Bulldogs Prepare to Host Ivy League Heptagonal Championships

Matt Nussbaum and Jacob Sandry. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Matt Nussbaum and Jacob Sandry. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Elis Open Postseason on Home Track

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—The Yale men's track and field team opens postseason competition at its own Dewitt Cuyler Athletic Complex this weekend, as it hosts the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships (Heps) on Saturday and Sunday. Heps marks the third meet the team has hosted this outdoor season, as well as the third in the past four weeks. Yale has not hosted outdoor Heps since 2011.

After running well throughout the season, the Elis will be looking to use their momentum from the past few weeks to their advantage when they take to the track against their seven Ivy League rivals. Coaches have not yet announced their official entry lists for this weekend, but most of Yale's athletes should be expected to compete in their best events.

"We always look forward to Heps, no matter where it is hosted, because this meet pits us against all of our biggest rivals in the sport," said senior team captain James Shirvell. "For that reason, it's fun. We enjoy competing against our rivals, because these instances have the ability to bring out great performances."

The dynamic duo of freshman Marc-Andre Alexandre and senior Daniel Jones will be looking to put on some great performances and earn the Bulldogs points in the short sprints. Alexandre emerged as a star during the indoor season, coming within two-hundredths of a second of tying Yale's all-time indoor 400-meter record, running the eighth-fastest indoor 200-meter dash in school history and earning second team All-Ivy honors following his second-place finish in the 400-meter final at indoor Heps. Alexandre, however, has dealt with some nagging injuries during the outdoor season, and Jones has stepped up and enjoyed an especially strong season. Jones finished second and third in the 200-meter and 100-meter dashes, respectively, against Harvard a few weeks ago. Freshman Chandler Crusan, junior Mario Kranjac and senior Nnamdi Udeh are also possibilities to compete in the short sprints over the weekend. All three ran in either the 100-meter or 200-meter dash at the Yale Springtime Invitational, the team's most recent meet.

The longer 400-meter dash, meanwhile, has been the domain of Crusan, Kranjac and junior Dylan Hurley this season. The trio finished back-to-back-to-back in the 400-meters at the Springtime Invitational, with Crusan finishing fourth, Kranjac fifth and Hurley sixth.

Shirvell headlines the Elis' deep and talented group of middle–distance runners. Shirvell is most likely to run the 1,500-meters after recording the fourth-best time in the Ivy League this season (3:44.31) at the Penn Relays a couple weeks ago. Shirvell would also be an option to run the 800-meters instead. He currently holds the 16th-best time in the Ivy League in the event this season, a 1:52.43 he ran against Harvard.

"The fact that [Heps] is at Yale only increases our enthusiasm for this meet," said Shirvell. "I was a part of this meet during my freshmen year when we hosted it, and it was a great experience. Our coaches do a phenomenal job of hosting the meet, and it is always a pleasure to compete at home in front of friends and family."

Besides Shirvell, sophomore Alexander McDonald and freshman James Randon are other middle-distance runners to keep an eye on this weekend. McDonald's 800-meter time of 1:53.50 from early in the season stands as the 20th-fastest in the Ivies this outdoor season, while Randon has the third-fastest 1,500-meter and 800-meter times on the team this season. The Bulldogs have an especially well-rounded middle-distance squad this season, however, and several other runners—including junior Michael Grace, freshman Andre Ivankovic, sophomore John Mahoney, junior John McGowan and junior Jacob Sandry—could compete and notch top performances at Heps.

Kevin Dooney appears likely to run either the 5,000-meter or 10,000-meter race this weekend. The star sophomore is the only Bulldog to compete in the 10,000-meters this season. Dooney has rewritten Yale's record books during his first two collegiate seasons, breaking the school's 5,000-meter record and running the second-fastest 3,000-meter and 10,000-meter times in school history. Dooney's top 10,000-meter time currently stands as the third-fastest in the Ivies this season, and his top 5,000-meter time (set at the Penn Relays just two weeks ago) is fifth-best in the league. While Dooney is clearly the most likely candidate to take part in the 10,000-meters, other Bulldogs that could compete in the 5,000-meters include Ivankovic, senior Michael Cunetta, freshman Dan Grosvenor, senior Ryan Laemel and junior Isa Qasim.

Junior Daniel Kemp, freshman Austin Loewen and junior William Rowe figure to represent the Bulldogs in the hurdle events. Kemp and Loewen hold the 17th- and 19th-fastest 110-meter hurdle times in the Ivies this season, while Rowe holds the seventh-fastest 400-meter hurdle time. All three athletes set those top times against Harvard earlier in the season, and the trio will be looking to improve on those marks against a wider field of Ivy League competition this weekend.

Sophomore Duncan Tomlin figures to compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He currently holds the eighth-fastest time in the Ivies this season, a 9:09.37 he recorded at the Penn Relays. Tomlin has become the Elis' go-to athlete in the event over the past two seasons.

Senior John Oppenheimer, freshman Torren Peebles and freshman Luke Persichetti are the only likely entrants for the Bulldogs in the field events. Oppenheimer and Persichetti generally compete in the hammer throw and shot put, while Peebles competes in the javelin throw. Oppenheimer and Persichetti both set personal records in the hammer throw and shot put at the Springtime Invitational.

Finally, the Elis will also likely look to enter teams in the three relay events. Yale's top 4x100-meter relay team, when healthy, has consisted of Alexandre, Hurley, Jones and Udeh, while its top 4x400-meter squad has been less clear. Crusan and Rowe were members of each of the 4x400-meter teams that recorded Yale's top two times in the event this season, and they seem to be likely entrants in the event at Heps as well. Possibilities to fill out the team include Alexandre, Hurley, Shirvell and Udeh, among others. The Bulldogs have not competed in the 4x800 meter relay yet this season, but their coaches will have plenty of top-tier middle-distance runners to choose from when looking to form a team.

Looking ahead to the weekend, Shirvell expressed excitement about the opportunity to compete in his final Heps on a track he has come to know well during the past four years.

"I think the seniors are very lucky to have their last Heps at Yale," he said. "We have really cherished our time as members of this team, and we are all very excited to have the opportunity to end our Heps careers on a high note at home."

A schedule for this weekend's events is available here. Saturday's action will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will include some field events, preliminary trials in most of the track events, and the 10,000-meter finals. Sunday's events will likewise begin at 11:00 a.m. and will consist of the remaining field events, the relays and the final rounds of most track events. Results will be available on www.yalebulldogs.com at the conclusion of each day. The Ivy League will also provide a live video feed of Sunday's action (starting at 11:30 a.m.) at http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity