Grace Wins 800-meter Run at Heptagonal Championships in a School Record Time
March 1, 2009
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Bulldog women's track and field team finished off the Heptagonal Championships hosted by Harvard at Gordon Track with very fast times and two big wins. The Bulldogs, who scored 29 points to take eighth at the meet, had a great day on the track, winning the 800-meter run and the 4x880-yard relay. As well, the team picked up a valuable point in the shot put in a meet marked by fast times and strong performances.
Sophomore Kate Grace showed the Ivy League competition that she will be a force to be reckoned with in the 800-meter run for two more seasons. Saturday, Grace won her heat in the preliminary round and entered the finals as the third fastest competitor. Grace, however, was ready to do even better and showed the impressive ability that took her to the outdoor NCAA Championships last year in the event. Grace won the event in a time of 2:07.83, finishing .97 seconds ahead of the next nearest competitor, Penn's Anna Aagenes. Aagenes was the fastest runner in the qualifying heats, running a time of 2:10.45 to Grace's preliminary time of 2:11.38. Grace's time is also a provisionally qualifying time for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Grace will have a chance to improve her time in the event again next week at the ECAC Championships in a hope to have a time fast enough to qualify her for the Championships. Her performance is also a new Yale record, improving on the previous record of 2:08.59 that was set in 1987.
For Grace, the two races in the 800-meter run were just the second and third times she has run the event this year. Grace also won the event at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet two weeks ago. In the preliminary heat, Grace utilized her normal strategy of sitting and kicking. In the finals, though, Grace took the lead from the opening steps and led wire-to-wire, increasing her lead the entire time. She decided that she wanted to make sure that she would be able to go for the win and not take the risk of getting boxed in, so she turned to having a strategy of taking the lead early on in the race.
Grace was very pleased with her race.
"The 800-meter run was a great race and I am very happy about the result," Grace said. "I felt really cool and confident in the race. I trusted my training and I knew that I could go out and run fast with even splits. Even though I was a little nervous before the race, I felt very smooth in the race itself."
The other big story of the day was the win by the Bulldogs in the 4x880-yard relay, an event that the team took fifth in last year. This year, however, the team entered the event with the fastest time in the Ivy League and improved on their time with a huge win in the event in a time of 8:57.60. The team had previously run as fast as 9:01.89 in the 4x800-meter relay, a slightly shorter event. The team of Grace, junior Stephany Reaves, senior captain Jennifer Lin and senior Kelli Buck also set a mark that is now in the Yale record books. The race, however, was not a wire-to-wire win, but a win that the team had to fight for. Grace, who ran the anchor leg of the relay, received the baton in seventh place and had to steadily pass runners to get the win for the team.
Grace finds running on the relay to be a great experience because of the teamwork involved.
"I am so happy about winning the 4x880-yard relay because it was not just me, but also three other runners," Grace said. "I was tired after running in the 800-meter run, but no matter how tired you are, relays are a whole different matter because you have teammates that you are working with. I got the baton in seventh and just started picking people off. My teammates ran great, so it was really close when I got the baton, but after I passed each person, there would be another person right in front of me to pass."
Lin, who also scored points for the team by taking second in the pentathlon yesterday, was incredibly happy that the meet ended with a win in the event.
"On a relay, there is so much at stake for the team," Lin said. "You know that you can't let your teammates down. This was the best way to end indoor Heps. It is not everyday that you can win the 4x880-yard relay. I was tired and was running against 800-meter runners and a few of the athletes on the other teams were fresh, but I knew I just had to run and couldn't let down my teammates."
The other scorer of the meet was sophomore thrower Stephanie Scaramella. While she entered the meet ranked as the seventh-best athlete in the shot put, she improved with a new personal best and took sixth place. Her mark of 12.83 meters improves her personal record and also puts her onto the all-time Yale lists. Her throw earned the team one point.
The Bulldogs just missed out on scoring in the mile. Last year, no Bulldogs competed in the event. This year, Buck ran a great race to place seventh in a time of 4:58.86, just more than one-half second from a sixth-place finish. Buck was actually faster in her preliminary heat, running 4:58.11. She was the only member of the team to qualify for the event finals. The race was won by Columbia's Meaghan Lessard in a very fast time of 4:46.60.
The team also just barely missed out on scoring in the high jump. Sophomore Emily Standish jumped 1.64 meters, which earned her a seventh-place finish. Disappointingly, Standish actually had the same height as the sixth-place finisher, but lost on misses. Standish started competition at 1.56 meters, which she cleared on her second attempt, before not failing to clear the bar again until 1.67 meters. The sixth-place athlete, though, passed at each height until 1.64 meters, which she made on her first attempt. The third-place finisher only jumped 1.67 meters, so a great performance was very close for Standish. This is still an improvement over last year, when she had a no-height performance. Sophomore Eve King was 12th with a height of 1.56 meters. The event was won by Harvard senior Becky Christensen with a clearance of 1.81 meters. She was an NCAA All-American in the event in 2007 and 2008.
Senior Bevin Peters was the top Bulldog in the 3,000-meter run, taking 12th in a time of 9:59.74. This was her fastest time of the year by just less than ten seconds. The next best Bulldog was junior Alexandra Cadicamo in a 10:17.07.
Lin felt the meet was a positive experience for her as she took second in the pentathlon and helped the team win the 4x880-yard relay.
"I feel that things really just came together for me at the meet," Lin said. "I have been hurdling a lot better this year and have been very fit for the 800-meter run. It also helps that I have stayed injury free. The coaches have done a good job with my training. The pentathlon is a very mentally challenging event and I just take every event as it comes. I was tired by the time the 800-meter run came along, but an athlete from Harvard took the lead, so I was able to run with her until I started my kick and won the race. It was amazing after winning the race. I knew I had to do well to get enough points for the final standings, but it was kind of surreal after I found out that I had taken second. It was also great to team up with the other girls in the 4x880-yard relay."
As captain of the team, Lin feels that the team put in some of its top performances of the year and is ready for the future meets. Some of the team has qualified for the ECAC Championships while other athletes will begin preparing for the outdoor season.
"We competed so well as a team," Lin said. "We had so many people on the team just barely miss out on making it to finals. Claudia Duncan won her heat in the 400-meter dash by a lot, but was in a slow heat and missed out on finals. Stephany Reaves also just barely got passed at the end of her race for the last qualifying spot. Alexa Monti also was really close to finals and Kelli Buck did a great job, running sub-five minutes both days. We are on the brink of doing very well. The score is not really reflective of our ability; we did much better than it shows. I know that we as a team will do much better outdoors."
The team is next in action at the ECAC Championships on Saturday and Sunday.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity