March 20, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldog women's track and field team is ready to open the outdoor track and field season this weekend at the University of California-Irvine Invitational. The Bulldogs, who have spent spring break training in the warmth of southern California, will have one last chance to run in the favorable weather at the meet which will take place on Friday and Saturday, before retuning to New Haven. The Invitational is the start of an outdoor season that will conclude with the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Bulldogs are coming off of a very successful indoor track and field season that witnessed many incredibly fast times and strong performances. The Bulldogs earned six All-Ivy honors and two All-East recognitions for their exceptional performances. As well, sophomore Kate Grace and junior Claudia Duncan repeatedly set new school record in the 800-meter run and 500-meter dash, respectively. As well, Grace qualified for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, where she made it all the way to the finals of the event and placed eighth, earning All-American honors and earning a team score for the Bulldogs.
Coming off of the success of the indoor season, the Bulldogs should be even better during the outdoor season. The team has been training heavily for the past week on their spring break training trip in southern California. The trip has given the team an opportunity to get in some quality training in the warm environment of California while getting used to preparing for competition on the outdoor track.
Senior captain Jennifer Lin looks at the trip as a good opportunity to get practice in a good environment.
"The training trip is just a great opportunity for us to get in quality training with the good weather," Lin said. "Because we're outdoors now, the weather in New Haven is often very variable. Out in California, we've been fortunate enough to have 60-plus degree weather every day which enables us to train hard. The trip mainly focuses on long base building. During the end of indoors, we were only doing short, fast stuff, so we're going back to building up our endurance and will fine-tune our speed as Heps comes closer."
While the squad did have solid performances during the indoor season, the team is prepared to do even better during the outdoor season. Due to the limitations of indoor tracks, a number of events that the Bulldogs do well in were not offered during the indoor season. The introduction of the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, the steeplechase and the discus should help the Bulldogs as the team has been strong in the events.
The University of California-Irvine Spring Break Invitational will be a good opportunity for the team to get in some early season competition and get back into the competitive attitude that they will need throughout the year. Competition at the meet should be tough with Ivy League rival Cornell competing at the meet. Cornell won the Heptagonal Championships last year. Other teams at the meet include Arkansas, Baker, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Dominguez Hills, El Camino College, George Fox University, Michigan, Orange Coast College, UC Riverside, University of St. Thomas, University of Texas at San Antonio and Whittier College. Friday's schedule begins with the men's and women's hammer throw at 2:00 p.m. The evening session starts at 6:30 p.m. with the men's and women's 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase. Field events on Saturday start at 10:30 a.m. with the javelin and long jump. The first event on the track is the women's 4x100 relay at 1:00 p.m. The full schedule is available here.
Sprints and Hurdles
The Bulldogs should be well-prepared to do well this season in both the long and short sprints. Duncan will be a powerful performer for the Bulldogs. After setting a new school record in the 500-meter dash during the indoor season, Duncan will be moving to compete in the 400-meter dash on the outdoor track as the 500-meter dash is only run indoors. Freshman Gabriella Kelly also was good during the indoor season at the long sprints and the Bulldogs return sophomore Jennifer Parker, who placed seventh in the 400-meter dash at the Heptagonal Championships last year. Sophomore Erika Mansson, who was 11th at the Heptagonal Championships last year in the 400-meter dash, should also help the Bulldogs in event. In the shorter sprints, freshman Alexa Monti should do well. In the 60-meter dash, which is not run outdoors, Monti placed ninth at the Heptagonal Championships. As well, a number of other freshmen sprinters have the ability to contribute to the team. The team placed fifth at the Heptagonal Championships last year in both the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays. The Bulldogs should also do well in the hurdles with the leadership of Lin. She has placed seventh in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles as a freshman and junior.
Lin is confident that the sprinters will be able to do well this season.
"We have a lot of young, talented sprinters," Lin said. "Alexa Monti is looking to do well, as she just missed the finals for the 60-meter dash. Hopefully we can keep her healthy so she can be effective in the sprints and 4x100-meter relay. We have a large freshman sprinting group including Marieme Mbaye, Emily Shulan and Carys Johnson who will all work together and hopefully help us out in the sprints. In the longer sprints we have Claudia who again just missed the finals in the 400 and Gabriella Kelley who had a successful indoor season. Jennifer Parker has also been looking good at practice."
Middle Distance and Distance
The middle distance squad will certainly be looked to lead the Bulldogs during the season. With an athlete like Grace, there is no surprise that the Bulldogs will be looking to score a lot of points in the 800-meter dash. Grace was second at the Heptagonal Championships last year in the event and went on to run at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where she placed 24th. This year, she is even better. Grace won the Heptagonal Championships, took eighth at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, and continually improved all season. As well, she ran faster during the indoor season than she has run outdoors, an impressive feat considering indoor track times are generally slower than outdoor performances because of the shorter track and short straightaways in indoor competition. Beyond Grace, the team has good depth in the event. Senior Kathryn Schleckser and junior Stephany Reaves both competed well in the event indoors and outdoors last season and have gotten better over the past season. They will also help the Bulldogs improve on their third-place finish from last year in the 4x800-meter relay, an event the team won at the Heptagonal Championships indoors this year. Perhaps the largest loss from last year comes in the distance events. The team lost Lindsay Donaldson '08 to graduation. Donaldson was second in both the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs at the Heptagonal Championships last year and earned All-American honors for three years in three different track events. Still, the Bulldogs are set to do well with the leadership of senior Kelli Buck, who served as captain of the women's cross-country team this fall. As well, senior Bevin Peters will look to lead the team in the steeplechase event.
Lin is excited about the future of the middle distance and distance squads.
"For mid-distance, of course there is Kate Grace who is an All-American, but also Stephany Reaves and Kathryn Schleckser, who both will contribute a lot in the 800," Lin said. "For distance we have cross-country captain Kelli Buck, but also talented freshman such as Anne Lovelace and Jen Downing. There is a strong distance group, so if we keep everyone healthy, we should have a great group."
The strength of the Bulldogs in the jumping events should come in the high jump. Last year, sophomore Emily Standish placed second at the Heptagonal Championships in the event. Sophomore Eve King, who also competes in the multi events, should also help out the Bulldogs in the jumps. Junior Bailey Carroll will help the team out in the pole vault.
Lin thinks that the jumpers have the potential to do well for the Bulldogs.
In the throws, sophomore Stephanie Scaramella should make a huge impact. She made huge gains during the indoor season and took sixth in the shot put at the indoor Heptagonal Championships. She will be counted on to continue her improvement during the outdoor season and will be joined by sophomore Rachel Kuschner.
The Bulldogs took seventh at the outdoor Heptagonal Championships last year and eighth at the indoor Heptagonal Championships this year. The team, however, has turned in strong performances at other times in the season, which indicated that the team has the potential to do very well.
Lin thinks that the team's training has been going very well and the squad is ready to improve over their performance at the indoor Heptagonal Championships. "I think we have a young team with a lot of energy," Lin said. "After indoors, everyone was disappointed with the results and is looking to perform better in outdoors. The indoor season is very long and people can often get burnt out and lose focus. Also, indoor track is new to some of the freshman and even upperclassmen who didn't have indoor track in high school are not always used to it. With outdoor track, it is a familiar setting for everyone. The shorter season and hopefully better weather will be great for better training and performances. We had some really promising things happen at indoors with so many people just missing making the finals. I think things will turn around and we'll do better outdoors. I think everyone is getting better in terms of their fitness but also physical well being, as we were plagued by a lot of sickness this past season. If everyone stays healthy, I think we will be ready to perform well at Heps. Everyone is trying to improve from their performance from indoor whether that is getting a new best time if the race is the same or competitive goals like making the finals or scoring at Heps."
Results from the University of California-Irvine meet will be available on yalebulldogs.com following competition. Live results are available here.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity