Young Runners Prove Key in Bulldogs' Toughest Test of Season
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—Facing its greatest challenge of the season, the Yale men's cross country team continued its string of impressive performances with a 23rd-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday.
The meet—named as such because it is held at the course where the NCAA Division I National Championships will be run later this year—brought together a wide range of talented teams from across the nation, including three of the top five teams in the country (Colorado, Oklahoma State and Oregon), as well as five of the top ten (Tulsa and Princeton), in the most recent USTFCCCA poll. Running in the most competitive race of the meet, Yale ended the day with 668 points, finishing just behind Indiana (632 points) and Texas Tech (662). Indiana is currently ranked 12th in the country. The Elis also finished not far behind Florida State (618 points) and Virginia Tech (622), both of which received top-30 votes in the latest USTFCCCA poll. The Bulldogs finished ahead of Ivy rivals Cornell (34th place) and Penn (38th).
"The guys ran really tough today," said Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins. "I was impressed with their aggression and fearlessness."
Competing without any seniors, the Bulldogs owe much of their success in Saturday's 8K race to their younger runners. Leading the way was sophomore Kevin Dooney (24:32.4), who finished first on the team and set a personal record for his second consecutive race. Dooney's time was nearly a six-second improvement on the personal-record time he set at Paul Short just two weekends ago. Dooney secured his record time by closing strong, running the final 3,000 meters of the race in just 9:08.4.
Sophomore Alex Conner (24:35.3) and freshman James Randon (24:53.6) also set personal records on Saturday, finishing second and fourth on the team, respectively. Saturday's race was the first time Randon had finished under the 25:00 mark in his collegiate career. Last season, only two freshmen (Conner and Dooney) accomplished that feat.
Junior John McGowan (24:49.0), meanwhile, finished third on the team, a few seconds ahead of Randon. Together, Conner and McGowan have provided the Elis with remarkable consistency this season, as both runners have now placed in the team's top three in all four races in which they have competed this season.
The Elis' top runners excelled toward the finish of Saturday's race, with Conner, Dooney and McGowan moving up four, 11 and 10 spots, respectively, in the final 3,000-meters.
Sophomore Duncan Tomlin (25:13.9), junior Isa Qasim (25:17.3) and freshman Andre Ivankovic (26:12.7) finished fifth, sixth and seventh on the team, respectively, and the trio seems to have secured their places among the Bulldogs' regular top seven.
After returning home from a strong performance in Indiana, the Bulldogs will seek to continue to build on their momentum in the coming weeks. The members of the team that rested this weekend are scheduled to make the short trip to New Britain, Conn., to compete at the CCSU Mini-Meet on Oct. 25, while those that competed on Saturday will not run again until the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in Princeton, N.J., on Nov. 2.
Harkins believes his team is prepared for the season's home stretch.
"We have a few things to work on before Heps, but we are excited to get out there in two weeks," he said.
Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity