Yale Athletics

Just in time to avoid below freezing temperatures, heavy snows and a fierce bomb cyclone, the Yale men’s and women’s track and field teams headed indoors to kick off their winter season, hosting the Yale Season Opener and Yale Collegiate Invitational on Dec. 9 and Jan. 13, respectively.

In the Season Opener, several Bulldogs produced strong showings in a variety of events — signs of early promise for the long season ahead. One such athlete was Calleigh Higgins ’18, who won the 1,000-meter run, with a blistering time of 2:58.09. The senior attributed her success not only to intense longer distance workout sessions under the leadership of Yale Distance Coach Amy Gosztyla, but also to the incorporation of a thoughtful race strategy in her approach.

“[Gosztyla] and I looked at the entries prior to the race to formulate a successful strategy,” Higgins said. “We decided I just needed to go out and immediately take the lead and then run a race that felt comfortable to me. I kept focused by trying to hit certain splits each time around.”

Distance runner Kohl Swift ’20 also had an impressive showing in the same event on the men’s side, cruising to a second-place finish with a speedy time of 2:31.98 — just milliseconds off the winning time. Despite being the only male Yale distance runner to compete in the Season Opener, several Bulldogs in the sprint events also found their stride in the opening meet. Men’s captain and hurdler Paedyn Gomes ’18 set a new personal record in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing the race in an electric 7.94 seconds. Sprinter Kyle Macauley ’20 also ran the fastest time of his career in the 60-meter dash, clocking a time of 6.89 seconds.

The Season Opener also showcased notable performances from several Elis in the field events, including a first-place performance by Jimmy Shih ’19 in the triple jump. After earning a trip to the NCAA Prelims last spring, pole vaulter Austin Laut ’19 picked up right where he left off by securing a second-place finish in the vault, with a jump of 4.80 meters.

Laut and his vaulting counterpart, Kyle Brown ’21, also had the opportunity to compete on a national stage in just their second meet of the season, jumping at the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada last weekend. Brown finished fifth in his flight with a jump of 4.35 meters, while Laut finished fourth overall with a jump of 5.05 meters, inching closer to his personal best mark of 5.18 meters.

“The National Pole Vault Summit in Reno was an amazing experience to say the least. It was especially great to meet and watch all of the elite athletes.” Laut said. “I loved competing on such a watched level. I competed in the highest collegiate competition and just nearly missed setting a new personal best. The competition itself included many athletes that Yale will see in future competitions as the season progresses.”

The Elis’ first female pole vaulter in three years — Erin Gerardo ’21 — competed in Reno as well, just a month after winning the Season Opener. The California native improved upon her first collegiate performance at the Summit, leaping 3.70 meters.

Despite being the Bulldogs’ lone soldier in the pole vault on the women’s side, Gerardo explained that training alongside Laut and Brown has been nothing but a positive experience. Gerardo explained that the trio is very close and supportive, eager to help one another succeed during both practices and meets.

“I was definitely nervous going into [the first meet] because it was my first college meet and my first indoor meet so I had no idea what to expect,” Gerardo said. “I did feel lucky though in that I had so many teammates supporting me and it definitely allowed me to get more excited about the competition.”

Gerardo was not the only first year to stand out early in the season, as hurdler and middle-distance runner Addison Coy ’21 captured a third-place finish in the grueling 500-meter run at the Season Opener. The Chicago native came to Yale fresh off an outstanding high school career, not only earning seven school records on the track, but also winning two state titles in the 300-meter hurdles.

According to Coy, participating in the 500-meter run during the indoor season will help her prepare and build endurance for what will be her main collegiate focus — the 400-meter hurdles. While training for events like these often requires tests of physical and mental fitness and toughness, Coy explained that having supportive coaches and teammates has made demanding training more enjoyable.

Although the Elis fielded just two athletes in the Yale Collegiate Invitational in order to rest athletes for their upcoming meet this week, both thrower Andrew Rochon ’21 and sprinter Arielle Tessier ’21 held their own. Rochon won the weight throw competition and finished second in the shot put, while Tessier placed seventh in the 60-meter dash.

The Bulldogs will head to Hanover this weekend to face Ivy competitors Dartmouth and Columbia. Competition will begin this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Leverone Field House.

Ellen Margaret Andrews | ellenmargaret.andrews@yale.edu