Amanda Hu

Coming off of last season’s impressive second-place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, the No. 21 Yale women’s cross country team will travel to Princeton hoping to improve on last year’s results.

Yale will send 13 runners to the West Windsor Fields course in Princeton, which has a six-kilometer track on which all eight teams in the Ivy League will compete against each other for the first time this year. The Bulldogs’ first-place finishes at the Fordham Fiasco, Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, Paul Short Run and the Central Connecticut State Mini-meet last weekend make the Elis a strong favorite heading into the conference title race.

“Given the extraordinary body of work we have put in over the summer and throughout the season, we are all prepared to have exceptional performances,” Kelli Reagan ’18 said. “Our main focus going into the race will be to remain relaxed and to successfully execute our race plan, just as we have been doing all season.”

Yale has the highest national ranking of any Ivy League team, followed by No. 24 Penn and No. 26 Harvard. The regular season has shown that the Bulldogs are capable of performing in a way that reflects this ranking, as the Elis have beaten the other teams in the Ivy League at every meet so far this season.

Particularly encouraging is the strong performance of the Elis at the at the Paul Short Run, which was held on the same track as the one on which they will race this weekend. At this meet, which took place on Oct. 1, Yale won by a significant margin, finishing with a score 27 points lower than the runner-up, Georgetown, and 35 points lower than Penn, which claimed third place.

“The fact that the track is the same as HYP this year is definitely an advantage,” captain Frances Schmiede ’17 said. “We did well there, which will help calm any nerves going in. Obviously the pace will be faster, but I think the race will play out in a similar way.”

The Bulldogs will continue to focus on running in packs, a strategy that they have implemented all season. The Elis have excelled using the technique this year, with the spread between the top scorer and the crucial fifth scorer never exceeding 30 seconds. The largest margin between scoring runners was a 28-second spread at the Paul Short Run early in the season.

“We are such a uniquely cohesive team and our ability to work together has really propelled us through the season,” Emily Barnes ’17 said. “Heps is a really unique race where the entire focus is on picking off bodies and taking places, but at the same time, we have had great success with keeping the focus on ourselves and our own team.”

The Elis had a strong performance at the Heps last year: Their second place finish was the highest since 2002. At the meet, Schmiede and Dana Klein ’18, both of whom will travel to Princeton this weekend, finished in seventh and eighth place, respectively. Five other runners who will compete this weekend — Barnes, Reagan, Ellie Atkinson ’19, Andrea Masterson ’19 and Meredith Rizzo ’18 — also ran at the championships last year.

This year, after an impressive regular season, the expectation for the Bulldogs is high. At the same time, both Scheide and Reagan stressed that the team will approach the race with the same mindset that they would bring to a middle-of-the-season contest.

“While Heps is obviously an important race for pride in the Ivy League, it is just another step toward our ultimate goal of competing as a nationally ranked team through the end of the season,” Reagan said.

The race will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.