NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's cross country team will head to Princeton this weekend for the first meet of championship season: the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. The Bulldogs will send their best athletes to compete for the title of Ivy League champion. Currently ranked No. 21 in the nation, the Bulldogs are the highest-ranking Ivy League school. Yale is seeking its first Ivy championship since 2001.
"This is the strongest group that I've ever got to run with during my time at Yale and our main group is through the regular season without any injuries, so I really like our chances this weekend. I don't think our race plan is going to be very much different than our races during the regular season," said senior captain Frances Schmiede when asked about this weekend's championship meet. "Our main focus is on Regionals in two weeks' time. It's an Ivy League quirk to think that the conference meet result is the absolute definition of the season's success… [but] the team has tried to not fall into that mindset this season because we believe we're capable of racing right through until NCAAs."
The team has come along very well this past season, logging early wins against Ivy League rivals at Harvard-Yale-Princeton and against ranked teams and a few Ivy Leagues at the Paul Short Run. At both meets, Yale had commanding performances against very competitive opponents. At HYP, Yale won by more than 30 points to win this meet for the first time since 2002, if not much longer. Yet after such a strong performance the team topped it off with a win by a double-digit margin at the Paul Short Run.
At the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, the team continued its success this season by placing an impressive 11th against by far the most demanding field of the season. Most importantly, the Bulldogs outperformed Syracuse, the team's biggest threat in the Northeast region up until that point in the season. At that meet, the Bulldogs also beat out their Ivy League rivals Columbia, Harvard, Penn and Princeton.
"It's been a fantastic season and our team is excited to be in the mix for the Heptagonal Ivy League Championship title," commented women's Cross Country Coach Amy Gosztyla concerning this weekend's big meet. "The Heps is a really intense meet, where anything can happen, so we know it will be a close meet where every point will matter. We will continue to rely on our depth and strength running in a pack, just as we have all season long. We're ready to get after it on Saturday."
The women who will represent the Bulldogs this weekend include senior Emily Waligurski, as well as team captain Schmiede, both of whom have had strong seasons in leading the team to its numerous victories. They have each shared leading the team, and will definitely help the team's overall ranking.
Yet what has made this year so great for the Bulldogs is how well the team has run in a pack. The spread between the top scorer and the crucial fifth scorer has never exceeded 30 seconds, with the highest being a 28 second spread at the Paul Short Run. Included in this pack of runners are juniors Dana Klein and Kelli Reagan, and senior Meredith Rizzo, who has had a particularly standout season for the ream. Bolstering the team are a trio of underclassmen who have all proven themselves as showing promise for the future of the team. This group includes sophomores Ellie Atkinson and Andrea Masterson, as well as standout recruit Gemma Shepherd, who recently placed third at the CCSU Mini Meet this past weekend.
What also continues to make the team look so good is the sheer depth of athletes available to the Bulldogs. Beyond the above noted athletes, the team will also send strong athletes like juniors Melissa Fairchild, Sarah Healy and Katherine Raphael, as well as seniors Emily Barnes and Chandler Olson, all of whom have performed at very competitive levels for the team this past season.
The team will face off against multiple ranked Ivy League rivals, including No. 24 Penn and No. 26 Harvard. The women's championship race will start at 11:00 a.m. this Saturday morning at West Windsor Fields in Princeton, N.J.
Live results can be found at the link above and the results, as well as a recap, will be posted on yalebulldogs.com as information becomes available.
Preview by Ariel A. Sánchez '19, Yale Sports Publicity