Yale Athletics

Former Yale women’s cross country captain Andrea Masterson ’19 was back in New Haven this Labor Day weekend, racing in the Elm City for the umpteenth time.

But this weekend, she was no longer representing the White and Blue.

Masterson graduated from Yale College in May, earning the Nellie Pratt Elliot Award — the most distinguished athletic prize awarded to a senior female — and concluding her collegiate career as one of the strongest runners in school history. The long-distance specialist ran a 1:13:30 in Monday’s 20-kilometer Faxon Law New Haven Road Race, finishing fifth in the 20-29 female age group.

With Yale’s first cross country meet late next week, it is clear that the Bulldogs will miss her. But with a strong corps of young runners and other key pieces returning to the field, just how much the Elis will feel her absence remains to be seen.

“Having such an incredibly hardworking and talented person as our captain was inspiring, and she will most certainly be missed,” Kayley DeLay ’21 said. “We have been spoiled with a consistently low-score place from Andrea to help us in the team score, but now it is on the group to make it happen. Personally, Andrea has taught me to stay calm, focused and race with grit.”

From one lens, Masterson’s graduation could seriously hurt this fall’s team. At Yale, she raced at the NCAA Division I National Championships three times in her four seasons as an Eli and improved her standing each year, finishing at 195th in 2016, 146th in 2017 and making the jump to 59th last fall.

Masterson was the only Bulldog to advance to nationals last fall and became only the sixth Eli in school history to win the Ivy League Heptagonal Individual Championship just a few weeks beforehand. During her junior cross country season in 2017, she finished second in that race.

But from another lens, Masterson’s departure may be a mere road bump for a young, experienced Eli squad. Of their top seven runners, the Bulldogs return all but Masterson. For most college teams that bring back so many of the varsity seven, the season outlook is strong. And as her former teammates mentioned, the tone Masterson set with the Elis has remained with the program. DeLay highlighted her patience and determination, while Jocelyn Chau ’22 pointed out the standard her work ethic set for the group.

“Andrea’s Yale career had a huge impact on the team, both in titles and points while she was here and in the legacy she has left behind,” current captain Lauren Chapey ’20 said. “While she was our top runner, this year’s team returns six of our top seven … Our team is incredibly deep right now, with very few out with injury and strong leadership from our upperclasswomen.”

Despite Masterson’s absence, the rest of the program seems ready to step up. In addition to the former captain, DeLay and Morgan McCormick ’22 earned All-Region distinctions last fall. At the NCAA DI Northeast Regionals, McCormick was the top first-year finisher, picking up 12th-place for Yale. DeLay finished 20th, while Masterson came in sixth.

DeLay and Chau also joined Masterson in finishing top-ten at the Ivy League championship last year. Sevanne Ghazarian ’21, Jane Miller ’20, a staff reporter for the News, and Arianna Lord ’20, respectively, rounded out the top seven at Regionals. Leadership from Chapey, who was one of the ten runners Yale raced at the Ivy League championship last fall, will also help set the tone.

“Lauren Chapey is an exceptional leader,” Chau said. “I think [by] building off of the success from last year and being open to changes with the new coach, we are ready to step up as a team. I don’t feel pressure personally because I’m more of a mid-distance runner whereas Andrea is a true long-distance runner.”

New head women’s coach Taryn Sheehan, who started officially on Sept. 1, joins Director of Track and Field and Cross Country David Shoehalter at the helm of a program hunting for its first team trip to Nationals since 2016.

Getting there without Masterson might seem difficult, but the Bulldogs are ready to prove a return is within reach.

“Losing Andrea this season caused our rankings in the region to drop, but I know that with the talent we already have, and with the first years coming in, we can be just as competitive as last year,” DeLay said. “I think we are all excited about our new coach coming in this season and are ready to get racing.”

The Bulldogs open their season next Friday, Sept. 13 when they welcome Harvard to The Course at Yale.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu