After an impressive second-place finish at the Heptagonal Championships, the No. 23 Yale women’s cross country team is taking on its next challenge of the postseason at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships this weekend.
The meet brings together 44 teams from the Northeast and will provide the Bulldogs with an opportunity to secure a spot at the national championships, which will be granted to the top-two teams. The Elis are up against tough competition, including No. 3 Providence and No. 18 Harvard, the only team to beat Yale at the Ivy League Heps. However, after a consistently strong season, Yale enters the race looking to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I championships and is confident in its ability to do so.
“The regional rankings are a good indicator at this time of the year, so our biggest competition is Harvard, [since] I don’t think Providence is in our reach,” captain Frances Schmiede ’17 said. “We’ll also keep our eye on Brown and Syracuse, who could upset us from behind.”
Each team will send seven representatives to run the six-kilometer track, which according to Schmiede is almost entirely flat and consists of either grass or a cinder path. Ellie Atkinson ’19, Dana Klein ’18, Andrea Masterson ’19, Kelli Reagan ’18, Meredith Rizzo ’17 and Emily Waligurski ’17 will join their captain at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York, this weekend.
The focus of the team for the whole season has been running in packs, which has contributed to the Bulldogs’ strong performance throughout the fall. The Bulldogs have had an impressively small spread between scoring runners, which at no point has been greater than 40 seconds. Although the Bulldogs were unsuccessful in running close together in their most recent race at the Heps, the team is confident that they will be able to find success in this strategy, which has lifted them over other teams in the past.
“A phrase we throw around on our team is ‘the strength of the dog is in the pack,’” Waligurski said. “It holds true whether we are in a race or are just available as support for each other, and it’s something that lasts long after our time on the team. We have had our best performances this season when we were able to stay together and connected throughout a race, and this will be important again this time around.”
The team has also benefited from some strong individual performances, in particular from Schmiede and even more so from Waligurski. Their experience has brought the team success in previous meets, most notably at the Heps, where the pair finished within the top 10. Both runners were awarded first-team All-Ivy honors after their performance, the second consecutive time that Schmiede has earned the recognition.
Waligurski has had several impressive performances throughout the season, not only placing third in the first race of the postseason but also placing in the top-five runners at multiple meets in the regular season — the Paul Short Run, where she placed fifth, and the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, where she placed third.
“[This is] a chance for us to do something as a team that has eluded our program for quite some time now and we’re all pretty hungry to get the job done,” Klein said. “If we use the same consistent and confident race mentalities we have all season, we could be on a plane to Indiana next week and that’s what we’re all stepping up to the line hoping to do tomorrow.”
Last year, the Elis finished fifth out of 38 teams at the regional championships, a meet that proved to be their final race of the season. This year, expectations are high that the Bulldogs will still be competing after the weekend is over.
According to Schmiede, the team will race in memory of men’s cross country runner Hale Ross ’18, who passed away on Oct. 30.
“Both teams want to honor Hale,” Schmiede said. “I know the women will try to enjoy the race as he would have wanted us to.”
The race will take place at 11 a.m. on Nov. 12 at Van Cortlandt Park.