Courtesy of Steve Musco

Before the Yale men’s and women’s track and field teams hit the books during Reading Period, the two squads first hit the track this weekend for their first meet of the indoor season. The Bulldogs host the “Yale Season Opener” at Coxe Cage on Saturday to kick off their winter campaign.

The annual invitational poses a relatively low-stakes opportunity for the Elis and other schools around the northeast to put months of training and hard work to the test. The event is unscored and entries are unlimited which allows all healthy athletes a chance to gain meet experience in a competitive atmosphere. The Bulldogs are eager to perform at a high level this weekend in order to set the tone for the rest of the season, as the season opener will be Yale’s only invitational before two highly anticipated meets against Ivy League opponents in January.

“The most important thing for most of us this fall has been building up our endurance and stamina to establish a strong foundation for the rest of what is a very long and physically taxing season,” sprinter Aliya Boshnak ’22 said.

In last year’s event, many Elis posted standout performances. Successful scores posted early in the season foreshadowed impressive results down the line. On the men’s side, pole vaulter Austin Laut ’19 kicked off his junior season with a strong performance, leaping over a 15 feet, 9 inch bar to earn second place in the competition. Laut would surpass this mark the following February to earn third in the conference.

Similarly, Yale’s men’s 4×400-meter relay got off to a solid start at Coxe Cage a season ago. The team, made up of Jonathan Ascher ’20, Fergal Burnett Small ’20, Gregory Campbell, Jr. ’19 and Jackson Chapman ’21 registered a quick mark of 3:26.16 in the event. But two months later, the relay would best their time by nearly ten seconds, posting an impressive 3:16.58. The Bulldogs will look to once again use the Season Opener as a meet where they can set baseline performances to improve upon throughout the season.

“Yale Track and Field has some things to prove this year, and we have the squad to do it,” sprinter Juma Sei ’22 said. “Ironically enough however, this journey’s not a sprint. It’s gonna take patience. It’s gonna take us doing our thing week in and week out.”

On the women’s side in the 500-meter dash, hurdler Addi Coy ’21 finished third in a blistering 1:16.33 seconds. Coy would continue to improve in the 500-meters throughout her rookie campaign, which helped her build endurance and stamina. Coy saw her work pay off, as she smoothly transitioned from the 300-meter hurdles — which is the standard distance for high school track and field — to the 400-meter hurdles that spring. She went on to become the 2018 Ivy Champion in the event later that season.

The women’s 4×400-meter relay at last year’s Season Opener also showed off Yale’s skilled sprint contingent. The relay team was comprised of Lilly Enes ’20, Angele Kelly ’21, Natasha Feshbach ’20 and Coy. Yale’s anchor leg crossed the line at 3:52.96 to earn second place in the event. The Elis’ sprint cohort gains even more talent this season, as rookies such as Boshnak and Sophie Isom ’22 join the roster. Both Boshnak and Isom had stellar high school careers, each notching under-57 and under-25 second performances in the 400-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, respectively.

“Our main team goal this season is to finish strongly at both the indoor and outdoor Ivy League Championship meets,” sprinter Enes said. “We now have greater strength in numbers with the addition of a large first-year class. Additionally, we want to come out of the season proud of all the hard work we put in on and off the track.”

While both the men’s and women’s teams came significantly short of winning Ivy League team titles last year, several individual performances throughout last season testified to the talent on both rosters. Still, the Bulldogs know that championships are hard to come by and will take more than a few outstanding individual showings. Healthy rosters and consistency on both track and field events will be pivotal to the Elis’ success this year.

The Season Opener kicks off on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the historic Coxe Cage.

Ellen Margaret Andrews | ellenmargaret.andrews@yale.edu