William McCormack

For Yale cross country, which only enjoys a home race once every two seasons, competing with Harvard at The Course at Yale is a rare privilege. Kicking off their seasons on Friday afternoon, the men’s and women’s teams both made sure to capitalize on the opportunity.

Running in balmy high-60-degree weather at Yale’s nationally-recognized golf course, the women surged in the final mile to earn a one-point victory in the five-kilometer race against the Crimson. Kayley DeLay ’21 won the race with a 17:28 finish, while Jane Miller ’20, a staff reporter at the News, accompanied her just six seconds later to take second.

The men followed with a 24–33 win of their own in the six-kilometer, riding one-two performances from Cade Brown ’22 and Robert Miranda ’22 as they surprised the Crimson and its senior star, Kieran Tuntivate, who took first place at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships last November.

“This win was a huge step forward for our team, as defeating our longtime rivals on our home course is something incredibly special,” Brown said. “We were able to go out and execute a race plan to the best of our abilities, and while I was incredibly happy to get the win, I knew that any one of our top group were capable of doing so. Our ability to run as a pack was strong last year and with the additional strength gained since that time, our top group is full of guys ready to step up at a moment’s notice.”

The women set the tone Friday afternoon, defeating Harvard — the eighth-place finisher at the 2018 NCAA Division I Northeast Regionals — by the slimmest of margins. A top pack formed quickly, and DeLay had jumped to the front of it by the time she ended the first loop, flying past the sizable contingent of track and field teammates who showed up to support the cross country teams in their first event of the season.

The junior from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., expanded her lead over the next Crimson runner — junior Anna Juul — to almost 20 seconds by the time she rounded the curve onto the course’s final stretch. Miller followed in close pursuit, finishing with a time of 17:34 after completing an impressive surge to end the race. Miller’s second-place showing was essential to the Bulldogs’ one-point victory, as Harvard took three to five. Head women’s coach Taryn Sheehan complimented both DeLay and Miller on “gritty, intelligent races” and gameplan execution after sealing the win.

Sevanne Ghazarian ’21, Gemma Shepherd ’20 and rookie Hannah Schupansky ’23 rounded out the Elis’ point-scoring top five, finishing in sixth, eighth and tenth, respectively.

“You can’t be disappointed with some strong performances so early in the season and a win over Harvard,” DeLay said. “The course was hilly enough to feel tough, especially during that second loop, but the grass was short and the weather was perfect…Although it was the combination of all five scorers, and the whole team for pushing us along, Jane [Miller] passed three Harvard girls in the last mile to put us on top.”

Shadows stretched onto the manicured greens by the time the men’s gun sounded at 5:15 p.m. The men’s top pack remained tight and contested for much of the race. After the first loop, Miranda and Nick Dahl ’21 led a pack of about a dozen runners.

Brown and Miranda ultimately beat out the Crimson’s star senior in Tuntivate, who raced an 18:55 and finished third. Tuntivate made national news after sweeping the 3000-meter and 5000-meter races at last winter’s Indoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships despite racing most of the 3000-meter with one shoe and a bloodied foot. But on Friday, it was Yale’s sophomore duo who emerged from the woods ahead, enjoying a triumphant sprint on the green to make it to the finish line before Tuntivate.

“I was not necessarily anticipating that,” men’s head coach Paul Harkins said. “I think Kieran rolled his ankle in the back woods with 600 or 700 meters to go because he was up on the guys going into the woods. He’s a tough kid, I wasn’t expecting necessarily to beat him, but we wanted to beat their two, three, four, five guys…I knew we were gonna give ‘em a battle no matter who they brought because our guys are confident, they’re tough, they’re ready to go, but that was an exciting race — exciting day [and a] good way to start things off.”

In addition to one and two, Yale took spots six through eight as Dahl, Will Laird ’21 and Stephen Moody ’23 crossed the line within 1.2 seconds of one another.

Yale Director of Cross Country and Track and Field David Shoehalter led an awards ceremony following the conclusion of both races, commenting on the history of the Harvard–Yale rivalry and the strength of Friday’s competition. Harvard–Yale remains the oldest cross country meet in the NCAA, he said, before stepping aside to allow Senior Associate Athletic Director Andy Dunn to honor DeLay and Brown. Women’s captain Lauren Chapey ’20 and men’s captain Austin Stoner ’20 then each accepted their respective team trophies.

“We put in a lot of good work the past week and a half, so we knew we weren’t backing off for this meet,” Sheehan said. “We’re definitely not content with this, but it’s definitely a nice way to start the season off with a little win and knowing that the work we’re putting in is going to pay off down the road.”

The Bulldogs’ next race will take place on Friday, Sept. 27, at the Virginia Panorama Farms Invitational in Charlottesville.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu