Team Heads to Princeton with Wave of Momentum
NEW HAVEN, Conn.—After concluding an impressive regular season with a third-place finish at the CCSU Mini Meet last weekend, the Yale men's cross country team will head to Princeton to compete at the annual Ivy League Heptagonal Championships (Heps) on Saturday.
The 8K race at Heps—perhaps the most anticipated event of the Ivy League cross country season—will provide the Elis with a chance to outshine some of their greatest rivals on the league's biggest stage. The Bulldogs' toughest competition should be Columbia (ranked 10th in the country and first in the Northeast Region), Princeton (15th nationally, first in the Mid-Atlantic Region) and Harvard (21st nationally, fifth in the Northeast). Dartmouth—which has spent time in the national top 30 this season and is currently ranked sixth in the Northeast—should also make its presence felt on Saturday. Yale is currently ranked seventh in the Northeast and will be seeking to improve its regional seeding by outrunning its competitors at Heps. The Elis have already finished ahead of Brown, Cornell and Penn at various races this season.
"We have progressed really well from our first meet of the year, and I feel that we have a chance to mix it up with a couple of the teams ahead of us," said Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins. "If we can do that, we will be close to jumping onto the national stage, which is the ultimate goal. This meet is one step along the way towards that goal."
The Bulldogs appear to be in a good position, as four of the team's top seven finishers from last year's Heps are returning this season with the hope of improving on last season's sixth-place finish. Overall, six of the 12 Elis who competed at Heps last season will be running on Saturday. The Bulldogs' squad should be in top shape, as the team rested several of its top runners at last weekend's race.
Likely leading the way will be sophomore Alex Conner, sophomore Kevin Dooney, junior John McGowan and freshman James Randon. Conner and McGowan have finished in the Elis' top three in all four races in which they have competed this season, with Conner placing first on the team at both the Harvard-Yale meet and Iona Meet of Champions. Conner finished second on the team at last year's Heps, running a solid 24:42.1 in the process. Dooney, however, has perhaps been the team's most dominant runner as of late, finishing first on the team at each of the last two meets at which he has competed: the Paul Short Invitational and Pre-National Invitational. Randon, meanwhile, finished second on the team behind Conner at both Harvard-Yale and the Iona Meet. All four runners have set 8K personal records this season, and Dooney has actually set personal record times on two separate occasions.
Those four will be joined by the trio of freshman Andre Ivankovic, junior Isa Qasim and sophomore Duncan Tomlin, who seem to have secured their spots among Yale's regular top seven. In addition to finishing in the team's top seven in all four races in which he has ran (including in the top five three times), Tomlin set a personal record earlier in the year at Paul Short. Qasim, meanwhile, will enter this weekend's race with plenty of confidence following his fifth-place team finish at last season's Heps.
Looking to break into the team's top seven and potentially even score for the Bulldogs will be junior Alec Borsook, senior Michael Cunetta, freshman Dan Grosvenor, junior Tom Harrison and senior team captain Ryan Laemel.
Harkins believes his team is more than ready for the challenge ahead.
"The Heps Championship is a fantastic meet where every team brings their A-game," he said. "I'm excited to see ours match up with some of our rivals."
Saturday's race will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will be followed by an awards ceremony at 1:00 p.m. An interactive map of Saturday's course is available here. Results will be available on www.yalebulldogs.com following the conclusion of the race.
Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity