October 3, 2013

Bulldogs Ready for Challenge in Lehigh Valley

Team Seeks to Build on Momentum From Second-Place Finish at Iona Meet

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Coming off a remarkably well-rounded showing that saw it take second place at the competitive Iona Meet of Champions two weekends ago, the Yale men's cross country team will head to Bethlehem, Pa., this weekend to face its toughest test yet: the Paul Short Invitational, hosted by Lehigh.

After enjoying some well-earned rest last weekend, the Bulldogs—who recently passed Cornell to take the seventh spot in the USTFCCCA's Division I Northeast Region rankings—are sending 16 athletes to Paul Short, 10 of whom will be competing in the men's gold race. The gold race will pit the Elis against 47 other schools, including Ivy rivals Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn. Also competing in the gold race on Saturday will be three schools ranked in the USTFCCCA's top 20: Georgetown, Indiana and Iona. Iona was the only team to outdo the Bulldogs at the Iona Meet two weekends ago. Because Lehigh only allows each team to enter 10 athletes in the gold race, Yale will also be entering six additional runners in the meet's open race, held earlier in the day.

Given the talented competition the Elis will be going up against on Saturday, a strong performance could go a long way to improving their chances of earning a spot at the NCAA Division I National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., later this year.

"I'm excited to get into this next part of the season," said Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins. "This is the first big meet we will be competing in as we start looking towards the postseason, and it will be great to see how we've progressed with the last couple of weeks of training.  I have high expectations for these guys, as do they."

Yale finished 19th at Paul Short in 2011 and seventh in 2012, and the team will be seeking to continue this upward trend with its performance this weekend. The Elis will, however, be relying on a slightly different group of runners, as only three of their top seven finishers from their seventh-place finish at Paul Short last year—sophomore Alex Conner, sophomore Kevin Dooney and junior John McGowan—are competing this time around.

Conner and McGowan seem to be near locks for the team's top seven again this year after back-to-back finishes in Yale's top three to open the season. Dooney, meanwhile, broke into the team's top seven for the first time at the Iona Meet and should be one of the Bulldogs' top runners again this weekend. He ran an impressive 25:10 at last year's race, registering the seventh-fastest time among all competing freshmen.

Freshman James Randon is another runner to watch at Paul Short. The youngster has started the year off in dominant fashion, finishing second on the team in his first two collegiate races.

Freshman Andre Ivankovic and sophomore Duncan Tomlin have also recorded top-seven team finishes in each of the season's first two races, and they will look to continue their streaks against tougher competition this weekend. Meanwhile, senior team captain Ryan Laemel—returning from injury troubles last season—will be aiming to crack the top seven for the first time this year, despite solid showings in his first two races. And after finishing fourth on the team against Harvard in the season opener, junior Isa Qasim will be looking to bounce back after finishing just outside the team's top seven at the Iona Meet.

This Saturday's open race will begin at 10:10 a.m. and will be followed by the gold race at 11:00 a.m. A map of this weekend's 8K course is available here, and a full list of competing teams is available here. Results will be available on www.yalebulldogs.com and at the meet's official website (http://paulshortxcrun.com/PSLayer.php) following the conclusion of the race.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity