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Five Bulldogs Set Personal Records on Way to Top-Tier Finish at Lehigh Valley

The Yale men's cross country team. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
The Yale men's cross country team. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Conner, Dooney and McGowan Break 25:00 Mark as Team Runs Well With Out-of-Region Competition

BETHLEHEM, Pa.—The Yale men's cross country team did what it was hoping to do on Saturday, posting a strong finish in a competitive field of teams from across the country at Lehigh's Paul Short Invitational.

The Elis followed up a well-rounded team performance at the Iona Meet of Champions in New York City two weekends ago with a similarly exceptional display of depth at Paul Short. With 10 of its 16 competing athletes running in the men's gold race, the team finished seventh overall with 257 points, placing only behind Indiana (89 points), Dartmouth (106), Georgetown (110), Harvard (167), Iowa State (188) and La Salle (191). Georgetown and Indiana both rank in the top 20 of the USTFCCCA's national rankings, while Dartmouth and Harvard rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Northeast Region rankings. Yale is currently ranked seventh in the region.

Despite competing with a much different—and younger—group of athletes, Yale's performance at Paul Short on Saturday was nearly an exact replica of the showing the team put together at last year's meet, when it finished seventh with 255 points.

In a field consisting of 48 total schools and 397 total athletes, each member of the Bulldogs' top five managed to finish in the top 70. In fact, each member of the team's top seven finished in the top 90 overall—a feat only matched by Georgetown, Harvard and Indiana.

"I think we ran really tough today," said Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins. "The team worked really well together through the back section [of the course] where it's very quiet. They all came out in a really good spot and finished strong."

Three of Yale's top five finishers—sophomore Kevin Dooney (29th overall – 24:38), junior John McGowan (38th – 24:44) and sophomore Duncan Tomlin (64th –25:01)—set personal records on Saturday. Two others outside the team's top five—freshman Andre Ivankovic (92nd – 25:21) and James Randon (71st – 25:07)—also set personal records in the race. Randon, who finished second in each of the season's first two meets, actually fell down during the first mile of Saturday's race but was able to work his way back and finish sixth on the team.

Dooney recorded his best finish of the year—and likely one of the best of his young career—on Saturday, while McGowan has now finished in Yale's top three in all three of this season's races. For their part, Ivankovic, Randon and Tomlin have now finished in Yale's top seven in all three of this season's races.

Along with Dooney, McGowan and Tomlin, sophomore Alex Conner (57th – 24:55) and junior Isa Qasim (69th – 25:06) rounded out Yale's top five. Like McGowan, Conner has finished in Yale's top three in each race this year, finishing first on the team both against Harvard and at the Iona Meet.

Harkins expressed particular satisfaction with his team's improvement relative to rival Harvard. After failing to have a single runner crack the top five against the Crimson in the Harvard-Yale season opener, both Dooney and McGowan placed ahead of Harvard's third-place team finisher on Saturday. In fact, Yale's sixth-place finisher (Randon) finished ten spots ahead of Harvard's sixth-place finisher, while the Elis' seventh-place runner finished just two spots behind Harvard's.

"I think we closed our gap on Harvard a little bit," Harkins said.

Also in the gold race, senior Michael Cunetta finished in 25:32, senior team captain Ryan Laemel in 25:52 and junior Tom Harrison in 25:55.

The Elis also entered six additional runners in the unscored open race on Saturday. Freshman Dan Grosvenor secured Yale's top time in that race, crossing the finish line in 26:02.

Now coming off two consecutive solid performances, the Bulldogs will compete next on Oct. 12 at the New England Championships in Boston, where the team finished third last year, before heading to Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., on Oct. 19.

"I think we're looking forward and getting pretty excited about Pre-Nats and seeing some competition outside of the region," said Harkins. "Today's performance makes me feel that we might be able to beat some quality teams when we go out to Indiana."

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity