September 11, 2008

Women's Cross Country: 2008 Outlook

Sept. 11, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale women's cross country team is refreshed and reloaded after a year that saw some surprising ups, downs and many graduations. Through their performances, the Bulldogs will look to answer three questions.

Will the Bulldogs survive the last graduation class? The 2008 edition of the Yale women's cross country team will start the year looking to escape the shadow of one of the greatest Bulldog runners in school history: six-time All-American Lindsay Donaldson. Donaldson aside, key Heptagonal Championships performers (Ingrid Sproll, Meredith Leenhouts) and senior leadership (track and field captain Elizabeth Calle) have also graduated. How will the team fill the gaps?

A very successful recruiting season will add eight freshman (Madeline Adams, Jennifer Downing, Sylvia Jebiwott, Kristin Johnson, Anne Lovelace, McKaye Neumeister, Jocelyn Rodriguez and Margaret Traylor) and two newcomers (Liva Assefa and Celia Stockwell) to a roster that returns seven athletes (Kelli Buck, Alexandra Cadicamo, Stephanie Pearl, Bevin Peters, Stephany Reaves, Allyson Rinderle and Kathryn Schleckser) with Heptagonal Championships race experience.

Without the "big guns", how will the Bulldogs fare in conference competition? The women have only four seniors on the roster and with experience such a valuable commodity in cross country, won't having a young roster work against the harriers?

In fact, the Bulldogs are loaded with experience, evidenced above by seven runners having raced at the Heptagonal Championships already; the question is if all the runners will stay healthy. While impossible to predict, injury is one of the "make or break" factors for Yale this year. Senior Bevin Peters and junior Allyson Rinderle both possess sub 18:10 personal bests on Van Cortlandt Park (the annual site of the Heptagonal Championships). However, these times were run in 2006 and 2005 respectively. For the Bulldogs to be successful this year, all contributors must be healthy.

Last year, Ingrid Sproll was the Bulldogs' surprise performer; the 800-meter runner ran a huge personal best and finished third for the team at the Heptagonal Championships. Will there be another big surprise runner this year?

The unknown is an intriguing area for Yale women's cross country. Untapped commodities such as sophomore Mary Caroline Miller or any of the freshmen could be that special runner this year for the Bulldogs. Maybe it will be a proven star, such as sophomore Kate Grace, who sat out last season in cross country due to illness. Maybe it will be another veteran who makes a massive breakthrough. Senior Kathryn Schleckser made huge improvements to become the team's seventh runner - perhaps there is more in the tank.

The Yale women's cross country team will begin its autumn campaign on Saturday, September 31, at the Fairfield Invitational in Fairfield, Conn.

report by Ted Galligan '10, Yale Sports Publicity