Yale Prepares for 31st Annual Heptagonal Championships

Oct. 24, 2007

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale women's cross country team is preparing for its yearly conference contest, the Heptagonal Championships ("Heps"), which will take place Friday at 10:45 a.m. at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York. This year's edition promises strong performances from many squads participating, no doubt including the Yale Bulldogs.

Van Cortlandt Park has hosted the women's cross country championship since 1982. In that time, Yale has secured six team titles (1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1990-91, 2000-01 and 2001-02) and five Bulldogs have won six individual cross country titles (Kelly Groteke - 1986, Sarah P. Smith - 1988, Ariana Kelly - 1998, Kate O'Neill - 2001 and 2002 and Lindsay Donaldson - 2006).

As mentioned, senior captain Lindsay Donaldson will take the starting line this year as defending individual champion. Her credentials provide more than enough evidence to satisfy skeptics. Donaldson's course personal record of 17:04.3, set in 2005, is the best performance by a Bulldog at Van Cortlandt Park ever, as well as the second-best performance by an Ivy League athlete at the Heptagonal Championships (succeeded only by Columbia great Caroline Bierbaum's 17:01.4). In her last three cross country Heptagonal races, Donaldson has finished no worse than second and if she finishes in the top five at Heps, she will receive her fourth first team all-Ivy award (runners who finish sixth through tenth will receive second team all-Ivy honors). If Donaldson secures another first team all-Ivy honor, she will be the first runner in Yale women's cross country history to receive four consecutive first team all-Ivy honors.

"What will really decide how Heps goes is how our two through five runners do," said head coach Mark Young.

With this in mind, results look promising. Sophomore Stephanie Pearl has been a consistent presence for the Bulldogs, typically finishing second or third for the team. Pearl will be bringing great race experience from this year, highlighted by a 17th-place finish at the Murray Keatinge Invitational on Sept. 29. Fellow sophomore Allyson Rinderle will be looked to to better her 19th-place finish at Heps last year. That is more than possible considering her performances this year, such as her fifth-place finish at the Quinnipiac Invitational on Sept. 21.

For a successful Heps, upperclassmen must also contribute to the effort. Senior Ingrid Sproll might be the one to fill that role.

"Ingrid is running great right now," Young said. "Her summer training has shown huge benefits."

Sproll looks to improve on her Heps personal record of 19:06.2 from last year. Watch for junior Kelli Buck and senior Meredith Leenhouts to be in the mix as well.

After the Heptagonal Championships, Yale will be in action at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 10. The Bulldogs, currently ranked 12th in the region, would benefit greatly from a strong performance at Heps, which will include strong competition in the forms of Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Brown (currently No. 3, 6, 7 and 8 in the region respectively) and strongest of all Princeton; the Tigers are currently fourth in the country after a good meet at NCAA Pre-Nationals two weeks ago.

Directions to the meet, results from previous years and day-of-race results can all be found at http://www.ivyleaguesports.com/sports/heps-championships.asp?intSID=1.

report by Ted Galligan '10, Yale Sports Publicity