The Yale men’s cross country team’s fifth-place performance in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at Princeton on Saturday was headlined by several personal-best times and a historic top finish.
Though the Bulldogs fell out of the top half of the Ancient Eight standings after their third-place finish at the meet last year, the Elis still had reasons for excitement. Captain James Randon ’17 won the individual title with a personal-best 8k time of 23:47.5, becoming the first individual champion for Yale since 1989. Many of the Elis’ subsequent runners also notched personal records, but finished well behind the Randon-led fleet of top runners.
“[Randon] has been unstoppable — a lot of people would have favored him going in,” head coach Paul Harkins said. “He took that pressure and relished [in] it. He epitomizes what it means to be a champion and uses [pressure] as fuel.”
At the first mile mark, all 12 of Yale’s runners were within 10 seconds of each other with split times from 4:44.1 to 4:54.1. Although the team spread out considerably over the remainder of the race, Harkins gave the men groups to run in so they could work off each other during the contest. While the overall split between the Bulldogs was just over two minutes, most of the Elis finished mere seconds apart from at least one other teammate.
Although Randon was in fifth place in a tight front pack entering the last mile, he crossed the line more than four seconds in front of the runner-up, Princeton junior William Paulson.
“Personally, I had high expectations [going into the race],” Randon said. “At five kilometers I started to inch away from the rest of the group with about 10 other guys. Heading up that last hill I remember one Penn guy kept passing me and so I decided to take the lead … but then a Princeton guy passed me right before the turn with 300 meters to go. … I knew if I played it safe and was near the front without leading until the last 200 or 300 meters [then] I would be good to go.”
A contingent of runners representing every school but Harvard and Yale followed Randon to round out the top 15. Trevor Reinhart ’19, who finished 16th out of 94 runners and second on the Yale team, beat his personal record by nearly 30 seconds. A trio of Bulldogs made up of Allen Siegler ’20, Andre Ivankovic ’17 and Cameron Stanish ’18 worked together throughout the race and rounded out the scoring for Yale, finishing in 24:33.1, 24:37.1 and 24:39.3, respectively.
Despite trailing their captain by about 300 meters, the Eli scorers crossed the line within just six seconds of each other. Siegler cited Head Coach Paul Harkins’ well-construed race plan as a very helpful piece of the team’s individual successes.
“Before [the race], Harkins had told us where we should be position-wise,” Siegler said. “The plan was to move up during the race and progress the whole time. He told me to gravitate around the 30s place-wise, so I tried to do that throughout the race. I got 31st overall so I was happy with it.”
The next groups of Elis consisted of Ryan Brady ’18, who finished in 51st place with a time of 25:00.4, and Hale Ross ’18, who posted a 55th-place time of 25:07.0, followed two places later by Scott Meehan ’18 in 25:10.1, another personal best.
Matt Chisholm ’18 and Peter Ryan ’20 also paced off of each other throughout the race. Ryan was only two seconds behind Chisholm at the three-mile mark and finished just three seconds after his junior teammate crossed the line in 25:37.5. Both runners improved their places in the later stages of the race, leapfrogging 11 and 14 places after their respective one-mile splits.
“On paper we knew we wouldn’t be able to quite compete with top teams like Penn and Princeton, but if we closed in well in the second half we knew we could get some of the others,” Randon said. “I think for the team it was important to stay calm early on and hold back a bit.”
Yale steadily moved up the leaderboard throughout the entire race, improving from 167 points at the mile mark to 142 at three miles and finally to 118 at the finish. The champion Penn team finished with just 38 points, scoring all five runners in the top 12. Last year’s champion, Princeton, and Columbia rounded out the top three ahead of a large gap in the standings. Dartmouth and Yale, finishing neck-and-neck in the middle of the standings, distanced themselves with another large margin over the bottom three competitors.
“I think the team overall did really well, especially compared to previous races this season,” Siegler said. “We’re in a good place going into Regionals. Harkins is really good at having the team run its best races at the end of the season so it’s cool to trust in the process and trust in our workouts and see it produce good times.”
The Bulldogs will continue their season at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 11 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York.