaps between our scorers will be the key factor in determining our success this weekend.”
The Bulldog runners will compete at 1 p.m. Saturday at Princeton.