When Yale cross country trekked south for the Panorama Farms Invitational last week, the team sat on a bus for almost 20 hours in total, making the journey from New Haven to Charlottesville, VA, and back.
The racing itself, however, on an eight-kilometer course for the men’s team and a six-kilometer course for the women’s, took no Eli runner longer than 27 minutes and 17 seconds. As Friday afternoon turned into evening, the 10-hour trip back to New Haven proved to be a positive one, with the Bulldogs posting solid results against programs outside the Ivy League.
Bolstered by two top 10 finishes from Kayley DeLay ’21 and Jocelyn Chau ’22, the women’s team placed second out of 15 at Friday morning’s meet, falling only to No. 11 Michigan State. DeLay finished eighth in 20:47, and Chau came in one spot behind with a 20:57. Meanwhile, the men finished fifth of 16 programs, as Robert Miranda ’22 and Nick Dahl ’21 led the Elis with respective career eight-kilometer personal records of 24:27 and 24:28.
“It was definitely a good step in the right direction, and hopefully the ladies walked away with a little bit of confidence in where we can go,” women’s head coach Taryn Sheehan said. “They’ve had a really tough month of training. A lot of them are doing things that they’ve never done before, so I think to come out of that with a second-place finish to one of the best teams in the country right now was definitely something to feel good about.”
DeLay, who won the Elis’ season-opening meet against Harvard, led the way for the Yale women again at the University of Virginia. Chau stayed up with the front pack for the longest time and was the second off the lead at both the two-kilometer and three-kilometer checkpoints. DeLay — who was only two seconds off the lead but in 28th place after two kilometers — advanced 21 spots by the time she reached the five-kilometer mark. Sevanne Ghazarian ’21, Gemma Shepherd ’20 and Jane Miller ’20 — a former reporter at the News — rounded out the top five for the Bulldogs, respectively finishing 29th, 43rd and 18th. Zoe Nuechterlein ’21, who is an editor for the Yale Daily News Magazine, set a personal record of 22:36 for the six-kilometer, finishing in sixth and advancing 38 spots between the two-kilometer mark and the finish line.
Although the Spartans took the race comfortably, Yale captured second with a decisive margin, buffered by the 45-point difference between third-place teams Kentucky and Elon. In an interview with the News, Sheehan specifically noted that defeating Florida — a team ranked third in the South Region heading into Friday — was an especially positive outcome for Yale.
The Bulldogs, who ranked seventh in the Northeast Region heading into the weekend, climbed two spots to number five in the updated NCAA Division I women’s cross country regional rankings released on Monday.
“My game plan heading in was to stay relaxed through the first one to two kilometers and then pick people off as the race went on,” Chau said. “In retrospect, I probably went out a little too hard… As a team, we considered Friday a great success. Coach Sheehan thinks we have the potential to be a nationally ranked team, perhaps even top 20.”
Temperature on the course was a factor, and DeLay told the News last week that “beating the heat” would be one of the Elis’ greatest challenges at Panorama Farms. While the Bulldogs ran in amicable 60-degree afternoon weather in New Haven two weeks ago, they ran in stagnant sun last Friday, despite racing earlier in the morning. The men started their eight-kilometer just after 9:30 a.m. when the thermometer read 72 degrees, while the women took off on their six-kilometer at 10:15 a.m. The weather had warmed considerably by the time the women started, Sheehan said.
Like the women, the Yale men also improved in DI regional rankings released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on Monday. Following their fifth-place finish, the Elis jumped four spots to sixth in the Northeast Region, an increase that is tied for the largest of any men’s program in the country this week.
“Our plan going into the race was to take a risk and give ourselves the chance to be competing up front,” men’s captain Austin Stoner ’20 said. “It’s not often that you get to take some chances and put yourself intentionally in uncomfortable positions, but this meet at UVA gave us that opportunity. Our philosophy was that if we had never been to that place before, we wouldn’t know how to handle it when it matters later in the season.”
Host and No. 22 Virginia ended up running away with the win, placing their top seven runners within the first 14 finishes. But Yale executed its game plan, keeping six of its own runners just four seconds off the lead at the two-kilometer mark. At that checkpoint, the Elis were in the lead, commanding a 14-point advantage over Charlotte and a 46-point advantage over UVA.
In addition to Miranda and Dahl, Cade Brown ’22 ran another strong race after winning the Elis’ dual meet with the Crimson, finishing 32nd overall with a time of 24:57. Allen Siegler ’20, Will Laird ’21 and Stephen Moody ’23 rounded out Yale’s top seven.
“I sent the guys out hard,” Yale men’s head coach Paul Harkins said. “They’ve been training really hard. Just like the women have been, they’re running a little bit tired. But they also were running with confidence, and that was what was exciting to see. I haven’t had a group in a while that will go to the front of a field with a nationally-ranked team and go lead it through 2k … I think if we ran a more conservative race plan, we could have finished one or two spots higher as a team. But that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to go out there and really test our limits.”
The Bulldogs, who did not race the weekend of Sept. 21 after sweeping Harvard at The Course at Yale a week before, will again enjoy a weekend off before their next competition.
Both the men and the women next travel to Franklin Park in Boston for the New England Championships on Oct. 12.
William McCormack | email@example.com