November 9, 2011

Next Stop for Cross Country: NCAA Regionals

Bulldogs Will Travel to Buffalo to Compete Against Northeast Region

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's cross country team will travel to Amherst, N.Y., this weekend to compete against the best of the Northeast region at the NCAA qualifying meet, hosted by the State University of New York at Buffalo. The Bulldogs will compete against representatives from 39 other schools for the right to advance to the NCAA Championship, to be held on Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind.

The team is fresh off its fourth-place finish at Heps on Oct. 29th, the highest finish for the program since 2006. The Bulldogs showed their ability to compete well in the worst of conditions, which may be useful preparation for Saturday's race: the course in Buffalo is forecast to be muddy. After racing through falling snow and freezing cold temperatures at Heps, mud should be little more than a minor inconvenience for the Yale squad.

This race is the last guaranteed one of the season for the Bulldogs; only the top teams at the meet will qualify to move on. The team controls its own destiny at this point.

Yet even if Yale does not advance, this fall has truly been a banner season for a team that was only looking to improve on its performances from last year, according to head coach Amy Gosztyla: "We've come very far from the beginning of this season.  Originally we were just looking to be better than last year; now we have goals of competing for Ivy League titles and NCAA qualification," she said. 

This season showed the potential that the team has for next year, since none of the top seven runners at Heps will graduate in the spring.

Gosztyla called the team's success "an amazing shift for the program and one that we are looking to continue to build from this season on to the future."

The team finished 11th at the 2010 NCAA Regional, which Yale co-hosted with Fairfield University, and Gosztyla believes this year's squad can improve upon that result: "While the region is proving to be even stronger than last year, we know we have also improved and are ready to jump up the regional rankings," she said.

The Northeast region is indeed one of the toughest in the country, with four teams ranked in the top 30 in the nation, as well as two more that received votes in the USTFCCCA poll. No. 5 Providence, No. 9 Syracuse and No. 18 Boston College are all big names in Division I women's cross country, and will pose a tough test at Saturday's meet. No. 29 Cornell, which took the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship title by storm two weeks ago, Columbia (32nd) and Connecticut (33rd) will also be contenders.

Yale gained experience competing against nationally-ranked teams at September's Paul Short Invitational. Though the team fell to Providence and Syracuse, it beat Cornell and Duke, which was ranked ninth nationally at the time.

In addition to Columbia, Cornell and Yale, three other Ivy teams will race at Buffalo: Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard. Penn and Princeton will compete in the Mid-Atlantic regional in Maryland, also on Nov. 12.

The women's 6k will begin at 1:15 p.m. The meet website is available at http://www.buffalobulls.com/sports/xc/2011-12/ncaa/index. Results will be available at www.leonetiming.com and at www.yalebulldogs.com.

Report by Natalie Villa '13, Yale Sports Publicity