November 17, 2013

Dooney Qualifies for NCAA Championships

Sophomore is Sixth Bulldog to Earn Nationals Bid Since 1991

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—For just the second time in the last three years and the third time in the last nine years, the Yale men's cross country team will send one of its own to the Division I NCAA National Championships. Thanks to his 11th-place finish at the Division I NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 15, sophomore Kevin Dooney earned an automatic individual bid to Nationals, which will be held at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday, Nov. 23. A total of 31 teams, plus 38 individuals, qualified for the 10K race—resulting in a total field of about 250 athletes. Although the Bulldogs did not qualify as a team, Dooney received his spot by placing in the top 25 overall at Regionals and being one of the fastest four runners at Regionals on a non-qualifying team.

A strong freshman season in 2012 saw Dooney finish in the team's top seven four times—including a third-place team finish at the Fordham Fiasco and fourth-place team finish at the Paul Short Invitational—while setting the fifth-fastest personal record in Yale history in the 10,000-meter race during the outdoor track and field season.

He thus entered the 2013 cross country season with high hopes and, despite some injury issues, performed well at the season's first couple races, placing eighth on the team at the Harvard-Yale season opener and fifth on the team at the Iona Meet of Champions. Dooney then exploded onto the scene, finishing first on the team at the Paul Short Invitational, Pre-National Invitational, Ivy League Heptagonal Championships (Heps) and Regionals, setting 8K personal records on three separate occasions. Pre-Nationals were held in Terre Haute on the same course used for Nationals, meaning Dooney has experience running the course.

"Running at Nationals has always been a goal of mine, even before starting college," Dooney said. "Coming into the season, we talked about goals and believed that top 15 at Regionals was possible. After some early injury problems, it was only after Heps that we believed that was possible again."

Dooney has already earned both All-Region and second team All-Ivy honors this season, for his 11th-place overall finish at Regionals and his eighth-place overall finish at Heps, respectively. He will be seeking to add to his list of accomplishments at Nationals, as he races alongside the best runners the country has to offer.

Following Dooney's brilliant performance at Regionals, Harkins said that Dooney deserved to be discussed in the same company as the team's last two runners to qualify for Nationals: Jeff Perrella '10 and Lucas Meyer '05, two of Yale's all-time best runners. Perrella finished 120th at Nationals in 2010, while Meyer finished 102nd in 2003 and 18th in 2004. Described by Harkins as a "true 10K-type runner," Dooney will be seeking to solidify his place as one of Yale's best cross country runners in recent memory when he takes to the course on Saturday.

"Hopefully, I can just go out and be competitive and pick up some experience for future years, when hopefully we'll go as a team," Dooney said. "As for preparation, nothing will really change. Training has been getting lighter to prepare for the postseason races, so I'll just keep going with that this week. I'll do one relatively light workout on Tuesday before heading out."

The men's race will begin at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday. A course map is available here, and the NCAA's official release regarding Nationals qualifiers 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