Dooney Concludes Sophomore Season at National Championships
Places 98th in Field of More than 250 of the Nation's Best
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—The Yale men's cross country team's season concluded in exciting fashion on Saturday, as sophomore Kevin Dooney ran the 10K race at the Division I NCAA National Championships, held at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind. Competing in muddy conditions alongside more than 250 of the most talented runners in the country, Dooney placed 98th, finishing with a time of 31:18.5. Colorado (149 points), Northern Arizona (169), Oklahoma State (230), BYU (267) and Oregon (274) were the meet's top five team finishers, while Oregon's Edward Cheserek (29:41.1) was the race's top individual runner.
For Dooney—the third Bulldog to qualify for Nationals in the last nine years and just the sixth since 1991—a strong performance at Nationals was a fitting end to an impressive sophomore season. This season alone, Dooney finished first on the team at four separate races, set 8K personal records three different times, and earned both All-Region and second team All-Ivy honors. Dooney then earned an automatic individual bid to Nationals by being one of the fastest four runners at Regionals on a non-qualifying team. On Saturday, he did his best to make the most of that opportunity.
"The race was pretty messy with all the rain that's fallen here, which made things extra tough," Dooney said after the race. "But I think I was able to handle it pretty well for my first time here."
Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins is very impressed with the season Dooney has managed to put together.
"Dooney came into the season a little banged up," Harkins said before Saturday's race. "He was running but had some lingering hip soreness which hampered his summer training. We just took it day-by-day and tried to keep Kevin smooth without pounding him into the ground. He progressed pretty rapidly, though, and, once [the Paul Short Invitational] and then [the Pre-National Invitational] came around, his goals started to get a bit bigger."
With one Nationals race already under his belt as a sophomore, Dooney figures to be discussed alongside some of Yale's all-time cross country greats—including Lucas Meyer '05 and Jeff Perrella '10, the team's last two runners to qualify for Nationals. Meyer finished 102nd at Nationals in 2003 and 18th in 2004, while Perrella finished 120th at Nationals in 2010. On Saturday, Dooney recorded the fastest Nationals race time for a Yale runner since Meyer in 2003.
"Dooney had an outstanding freshman track season, so I knew he was capable of pretty great things," Harkins explained. "He broke four freshman records last winter and spring, so as long as he continued to progress, [I knew] he could elevate his status as one of the best in Yale's history pretty quickly."
Despite Dooney's solid showing at Nationals, both he and Harkins emphasized that this year's race was merely preparation for the years ahead.
"I'm pretty pleased with my performance and feel I've learned a lot, which will serve me well for the next two years when hopefully we can come back with a full team," Dooney said.
With the cross country season officially completed, Dooney and the rest of the Elis will have two weeks off before beginning the indoor track and field season with the Yale Season Opener at Coxe Cage on Dec. 7. Given Dooney's record-breaking freshman track and field season, it is likely that Dooney's success is far from over.
"With him having two and a half more years here, it will be fun to see where he can take it," Harkins said.
Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity