Bulldogs Ready to Roll as New Season Gets Underway

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Daniel Kemp. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Team Captain Shirvell Leads Deep, Skilled Squad

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—With a talented group of freshmen set to join a core of experienced runners, the Yale men's track and field team is preparing to open its indoor season in the coming weeks. The team will take to the track at its own Coxe Cage on Dec. 7 at the Yale Season Opener before continuing its season at the Yale Invitational on Jan. 11 (also at Coxe Cage) and against Dartmouth and Columbia in Hanover, N.H., on Jan. 18. While the loss of a few important seniors from last season—Timothy Hillas '13 and Michael Levine '13 chief among them—will certainly be felt, the Elis seem poised to continue to build on their successes of the past few years.

Below is a look at the Bulldogs' prospects in each event as they head into the new season:

Sprints

Headlining the team's group of short sprinters are two seniors: Daniel Jones and Dana Lindberg. In addition to registering 16 top-five finishes last season, Jones placed second in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes against Dartmouth and Columbia and qualified for the indoor IC4A Championships in the 60-meter dash. Lindberg, meanwhile, put together the best season of his collegiate career in 2012-2013, emerging as a consistent threat in the 200-meter dash. He placed second in the 200-meter dash against Harvard, third against Oxford and Cambridge and seventh at the outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships (Heps).

Junior Dylan Hurley will lead the Elis in the longer sprints. Hurley recorded 19 top-10 finishes last year, placing third in the 500-meter dash against Dartmouth and Columbia and second in the 400-meter dash against Harvard and Princeton.

Junior Andrew Goble, sophomore John Keisling, junior Mario Kranjac, sophomore Pete Merritt, sophomore Martin Tolentino, senior Nnamdi Udeh, senior Clifford Van Meter and junior Chen Wang should provide the Bulldogs with additional experience in the sprint events. A pair of freshmen—Marc-Andre Alexandre and Chandler Crusan—will also seek to make their mark in the sprints this season. Alexandre, who hails from Montreal, was a member of the Canadian junior national team during the summer of 2012, while Crusan, a native of Hempfield, Pa., qualified for the outdoor National Championships in the 400-meter dash during his junior and senior years of high school.

Hurdles

Junior William Rowe enters the season as the team's top hurdler after placing first in the event at three separate meets and setting the 13th-fastest 400-meter hurdle personal record in Yale history at the Yale Springtime Invitational last year.

Junior Daniel Kemp will provide the team with experience in the shorter hurdle events. Last season, Kemp set his personal record in the 60-meter hurdles against Harvard and Princeton during the indoor season, placed 12th in the 60-meter hurdles at indoor Heps, and set his personal record in the 110-meter hurdles against Harvard during the outdoor season.

Two other hurdlers—freshmen Austin Loewen and Torren Peebleswill hope to start their collegiate careers on high notes this season. Loewen was a Michigan state champion in the 110-meter hurdles during his junior and senior years of high school, while Peebles was a Wisconsin state finalist in both the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles during his junior and senior years.

Middle Distance

Senior and team captain James Shirvell is likely the Elis' top runner heading into the season. He emerged as a middle-distance star last year, and he capped off his brilliant season by qualifying for the outdoor Division I NCAA National Championships in the 1,500-meter run after running the fastest 1,500-meter race in Yale history at the Division I NCAA East Regional. The junior sensation also qualified for the USA Track & Field Championships but was unable to run due to injury.

Also likely to make significant contributions in the middle-distance events are junior John McGowan and freshman James Randon, who are both coming off strong cross country seasons. McGowan competed and excelled in a range of middle-distance events—the mile; 800-meter; 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter runs—during the 2012-2013 track and field season.

Senior John Cocco, junior Michael Grace, sophomore John Mahoney, sophomore Alexander McDonald and junior Matt Nussbaum will also seek to make their presences felt in the middle-distance races this year. Freshmen Tim Cox and Ryan Douglas, making their track and field debuts, are also likely to concentrate in the middle-distance events.

Distance

Coming off a Division I NCAA National Championships berth in the most recent cross country season, sophomore Kevin Dooney enters the track and field season with high hopes and expectations. Dooney was just the sixth Bulldog to qualify for Nationals since 1991, and he recorded the fastest time at Nationals by an Eli in 10 years. He will be seeking to build off a freshman track and field season in which he set the fifth-fastest outdoor 10,000-meter personal record in Yale history.

McGowan and Randon are also likely to make an impact in the distance races, as are the other members of Yale's regular top seven from the cross country season: sophomore Alex Conner, senior Michael Cunetta, junior Isa Qasim and sophomore Duncan Tomlin. Cunetta placed 16th and set a personal record in the 3,000-meter run at the indoor IC4As last year.

The rest of the Elis' cross country team—including Douglas, junior Alec Borsook, freshman Dan Grosvenor, junior Tom Harrison, freshman Andre Ivankovic, senior Ryan Laemel and senior Miles Richardson—will likely continue running distance races during the track and field season as well.

Meanwhile, Nussbaum, in addition to running some middle-distance events, figures to focus on the long-distance races, as he has achieved most of his success in cross country. Sophomore Ahmad Aljobeh, sophomore Will Botta, senior Michele Gama Sosa, sophomore Max Payson and junior Jacob Sandry provide the Bulldogs with further depth in the distance races, while freshman Spike Sievert is preparing to take to the track for the first time in what figures to be a successful collegiate career.

Relays

The Bulldogs tried out a variety of combinations in the relay events last season, typically selecting different teams depending on the meet and which athletes were well-rested.

The 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays were generally the domain of some combination of Hurley, Jones, Lindberg, Rowe and Udeh.  Kranjac also regularly ran as a member of the 4x400-meter relay team. Grace, McGowan and Shirvell should be expected to form the core of the Elis' top 4x800-meter relay squad, with the fourth runner to be determined based on individual results as the season progresses. Several other runners who could run relay events depending on how circumstances develop include Cocco, McDonald, Merritt, Payson and Van Meter.

Although some of the team's biggest relay contributors graduated last year, the Elis still return many of the athletes who led them to strong relay performances during the 2012-2013 season. Hurley was part of the team, for example, that placed fifth in the distance medley relay at the indoor IC4A Championships and earned All-East honors. Meanwhile, McGowan, Nussbaum and Shirvell were three-quarters of the team that ran the fastest 4xmile relay in Yale history at the Penn Relays during the outdoor season.

Jumps

In addition to excelling in the short sprint and relay events, Lindberg serves as the team's top long jumper. Last season, he placed first in the long jump against Dartmouth and Columbia, first against Harvard (setting the seventh-best personal record in Yale history), fourth against Harvard and Princeton and 10th at indoor Heps. He even managed to qualify for the NCAA East Regional in the event.

The pole vault, meanwhile, should continue to be the area of focus for the duo of senior Paul Chandler and sophomore Brendan Sullivan. Chandler placed fifth at both indoor and outdoor Heps last season, in addition to qualifying for the indoor IC4As, where he placed ninth. Sullivan, for his part, turned plenty of heads during his freshman season, placing second against Harvard and Princeton during the indoor season and first against Harvard during the outdoor season. He set his personal record in a fourth-place finish at indoor Heps.

Finally, Merritt, in addition to his work in the sprints and relays, could occasionally serve as the Bulldogs' representative in the high jump. He finished third in the event against Dartmouth and Columbia last season.

Throws

Following Levine's graduation last spring, the Elis' two throwers—Van Meter and freshman Luke Persichetti—have large shoes to fill, although they appear to be up to the task. When he is not contributing in the sprints, Van Meter will perhaps try his hand at the javelin throw, an event in which he placed second against Harvard as a sophomore. Persichetti, meanwhile, was a Pennsylvania state champion in the shot put in high school.

The Elis have seven regular season meets scheduled for the indoor season before the postseason begins with indoor Heps on Feb. 28 and Mar. 1 in Hanover, N.H. The outdoor season begins on Mar. 22 at the Tribe Invitational, hosted by William & Mary. The team then has another seven regular season outdoor meets scheduled before it hosts outdoor Heps on May 10-11. All in all, the Bulldogs will host seven meets this season, including the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet on Feb. 15.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity