For many runners who compete at the NCAA Division 1 level, the end of one season simply indicates the beginning of another one. Just a month after the Yale men’s cross country team concluded its fall campaign, the 2017–18 indoor track and field season will begin this Saturday, as the Bulldogs host the 2017 Yale Season Opener at the historic Coxe Cage.
The annual Season Opener is an unscored event, open to student-athletes from all three NCAA divisions and junior colleges as well. While the men’s team has six first years who will compete indoors fresh off a three-month cross country season, several other rookies competing this weekend will do so for the first time as collegiate athletes. With no entry limits or standards for athletes looking to compete in the meet, the weekend will serve as a chance for the Bulldogs to shake the rust off their spikes and focus on their individual performances.
“I’m really looking forward to the indoor track season because it’ll be an entirely new experience for me,” sprinter and hurdler Jackson Chapman ’21 said. “I’ve only ever run outdoors, so I’m excited for the challenge of adapting to a smaller track with tighter turns and an actual banked curve. I’m also hyped for the opportunity to participate alongside an incredible group of athletes — men and women alike — who will inspire me to work harder and run faster.”
Following the December recess, the Elis’ season will kick into full swing, starting with another meet on home turf — the Yale Collegiate Invitational — on Jan. 13. After visits to Hanover and Cambridge to compete against other Ivy League opponents, the squad will return to New Haven again, for the Giegengack Invitational on Feb. 2. The Bulldogs will be on the road for the rest of the season, attending invitationals in New York and Boston before concluding their indoor campaign with the Ivy Heptagonal, ECAC, and NCAA Championship meets.
Although the men’s squad fell short of capturing any team titles at the culmination of last year’s indoor season, several Bulldogs achieved top individual performances during the indoor season and in the outdoor meets that followed in the spring.
Pole vaulter Austin Laut ’19 will return to the runway this Saturday, hoping to build on phenomenal first year and sophomore campaigns. The Sacramento native boasts a personal best jump of 5.18 meters, a mark that puts Laut just shy of the Yale record: Brandon Sullivan ’16 set a record of 5.30 meters in 2016. Laut’s success earned him a chance to compete in the prestigious NCAA East Preliminaries meet in May and become the lone Yale field athlete to do so. Just halfway through an already remarkable collegiate career, Laut has high hopes for the season ahead, both on an individual and team basis.
“I think I can speak for the team when saying our number one goal is to have as few injuries as possible,” Laut said. “Another goal that we have is to improve on our Ivy League finish this year. We did a great job improving last year, and we want to keep doing so. Personally, my goals are to be an encouraging and supportive teammate as well as setting a new school record in the pole vault.”
On the track, the Bulldogs will look to feed off the leadership of hurdler and captain Paedyn Gomes ’18 and distance runner Trevor Reinhart ’19 — both of whom also qualified for the NCAA East Preliminaries at the end of the 2017 outdoor season. Gomes placed second in the 110-meter hurdles at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships last spring, and finished 32nd in the East Preliminaries. Reinhart, on the other hand, saw his season continue in “TrackTown USA” — Eugene, OR — after earning a chance to compete in the NCAA National Championships in the 1500-meter run. The sophomore continued to lead the Elis on the cross country course at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships this past October. Reinhart placed sixth in the conference, even though the race was just his first of the season.
With the beginning of what will amount to more than six months of track and field competition ahead, the Bulldogs believe that they have the talent and chemistry to improve on the progress they made last season. At the Ivy Heptagonal Championships last spring, 11 Bulldogs earned All-Ivy honors.
“While the sport may seem like an individual one, it really is a team sport,” Laut said. “Based on our training, it looks like we have a very strong and deep team this year. We have been training very hard over the past months in preparation for this season, and now we finally get to begin it.”
The men’s indoor track and field team will compete at the Yale Season Opener this Saturday at Coxe Cage, starting with field events at 9 a.m., followed by running events beginning at 11:40 a.m.
Ellen Margaret Andrews | firstname.lastname@example.org