Top Scorers Return from 2011, Best Season in Recent Years
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In 2011, the Yale women's cross country team had one of its most successful seasons in recent years. So far in 2012, all signs point to an improvement on the team's fourth-place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and a farther foray onto the national scene. Six of the seven scorers from last year return, as do several key athletes who were sick or injured during the championship season. Additionally, a talented freshman class will help propel the team to new heights.
Last year marked a new page for the team, as it posted its best results in championship meets in six years. Head coach Amy Gosztyla, in her second year with the Bulldogs, remarked that the team had a bit of an adjustment period at the beginning of last year as she took the reins, but that "this year [they] are in a position to simply hit the ground running right from the start."
The team's depth will help it get off and running: six athletes who placed in the top seven for the team at the 2011 NCAA Northeast Regional meet will return, three with top-50 finishes overall. Junior Liana Epstein was the team's first finisher for much of the tail end of the season, pacing the team at Heps and the NCAA Regional meet. Epstein was seventh at Heps and 11th at the Regional. Senior Elizabeth Marvin was right on her tail in both of those races, finishing eighth at Heps and 17th at Regionals. Both athletes were named All-Ivy and All-Northeast for their results. Senior captain Nihal Kayali placed 19th at Heps and 32nd at the Regional, while junior Millie Chapman was 35th at Heps and 51st at the Regional. Senior Caitlin Hudson was an important part of the team's fourth-place effort at Heps, finishing 37th overall. Sophomore Kira Garry and senior Jacque Sahlberg were also key contributors last season and will return. Other racers that could contribute include seniors Jennifer Donnelly, Jennifer Downing and Victoria Flannery, junior Sarah Barry, sophomores Hannah Alpert and Anna Demaree and freshmen Isabel Amend, Elizabeth McDonald and Emily Stark (15th at the Footlocker Northeast Regional in high school).
Captain Kayali commented, "I am itching for the season to get started so we can start seeing the payoffs of the summer work our girls have put in. We're definitely poised to build on our successes from last year."
Along with the team's goal of challenging for the Ivy League title, Kayali also wants the team to establish more of a presence in the national rankings, including qualifying for the NCAA National meet in November. The Bulldogs seem well on their way to accomplishing what they set their minds to: the team is already ranked fifth in the Northeast region's pre-season listings. Cornell, currently ranked fourth and last year's Ancient Eight champion, is the only Ivy school ahead of Yale. Dartmouth is seventh, Columbia is eighth, Brown is 11th and Harvard is 14th. Penn (11th) and Princeton (2nd) are in the Mid-Atlantic region. The 2012 Ivy League contest seems wide open at this point, and the Bulldogs are well-positioned to challenge for it.
Report by Natalie Villa '13, Yale Sports Publicity