December 1, 2011

Curtain Rises on a Promising 2011-2012 Season

Captain Bieszard Leads a Young, Talented Squad

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's track and field team will open its indoor season this Saturday by hosting the Yale Season Opener at Coxe Cage. In the past, the event has drawn teams from across the tri-state area, including Yale's cross-town rivals Quinnipiac and the University of New Haven, who will offer this year's Elis their first taste of live competition. Head coach Marc Davis said he is looking to improve on last year's performances, and is confident that his young team is up to the challenge.

The following is an event-by-event breakdown of the Yale athletes:

Distance

After a brief but well-deserved respite, the Bulldogs are looking to carry over the momentum they built over a successful cross country season onto the track. They will be looking for big contributions from senior Samuel Lynch, who owns the 10th fastest time in Yale history in the 5000-meter run (14:35.61), and from senior Nathan Richards, an NCAA regional qualifier last spring in the 3000-meter steeplechase. Richards is currently the fourth fastest steeplechaser in Yale history (8:54.15).

Junior Kevin Lunn, who emerged as the top Yale cross country runner over the course of the season, is also expected to shine in his signature event, the 5000-meter run. Other distance men who should make an impact this season include sophomore Michael Cunetta, senior Conor Dooney, junior Sam Kirtner, sophomore Ryan Laemel, freshman Jacob Sandry, senior Julian Sheinbaum and junior Matthew Thwaites.

Middle Distance

Behind standouts Christopher Ramsey and James Shirvell, middle distance events look to be one of the strengths of the Yale team this year. In his rookie year last winter, Shirvell climbed to sixth place in the all-time Yale leaderboard in the 800-meter run (1:51.67) and fifth in the 1000-meter run (2:23.85). Ramsey's 800-meter time of 1:52.27 places him five spots behind Shirvell on that same list.

The 4x800-meter relay team that qualified for IC4As last year returns all of its members. Distance and middle distance coach Paul Harkins indicated that his top team will likely consist of junior Timothy Hillas, senior Charlie Jaeger, junior Ramsey, and sophomore Shirvell.

Sophomore John Cocco, senior Andrew Esposito and freshman Michael Grace will also compete in middle distance events, and will fight to crack the rotation in the 4x800 meter relay.

"I want to keep the guys healthy and moving forward in the right direction," said Harkins of Yale's distance and middle distance runners. "If we can do this, I think we will have an opportunity to score a decent amount of points when we get to the Ivy League championships at the end of February."

Sprints and Hurdles

Senior captain Matthew Bieszard will lead a young but talented corps of sprinters this year. 2010 saw Bieszard place third at Heps in the 200-meter dash (21.04), while last year he anchored the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relay teams that qualified for outdoor IC4As. He is already on the Yale all-time indoor top 15 lists in the 200-meter dash (third) and 500-meter dash (ninth).

"[Bieszard] has been a great competitor since his freshman year," said coach Davis. "Matt leads by example, and I think that our younger team members have followed his example well."

Among those younger teammates under Bieszard's tutelage is sophomore Daniel Jones, who made an immediate impact in the short sprints as a walk-on in his freshman year. Also representing the Bulldogs in sprints this year will be sophomores Dana Lindberg and Clifford Van Meter and freshmen Andrew Goble, Dylan Hurley and Mario Kranjac.

In the hurdles, Yale will feature three newcomers: freshman Daniel Kemp, freshman William Rowe and sophomore Nnamdi Udeh. As novices, all will have to adjust to the increased hurdle height at the collegiate level (42'') as opposed to the high school level (39''). But coach David Shoehalter, the Mark T. Young '68 Director of Cross Country and Track and Field, affirmed confidently that his runners "have shown that they're ready for the higher hurdles."

Jumps

Though he also runs some of the sprints, sophomore Dana Lindberg's specialty is the long jump (PR of 7.05m), in which he was a Heps finalist both indoors and outdoors last year. Shoehalter is expecting "big things" from him in that event and in the triple jump this season. Junior Tommy Winger is also poised for a breakout season in the horizontal jumps.

The high jump will be the realm of Kyle Bajtos, who, as a freshman, is something of an unknown. In high school, he jumped 6'-5''.

Sophomore Paul Chandler is Yale's lone pole vaulter. Injuries forced Chandler to miss all of last season, so he will be eager to make up for lost time.

Throws

Star junior Mike Levine returns this year hoping to add to his already impressive list of accolades. Levine, the reigning Ivy League champion in the discus (54.41m), earned All-East honors at IC4As and qualified for NCAA regionals in the discus last spring. During the indoor season, he will be focusing on the weight throw, an event in which he currently holds the seventh spot on the Yale all-time chart (59'-0'').

Sophomore Stefan Palios and junior Mark Kaczor, a former football player walking-on this year, will also compete in throws.

Overall, coach Davis was optimistic in assessing his team's prospects this season, provided that it puts in the work.

"As a team, we have to stay focused on the task at hand and we have to stay positive week by week," he said. "If we can do that, I think that success will come for the squad that we have."

Apart from the Yale Season Opener this weekend, Yale has two more home meets on the horizon for the indoor season. The Yale Invitational will be take place on Jan. 14, followed by the Giegengack Invitational on Feb. 3-4. The annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet will be next on Feb. 11 in Cambridge, Mass., and then it's on to the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Feb. 25-26 in Ithaca, N.Y.

The Bulldogs will travel to Irvine, Calif. to kick off their outdoor season with the Anteater Invitational on Mar. 16-17. Other regular season highlights are the Sam Howell and Larry Ellis Invitationals on Apr. 7 and Apr. 20-21, respectively, the Penn Relays on Apr. 26-28 and the Yale Springtime Invitational on Apr. 29. The outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships are slated for May 5-6.

Report by Eian Katz '13