Jane Miller

In preparing for the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, each and every meet is crucial for the Yale men’s cross country team, whose season lasts less than two months.

The Bulldogs are coming off a strong season in which they finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships for the fifth straight year. This fall, Yale will have to move forward without James Randon ’17, its top runner from last season and one of the best athletes in Yale history. However, team members said they are confident they can put together another strong season and even improve upon last year’s finish.

“Our team has a lot of potential this year,” captain Adam Houston ’18 said. “Although we lost several key runners, we have a lot of depth and rising talent. Our first years are extremely talented and motivated, and the team is happier and more motivated than I’ve ever seen.”

Randon compiled a historic cross country season for the Bulldogs in 2016, when he capped off a prolific cross country career by finishing first at the Ivy League Championships and going on to compete at the NCAA Championships. Randon then had an equally strong track and field season, winning the Most Outstanding Performer award at the Indoor Ivy Championships and setting Yale’s 1500-meter run record later in the spring.

With Randon gone, Houston will take over the captaincy for Yale’s 2017–18 campaign. The Seattle, Washington native was a consistent contributor as a junior last season, finishing third among the Yale runners in numerous meets, including the Notre Dame Invitational. As a sophomore the previous season, Houston finished third on the team and 17th overall at the Ivy Championships.

Houston was also one of the Yale track and field team’s best distance runners last spring, along with teammate Jonathan Lomogda ’20. Houston and Lomogda both were named to the All-East team after their performances in the 5000-meter run at the IC4A Championships; Houston placed second out of 28 total runners.

“[As captain], my approach has changed,” Houston said. “I am now trying to encourage people to pay attention to their bodies in order to avoid injuries and make it to the start line at Heps healthy, happy and fast. The ethos of our team this year is ‘happy runners are fast runners,’ and that will bring us a Heps title for the first time in 75 years.”

Another Bulldog runner poised for a strong 2017 campaign is Trevor Reinhart ’19. As a sophomore, Reinhart finished third on the team at the Princeton Invitational and went on to finish second on the team at the Ivy Championships and the Northeast Regional Championships, chasing only Randon in both races.

Yet Reinhart’s most promising performances came during the track and field season. The then-sophomore was the lone Yale runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships, finishing 18th overall in the 1500-meter run and falling just short of the event finals. Reinhart was awarded an honorable mention in the NCAA Division I All-American voting for his performance in the spring.

According to head coach Paul Harkins, the momentum that runners like Reinhart, Houston and Lomogda built up in the track season and offseason can translate over into the fall cross country campaign.

“It’s a long year,” Harkins said. “Being … on your game throughout all three seasons of cross country, indoor [track] and outdoor track can be tough. Generally, once things start going right for an individual or a group, the momentum definitely carries over.”

Houston and the rest of the Elis will begin their season in New Haven at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet in just over a week. Then, they will participate in just one more competition before taking on the New England Championships in Boston, a race in which they placed 19th of 33 teams last season.

From there, a relatively short sprint to the Ivy League Championships in late October will quickly be followed by NCAA regional and national competition in November. Only five meets precede the Ivy Championships this year for the Elis, compared to the six meets from last season.

The Bulldogs placed second behind Princeton at last season’s HYP meet thanks to strong performances by Randon and Andre Ivankovic ’17, who finished first and sixth in the event, respectively. Armstrong Noonan ’20 and Allen Siegler ’20 posted the best times for the Elis returning to competition in 2017. Both sophomores finished within a second of each other in the top 20.

“The goal [for this season] is get ourselves in a position where we can compete for an [Ivy] title annually,” Harkins said. “I think this is a year that competing in the top three would be a reasonable goal.”

The Bulldogs will kick off the season next Friday when they take on their primordial Ancient Eight rivals on Sept. 15.

Sebastian Kupchaunis | sebastian.kupchaunis@yale.edu | @skupchaunis