After an impressive regular season, the No. 21 Yale women’s cross country team proved that last year’s strong performance at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships was not simply a stroke of luck, as they once again finished second in the Ivy League at the West Windsor Fields at Princeton.
The Elis scored 69 points, behind only No. 24 Harvard’s strong 33-point performance. In a field of 92 runners, all of the scoring competitors for Yale finished in the top 25, with captain Frances Schmiede ’17 and Emily Waligurski ’17 finishing in the top seven. Waligurski led the team with a strong third-place finish, completing the six-kilometer course in 20:36.4 and finishing only 5 seconds behind Ashley Montgomery, who took second place for Penn.
“Though we didn’t come out on top in Saturday’s race, I know that every one of my teammates ensured that Harvard was not going to have an easy win,” Waligurski said. “We all put forth the best effort we had that day. We stayed the course and managed to place second against some stiff competition.”
Schmiede was not too far behind, crossing the finish line with a time of 20:43.8 for seventh place. Andrea Masterson ’19 and Dana Klein ’18 were able to run close to each other and finished 17th and 19th with times of 21:00.9 and 21:01.3, respectively. Ellie Atkinson ’19 rounded out the scoring runners, finishing in 23rd place with a time of 21:12.2 after passing eight of her competitors late in the race.
This was the first race all season where the Bulldog’s strategy of running in packs was not as successfully implemented. After an unusually slow first half mile, the pace of the leading runners suddenly picked up, and thus the whole field strung out early on in the race. For many of the Bulldogs, this faster pace meant playing catch up for the remainder of the contest.
“This move at the first mile confused some of the runners,” said Schmiede. “Emily [Waligurski] and I were waiting for [the sudden change in pace], because the first stretch definitely felt too slow. I think our experience as seniors helped us here, whereas some of the younger girls maybe got a little confused.”
Despite the change in pace, the team did well overall, especially considering that the Elis finished at the bottom of the Ivy League just four years ago. Furthermore, according to Schmiede, even if the team had executed perfectly, Harvard may still have claimed first place given that it had a particularly strong morning on the course.
Yale’s feeling of disappointment after the second-place finish speaks to the fact that there are high expectations for this squad, and none of the runners expressed worry about not performing their best this weekend. Instead, they view it as a learning experience that will be valuable going forward into the championship season, especially for the younger Bulldogs.
For all the runners, and particularly for the four seniors racing, the finish in the face was not the most memorable aspect, but rather the support from the sidelines that the runners enjoyed in their first race of the postseason.
“Every single woman on our roster managed to get themselves down to Princeton to cheer us on, and they were joined by a large contingent of our track teammates and friends and family from all over the country,” Emily Barnes ’17 said. “The race didn’t turn out exactly as we would have liked, but there was an incredibly special sense of support and single-minded purpose that is going to help us build on Heps and do even better in the rest of championship season.”
The Elis will compete at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 11. The team’s result in that race will decide whether the Bulldogs make the trip to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the National Championships the following weekend.