As the sun began to set on the Course at Yale on Sept 15, Andrea Masterson ’19 marked the start of the Yale women’s cross country season by striding across the finish line to win her first collegiate race.
Running a four-kilometer course against Harvard and Princeton, Masterson finished in 13:45.1, a full 10 seconds before any other competitor, as her team placed second in the meet. With the victory, Masterson bested her finish at last year’s HYP by six places. Steady improvement has characterized the junior’s running career, and she has emerged as a leader for an Eli squad with championship aspirations.
“It’s really exciting to have this win under my belt because it’s a huge confidence boost moving forward,” Masterson said. “I’ve put in a really good summer of training, and the fitness is there. It’s all about racing with confidence and believing that I can be running with the strongest girls in the league.”
A high school standout, Masterson won consecutive 3A Washington state cross country individual titles and has been a valuable scorer for Yale’s squad since making the jump to college. In the 2015 cross country season, she scored for the Bulldogs at HYP and the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship. She was even more of a factor for the team during the spring track season, placing third in the 3,000 meters at Harvard-Yale and coming in third at the ECAC Championships in the 5,000 meters.
Masterson came into her sophomore year with even more of a spring in her step, finishing in 17th at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. She followed that up with a 25th place performance at Regionals that propelled the Elis to Nationals for the first time since 2001. In outdoor track, the sophomore was the runner-up in the 3000 meters at the ECAC Championships en route to earning All-East honors. That season also featured what Masterson feels is her proudest collegiate moment, running the 10,000 meters at outdoor Heps and placing fourth.
“Being able to run my favorite race at home, in front of my family and friends was wonderful, and I think I was able to channel all that energy into a really big race,” Masterson said of her fourth-place effort last spring.
By showing promise with multiple strong finishes in her first two years as a Bulldog, Masterson demonstrated that she is ready to take a big leap forward this year. Following her training in the summer, she came into the season ready to build on her current form and chase both a team return to cross country nationals and an individual shot at the NCAAs in track.
Although the season is still young, Masterson has already been the fastest Yale runner in both meets in which the team has competed. She followed up her victory at HYP with a fifth-place finish at the University of Virginia Panorama Farms Invitational. Her 5,000-meter time of 17:35.1 was a personal best as she came only three spots behind recent graduate Frances Schmiede ’17, last year’s captain, who is competing for Virginia this season as a graduate student.
“Andrea really had a tremendous sophomore year last year, so she showed signs last spring that she’d be in contention to be a national-caliber individual in cross country this fall,” head coach Amy Gosztyla said. “We talked about that for her training this summer. She’s very, very focused, and she’s done her ‘training homework’ and came in very prepared for the season.”
As Masterson and the team look toward to the remainder of the season, the junior will be leading the charge. The No. 28 Bulldogs are the only Ivy team currently with a national ranking and are eyeing the chance to back it up at the conference championship on Oct 27.
As they attempt to do so, Masterson plays another role — a team leader who sets the tone by example.
“Andrea is a quiet leader who exudes strength and fearlessness on the course,” runner Emily Kaplan ’19 said. “She is someone we can always count on to perform well under pressure and in the meets that matter. She also gets excited for each and every person on the team’s successes, regardless of how minor that success may be or how objectively fast someone ran.”
Her teammates praise her attitude both on the course and off it. Gabrielle Rinne ’19 said Masterson brings a humbling and calming presence to the team despite her accolades. Although she runs the most miles of anyone on the team, Rinne said, Masterson never complains. She also balances running with a demanding course load as an architecture major.
The HYP champion helps keep the mood light on the team, often wearing loud socks to practice and attempting to institute “crazy sock Mondays” as a new team tradition, according to Rinne.
The Bulldogs have the weekend off before heading to Boston for the New England Championships on Oct. 7.
Brian Yeo | email@example.com