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Shirvell Headed to Oregon for NCAA Championship

James Shirvell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
James Shirvell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Team Leader and Middle-Distance Star Enters with Fifth-Seeded Time in 1,500-Meter Run

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—For most members of the Yale men's track and field team, the summer months have brought an end to a strong season; for junior James Shirvell, however, the most important competitions are just getting started. On June 6-8, Shirvell will be in Eugene, Ore., where he will be representing the Bulldogs on track and field's biggest collegiate stage: the Division I NCAA Championships. And just a couple weeks later, Shirvell's memorable season will continue in Des Moines, Iowa, where he will be competing in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Shirvell will be traveling to Eugene with plenty of confidence, thanks to two incredible showings in the 1,500-meter run at the Division I NCAA East Regional a couple weeks ago. At Regionals, Shirvell broke his personal record on day one with a time of 3:43.43 that not only placed him second overall, but also easily earned him a spot in the Regional final two days later—a race which would determine who would move onto the NCAA Championships in Eugene. Despite competing for the second time in a span of just three days, Shirvell ran the best race of his collegiate career thus far: a 3:41.09, the fastest 1,500-meter race in Yale history. As a result, Shirvell punched his ticket not only to the NCAA Championship, where he will enter with the fifth-seeded overall time, but also to the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, at which Shirvell has already confirmed he will compete. 

"My performances at Regionals definitely give me confidence going into NCAAs," Shirvell said. "I know that I'm fit if I'm able to [set personal records] substantially twice, with only a day of rest, so I'm feeling great. I'm happy with my performances, but it would be wrong to say I am content. There is still hunger, I want to see what I can do with the country's best and show that our program is one of the best."

For Shirvell, setting Yale's top all-time 1,500-meter mark was a significant, if not unexpected, honor. 

"I was a little surprised, to be honest, that I got the school record," he said. "It wasn't something I was thinking about going into the race, as the only thing that was on my mind was advancing to NCAAs, so it was a very nice bonus. Getting the record has been a goal of mine, but—for it to come with an NCAA berth—I would have it no other way."

Despite his remarkable skill and history of regional success during his first two years of college competition, Shirvell's national dominance this season may have come as a bit of a surprise. Coming into the season, Shirvell had run the 1,500-meters at the collegiate level just once in his entire career. Typically an 800-meter specialist at outdoor meets, Shirvell's shift to the 1,500-meters seemed to pay off early, as he placed first in the event at the Tribe Invitational and set two personal records the first two times he ran the event. 

Shirvell's success in the event continued throughout the remainder of the season, and he placed second in prelims and sixth overall at the Ivy League Championships in early May. Despite having qualified for the IC4As, Shirvell instead competed at the Virginia Challenge, where he shattered his previous personal record in the 1,500-meters and earned himself a last-minute invitation to Greensboro, N.C., for the Division I NCAA East Regional, which he entered as the 20th seed.

Shirvell will compete at the NCAA Championships for the first time on Thursday, June 6. Following that first-round race, the top five athletes from each heat—plus those with the next two fastest times—will qualify for the final race on Saturday, June 8. 

Despite the elevated pressure, Shirvell is doing his best to remain calm and just appreciate this season's success.

"To prepare, nothing really different than any other race," Shirvell said. "I think you have to treat every race the same. Just making sure to get my rest, so I know I'm ready to go. Other than that, just enjoying Yale for a bit more this summer." 

Results will be available on at the end of competition on both Thursday and Saturday. The NCAA Championships can be seen on ESPN3 on Thursday and ESPNU on Friday and Saturday.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity