Yale Athletics

Yale women’s cross country may have lost former captain Andrea Masterson ’19, who last May received the 2019 Nellie Pratt Elliot Award — the most distinguished athletic prize awarded to a senior female at Yale. But as a new season dawns, the team hopes that a new head coach will guide the Bulldogs to the NCAA National Championships.

Taryn Sheehan will take over as head women’s cross country coach, Yale Athletics and Director of Cross Country and Track and Field David Shoehalter announced last week. Sheehan will replace former head coach Amy Gosztyla, who resigned in July.

“I am very excited to welcome Coach Sheehan to the team this fall,” captain Lauren Chapey ’20 said. “Her energy and passion for the sport and for her athletes stood out during the hiring process. I think she will hold our team to a high standard and really bring out our full potential.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Sheehan previously coached with Western Michigan and Louisville. Once a Division I distance runner herself, she will specialize as a middle distance and distance coach for the Elis as cross country head coach and a member of the track and field coaching staff. She enjoyed a successful collegiate career at St. Francis, where she graduated in 2007. There, she set school and Northeast Conference records as an NCAA qualifier in the 10-kilometer race. With an extra year of eligibility, Sheehan then earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Louisville, running simultaneously in the Big East and setting the program record in the indoor 3,000-meter run.

Although Sheehan grew up in a basketball family with parents that served as her Amateur Athletic Union club basketball coaches and four younger brothers who all played the sport, she started running in high school to maintain her fitness for basketball. Her father ran in high school and college, and Sheehan’s own skill and interest in the sport soon took off. After altering her career aspirations throughout college, she first began to contemplate a career in coaching at Louisville.

“My mentor there helped me really actualize my dream of being a collegiate coach, and I grew up with two parents that are coaches at heart,” Sheehan said. “My dad’s a college coach, my mom coaches high school, two of my brothers are pretty good coaches, so my family’s a little crazy that way. For whatever reason, the opportunity [we have] to work with athletes and help them realize their full potential is such a gift and a blessing to do.”

Before returning to Kentucky to serve as an assistant coach for the Cardinals between 2011 and 2016, Sheehan coached as an assistant at Western Michigan. She returned to Kalamazoo in 2016, serving as an associate head coach for the Broncos and becoming the team’s interim head coach for the 2019 track season.

Sheehan, who said her hiring process began at the beginning of August, starts at Yale on Sept. 1. Less than two weeks later, the Bulldogs host Harvard at The Course at Yale in their first race of the season on Sept. 13. Sheehan and Shoehalter had previously served on several NCAA committees together, Sheehan said, and when a position with the Elis opened up, both expressed mutual interest in Sheehan taking the position. The process moved quickly from there, as Shoehalter and Senior Associate Director of Athletics Andy Dunn sold her with their vision for the program.

“It was clear during the hiring process that she brings a clear understanding and vision for what it will take to succeed here at Yale,” Shoehalter said. “We did a full national search and had a tremendous group of applicants from which to choose. Coach Sheehan stood out among the group.”

Members of the team participated in the process as well. Chapey told the News that she sent a form to the entire women’s team soliciting values they expect in a coach. Responses were then shared with the entire coaching staff to “help them choose candidates whose values aligned with our team’s.”

Though Sheehan visited Yale in August, only 12 weeks separate the day she starts her position and the NCAA Division I National Championships on Nov. 23. Communication from the Yale staff has been “phenomenal,” she said, which has helped her prepare for the approaching season. While she looks forward to hitting the ground running, she also expects a learning curve. Like a first-year runner, she will need to acclimate to a new home, system and culture.

“If anything, that will be a commonality I have with our new athletes,” Sheehan said. “We’re all going to be new and figuring this out together. But the great thing about running is, at the heart, it’s a pretty simplistic sport… I’m going to learn from the girls as far as what works for each of them individually, and they’re going to learn the quirks of crazy coach Sheehan too.”

The Yale women finished third at last year’s NCAA Northeast Regional, six points shy of qualifying as a team for the NCAA National Championship race.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu