Team Rested and Ready to Make Waves in Postseason
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Friday brings the culminating moment of the Bulldogs' 2012 campaign: the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, which Yale is co-hosting along with Fairfield University. 38 teams will traverse the course at Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Conn., each vying for a coveted berth in the NCAA National Championships.
The top two teams from each region receive automatic invitations to the national meet, while other teams hope to be awarded one of 13 at-large bids. The Northeast region is projected to receive a couple of those bids, owing to a highly competitive field that includes three nationally ranked teams in No. 4 Iona, No. 14 Syracuse and No. 22 Columbia. Syracuse has won the region in each of the past three years, though a power shift may be in the works if Iona performs to expectations.
The Elis are ranked 8th in the region, just behind No. 5 Dartmouth, No. 6 Cornell and No. 7 Harvard and ahead of No. 12 Brown. As for the remainder of the Ivy League, Columbia is seeded third behind Iona and Syracuse, while Penn and Princeton compete in the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Yale finished 11th at the regional meet in 2011.
The Bulldogs were last in action two weeks ago when they placed sixth for the second straight year at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. That race was highlighted by the performance of the Eli underclassmen, who collectively stepped up to lead the team to its best average time of the year. The top seven runners from Heps (with one injury substitution) will represent Yale again on Friday.
While recognizing that not all of his runners raced to their potential at Heps, coach Paul Harkins remained supremely confident in his team.
"[The team has] been looking great so far and I think that they are ready to have their best race of the year," he said. "Workouts have been going well and they are pumped to run on what could be called our home course!"
The Bulldogs will be looking for significant contributions from senior captain Kevin Lunn and sophomore phenom Matthew Nussbaum. Lunn has been a picture of excellence and consistency all season, while Nussbaum continues to smash his way into the Yale record books week after week, pacing the team at all but one race this year. Freshman Alex Conner turned in a huge PR at Heps, as did senior Timothy Hillas and sophomore Isa Qasim. Senior Demetri Goutos and sophomore John McGowan have been mainstays and regular scorers on the varsity squad all year.
In all, six of the seven runners that Yale will trot out on Friday have run an 8K in less than 25 minutes this year, making this one of the deepest teams in recent memory. The Regionals course, however, is ten kilometers, so the team will be forced to adjust its pacing and save its legs. Harkins, for one, was not worried about the adaptation, and stressed progress.
"My goal is to improve upon what we did at the regional meet a year ago as well as at Heps," he said. "[The runners are] going to go out on Friday, take care of business and let their bodies do what they've been training all year to do," he said.
Report by Eian Katz '13, Yale Sports Publicity