September 14, 2013

Underclassmen Shine in Bulldogs’ Season Opener Against Crimson

Conner Takes Sixth Overall, Two Freshmen Finish in Elis' Top Seven

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—The Yale men's cross country team opened its season with a valiant effort against its greatest rival on Saturday. Despite registering 42 points in a loss to Harvard (15 points), several individual Elis shined bright on the 8K course at Boston's Franklin Park. With four of the Bulldogs' top seven finishers from last year's Harvard-Yale race having graduated, the team relied primarily on its younger runners in the season opener.

Sophomore Alex Conner was the top finisher of the day for the Bulldogs, placing sixth overall and falling just one second shy of the 25:00 mark. Conner's improvement from last year's race (in which he finished 14th with a time of 25:32.11) is a positive sign moving forward. Conner registered the top time among all of the Elis' freshmen last season (24:42.1) and finished just three seconds outside of the top five on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Head Men's Cross Country and Middle Distance Coach Paul Harkins—who emphasized the talent of this year's freshman class prior to Saturday's race—was likely happy to see especially promising performances from freshmen James Randon (7th place – 25:10) and Andre Ivankovic (11th – 25:30). Another freshman, Dan Grosvenor (16th – 25:54), finished just outside the Bulldog's top seven.

As expected, junior John McGowan—who emerged as one of the Elis' top middle-distance runners during last year's track and field season—finished in the Bulldog's top seven, finishing eighth overall with a time of 25:13. While not setting a personal record, McGowan improved his time from last year's Harvard-Yale race by more than 14 seconds and finished five spots higher overall.

Senior Michael Cunetta (14th – 25:43), junior Isa Qasim (10th – 25:24) and sophomore Duncan Tomlin (12th – 25:34) rounded out the rest of Yale's top seven.

Given that some of the most accomplished runners on the Bulldogs' roster—including the likes of junior Matthew Nussbaum and senior James Shirvell—did not even run on Saturday, the Elis will presumably only improve as the season continues. Nussbaum finished sixth overall against Harvard in last year's race.

"I commend the Harvard men for their performance," said Harkins. "I am confident that it can only get better from here."

The Bulldogs' season continues Sept. 21 in New York City when Yale competes at the Iona Meet of Champions.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity