A year ago, strength in numbers powered the Yale women’s cross country team to a dominating win at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet. This past Friday, however, Princeton flipped the script on the Bulldogs’ home turf.
The Elis garnered national attention to start 2017 with a No. 30 national ranking in the preseason poll and looked to feed off preseason hype in their highly anticipated, season-opening rivalry weekend against the Tigers and No. 28 Harvard. While a pair of Bulldogs turned in career performances to finish atop the HYP individual leaderboard, Princeton’s top set of scorers edged Yale in the team standings to come away with the meet title.
“Always with this meet, we want to try and win,” head coach Amy Gosztyla said. “We got out, put ourselves in a really great position and unfortunately just came up a little bit short at the end. We have some things to work on, but at the end of the day, I thought it was a really good start to the season.”
Poised to introduce a strong class of recruits after losing three key contributors — Meredith Rizzo ’17, former captain Frances Schmiede ’17 and Emily Waligurski ’17 — the Bulldogs entered the weekend eager to put weeks of preparation to the test against a pair of opponents who they would see again at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in late October. Just as it did in 2016, Yale stuck to its strategy of pack running in the first two kilometers of the four-kilometer race before making way for individuals to find their own speed in the later stages.
Andrea Masterson ’19 best embodied this strategy on Friday. The junior set the group’s pace throughout the course, opened up a large lead in the final 800 meters and breezed to her first career win in 13:45:10. Ten seconds later, a second Bulldog joined Masterson on the podium, as Kayley DeLay ’21 turned in a 13:55:70 performance to lock up a 1–2 finish for Yale in her collegiate debut.
“Our plan was to take the first loop all together, and then I was going to see how I felt on the second loop,” Masterson said. “Coming around for the second loop I had to run within myself and be confident that being in front, I could take the race to the finish.”
Though Masterson and DeLay separated themselves clearly from the remaining competition, Princeton roared back after the pair crossed the line. The Tigers’ Brighie Leach, Melia Chittenden, Sophie Cantine and Allie Klimkiewicz took four of the next six spots, and a fifth Princeton runner cracked the top 10 to bring the team’s point total to just 32 points.
Dana Klein ’18, Sevanne Ghazarian ’21 and Kate Raphael ’18 rounded out the Bulldogs’ scoring in ninth, 13th and 15th places, respectively, but were unable to best Princeton’s consistency in an eventual 39-point team effort. As it has since 2014, Harvard remained at the bottom of the three-team field, accruing 63 points in a distant finish.
Yale will rely on the consistent development of Ghazarian and DeLay along with the leadership of its veterans over the course of the fleeting fall season, according to captain Kelli Reagan ’18, who did not race due to a lingering injury. The senior underscored the importance of building to the season-ending Ivy League championship meet, rather than wasting too much energy in the season’s infancy.
“The main takeaway for us is that we’re ready to race,” Reagan said. “We had a lot of girls step up today, and we still have a lot that have some gas left in the tank. Obviously you would want to win a meet like this, but it was extremely close and we did our job, so we’re ready for what’s next.”
Gosztyla and Masterson echoed Reagan’s sentiments. According to Masterson, she and a number of the Yale women who are normally conditioned for six-kilometer races instead of the four-kilometers raced at HYP will welcome longer competitions that allow them more time to establish their rhythms.
The Bulldogs will have an opportunity to build on their Friday performance this coming weekend at the University of Virginia, where they will face a more technical challenge on uneven terrain as they continue to shape the roster for more prestigious meets to come.
“I think some of the girls will start to get into better form with specifically good hard efforts over the coming weeks to put together some of that middle part of the race so that they can finish it off to what they’re capable of,” Gosztyla said.
Yale races at the Cavaliers’ Panorama Farms Invitational on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The race is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
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