Courtesy of Yale Athletics

In their first cross country meet since the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in November 2019, two Yale runners — Robert Miranda ’22 on the men’s team and reigning Ivy Heptagonal champion Kayley DeLay ’22 on the women’s team — each won their first race of the season last weekend.

Running at the season-opening HYP meet against Harvard and Princeton at West Windsor Fields in New Jersey, Miranda and DeLay led the way for each Yale side, but the Bulldogs finished third in team standings for both the women’s 4.8-kilometer and men’s 8-kilometer. The race was the first of six meets in which the Elis compete before the Oct. 30 Ivy League Cross Country Championships, which will also take place at Princeton’s West Windsor Fields.

Miranda told the News he was happy with how the race unfolded.

“After not competing because of Covid it was important to see how our team is doing compared to our rivals in the Ivy League,” Miranda wrote to the News. “We knew before the meet that Harvard and Princeton would be tough to beat, and even though we didn’t have what it took on Saturday, we’re still hopeful for the rest of the season.”

Harvard and Princeton, the Bulldogs’ toughest competitors in the Ivy League, are nationally ranked in men’s and women’s cross country, respectively. In the most recent national coaches’ poll, the Crimson ranked No. 28 on the men’s side, and the Tigers ranked No. 24 on the women’s side. Regionally, Harvard ranks No. 3 in the Northeast, while Princeton is No. 3 in the mid-Atlantic in men’s cross country. On the women’s side, Harvard is No. 5 in the Northeast, and Princeton is No. 2 in the mid-Atlantic. Yale is ranked 14th in the Northeast for men and ninth for women.

In the men’s event, Harvard’s Graham Rance led for almost the entirety of the race, yet Miranda made up 11.9 seconds in the last .77 miles to close with just over a four second gap between first and second place. Yale men’s cross country head coach Paul Harkins told Yale Athletics that this strategy was exactly Miranda’s original race plan.

“He tried to be as conservative as he could — hang back and then run the second half really tough. He took over with 500 to go,” Harkins told Yale Athletics.

Sean Kay ’24 followed Miranda for the Blue and White, coming in 12th place overall with a time of 24:32.9. After Kay, Yale took places 14 through 20.

Eleven out of the 17 Yale men runners had not yet completed with the Blue and White before Saturday. Miranda highlighted their “encouraging performances.”

“[The underclassmen] showed a lot of potential, and they’ll only get better throughout the season once they adjust to college races,” Miranda said. “When Heps comes around, they’re going to make us a tough team to beat. We’re excited that we can keep improving throughout the season, and bring all the work we did over the past year and a half to fruition.”

Though there were only four Harvard runners who placed in between the top two Bulldogs compared to Princeton’s six, the rest of the field placed the Crimson on the top of the leaderboard by one point.

In the women’s race on Saturday, Princeton defeated Harvard 36–37, while Yale finished with 49 points, a total calculated by summing the final positions of each team’s first five runners. DeLay set the pace with a 16:10.8, running at a clip that likely would have lifted her to a new career best if the race was a full five kilometers. To start the 2019 season, she ran a career-record 17:28 in a five-kilometer against Harvard at the Yale Golf Course.

The Yale star and captain, who led the Elis in every race she ran in fall 2019, finished a comfortable 7.7 seconds ahead of Harvard’s Isabell Sagar in second. DeLay, who took a gap year last year, led the race consistently — she was in the lead pack after one mile and had jumped out to about a nine second lead by the time runners hit the 3.4-kilometer mark.

She told the News that training last year was difficult. Because she was on a full-year leave of absence, she was not allowed to train with enrolled members of the team in New Haven, resulting in “many lonely runs,” though she added that she did have a chance to run with other teammates who were also in the Elm City and taking leaves.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s been two years since the beginning of the last cross country season,” DeLay said. “After this year, I am just so grateful to even have the opportunity to defend my Heps title this season. I was fortunate to be able to race a bit in the spring and summer, so coming back this past weekend was a bit less of a rust buster for me than it was for most.”

DeLay ran in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon last June, competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She recorded a time of 9:58.87 in the event, finishing 11th in her heat. Although she did not qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she took first place earlier in the spring for the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Trials of Miles Kansas City Qualifier.

Zoe Nuechterlein ’22, a former managing editor of the News’ magazine, finished second for Yale and seventh overall with a 16:36.3 finish.

“HYP was our first race as a team in a year and a half, so we wanted to get out there, compete and get a feel for racing again,” Nuechterlein, who was originally in the class of 2021 before taking a gap semester in fall 2020, said. “In general, we are so happy to be back racing. This was a rust-buster race, and we have a lot of training and racing to look forward to over the next couple of months.”

In order, Maddie Ghazarian ’22, Jocelyn Chau ’22, Kosana Weir ’23, Julia Dvorak ’24 and Kylie Goldfarb ’25 rounded out the top seven for the Bulldogs. Ghazarian, who was running the first race of her Yale career after not competing in 2018 through 2020, finished in 10th, while Chau, Weir, Dvorak and Goldfarb came in at 15th, 16th, 19th and 21st, respectively.

Both the Yale men and women next compete on Sept. 24 at the Battle in Beantown in Boston’s Franklin Park.

MARGARET HEDEMAN
Margaret Hedeman currently serves as a Sports Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously covered men’s lacrosse, men’s hockey and volleyball as a staff reporter. Originally from the Boston Area, she is a junior in Branford College majoring in history, the world economy.
WILLIAM MCCORMACK
William McCormack currently serves as a Sports and Digital Editor for the Yale Daily News. He previously covered men’s basketball and the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he is a junior in Timothy Dwight College.