After an indoor season that saw many solid individual performances, the Yale men’s and women’s track and field teams are hoping to make statements with strong team showings at the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships this weekend.
This year, Heps will take place at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City, one of the top indoor tracks in the country. After a seventh-place finish by the men and an eighth-place finish by the women in last year’s indoor championship, both plan on improving their performances in the 2017 showdown.
“To win this competition is a big deal,” pole vaulter Austin Laut ’19 said. “Based on the lineup of competitors, the competition at Heps this weekend will be a close, exciting one to watch.”
Though most of the scorers from last year’s women’s team graduated, the team is expecting top performances from distance runners Frances Schmiede ’17 and Gemma Shepherd ’20 and jumpers Elizabeth Adelson ’20 and Olivia Mooney ’20.
The team competed in just two scored meets in their six-competition winter schedule. While the unscored meets provided opportunities for individual accomplishment, two meets against Ivy League opponents served as a measuring stick in advance of the conference championship. Yale finished third against Dartmouth and Columbia at the team’s tri-meet at the Armory on Jan. 20 before tying Harvard in second place at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet at Coxe Cage.
Having scored just 16 points at last year’s indoor championship, the Elis have a ways to go to catch the rest of the Ivy League — sixth-place Columbia and seventh-place Penn outscored the Bulldogs by a factor of three, while 2016 champion Harvard took the top spot with 136.5 points.
“Our goal is to improve on our Heps finish [from] last year and get more women on the podium,” captain and thrower Kate Simon ’17 said. “We want to put ourselves in a good position to score as many points for our team as possible.”
Schmiede, the captain of the 2016 Yale cross country team, currently holds the fastest indoor 1000-meter and mile times in the Ivy League this season. Her 4:34.54 mile mark recorded at the Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational on Feb. 10 is just over six seconds faster than the next best time in the conference, run by Dartmouth’s Helen Schlachtenhaufen on the same day. This weekend, Schmiede will compete in the 800-meter race and said she hopes to finish in the top three with a personal record.
“[The 800] is not my main event, but I definitely think I can maximize points for the team,” Schmiede said.
According to Schmiede, more Yale runners will compete in the 3000 meters, the mile and the 800 meters than in past years. With lots of competitors in a championship setting, “anything can happen,” she said.
The men’s team, which finished a few points shy of fifth place last year, is hoping to jump a few spots in the standings this weekend. Though the team finished seventh out of eighth teams last year behind every Ancient Eight opponent except Columbia, the Bulldogs came within eight points — the equivalent of one additional second-place finish — of catching fifth-place Harvard at 46 points. Princeton and Cornell finished first and second, respectively, with 165 and 142 points and combined for nearly half of the total points from last year’s meet.
With many top performers from last year’s squad returning, however, the Bulldogs have set their expectations several places higher than their penultimate finish in 2016.
“As a team, the main goal we have for this upcoming weekend is to finish in the top half of the league,” sprinter and captain Marc-André Alexandre ’17 said.
Alexandre, who currently holds some of the fastest Ivy League indoor times in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes, said he has his sights set on a win in the 400-meter dash and a top performance in the 4×400-meter relay event. Last year, Yale finished second in the 4×400 relay.
The Elis will also turn to distance runners James Randon ’17 and Andre Ivankovic ’17 as well as Laut for strong results this weekend. Distance coach Paul Harkins hopes that Randon — who holds the fastest mile time in school history — can win his third individual Heps title in his final indoor season at Yale. Though Randon placed first in the Ivy League Cross Country Championship on Oct. 29, the 2016 cross country captain said that the races he’ll be running this weekend better play to his strength as a middle-distance runner.
Randon’s senior teammate Ivankovic has set personal records in both the mile and the 3000-meter runs this season and also has a shot at the podium. Laut, meanwhile, finished fourth in the pole vault at last year’s indoor championships as a freshman and is also expected to perform well as one of just three Ivy League pole vaulters to clear 17 feet this indoor season.
Though Yale has not fared well in the past few years — neither the men’s nor women’s side has finished higher than sixth since 2014 — both Alexandre and Simon say that there is reason to expect improvement this year. The indoor captains also expressed optimism about the freshmen, a few of whom have chances to earn points for the team in their inagural indoor championship.
“The freshmen are doing very well,” Alexandre said. “They are all buying into the program and [they] work hard … As a senior, I’m very happy to see that we have such a great group of young men to carry the torch.”
The Bulldogs kick off competition at the Armory Saturday at 9:30 a.m.