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Bulldogs Take to the Track at the Yale Season Opener

Daniel Jones (left) and William Rowe (right). (Photo by Tom Cable)
Daniel Jones (left) and William Rowe (right). (Photo by Tom Cable)

Deep, Talented Squad Has High Hopes for the Year Ahead

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's track and field team is set to kick off its indoor campaign this Saturday when it hosts the Yale Season Opener at Coxe Cage. The unscored meet pits the Bulldogs against cross-town rivals Southern Connecticut State University and University of New Haven along with other area schools and offers athletes a chance to gauge their form in the early going. Though the Elis lost several standout runners to graduation last spring, the team's core returns with the goal of continuing to climb in the league and regional rankings.

Here's a glimpse at the 2012-2013 Yale Bulldogs, categorized according to event:

Distance and Middle Distance

This year's Elis are fielding one of their deepest distance corps in recent memory, beginning with sophomore Matt Nussbaum. The recently concluded cross country season saw Nussbaum's meteoric rise and development into one of the region's most talented distance runners. In the process of garnering All-Ivy honors, he recorded the fastest 8K time by a Yale runner in more than four years and led the Bulldogs in all but one meet.

Apart from Nussbaum, seven other Elis broke the 25-minute mark in cross country: seniors Demetri Goutos, Timothy Hillas and Kevin Lunn, sophomores Isa Qasim and Jacob Sandry, and freshmen Alex Conner and Kevin Dooney. By comparison, none reached that milestone last year.

As far as distance events on the track, Lunn and senior Matthew Thwaites were IC4A qualifiers last year in the 10,000-meter run, as were Hillas, senior Sam Kirtner and junior Ryan Laemel in the 3,000-meter run. Hillas, in particular, had a breakout 2011-2012 season in which he raced to the seventh-fastest 3000-meter time in Yale history and was elected team captain.

Hillas was also a force in the middle distance events, where he qualified for IC4As as a member of the 4x800-meter relay team and individually in the 1,500-meter run. Also qualifying at that distance were sophomore John McGowan and Sandry, with the former advancing all the way to the finals. Another sophomore IC4A qualifier, James Shirvell, is the Bulldogs' 800-meter ace, though senior Christopher Ramsey and freshmen John Mahoney, Alexander McDonald and Pete Merritt also excel in the event.

Sprints and Hurdles

The Bulldogs return three members of their All-East 4x400-meter relay team that ran the fourth-fastest time in Yale history last year. Even better news is that they are all just sophomores: Dylan Hurley, Mario Kranjac, and William Rowe. Merritt and junior Clifford Van Meter will likely be in the running to claim that fourth spot.

Leading the Elis in the short sprints will be junior Daniel Jones, an IC4A qualifier last year in the 60-meter dash and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team that included fellow juniors Dana Lindberg and Nnamdi Udeh. Sophomore Andrew Goble and freshman Martin Tolentino will also be looking to contribute in the sprint events.

After trying the event for the first time last year, Rowe also managed to transform himself into Yale's most formidable 400-meter hurdler. This year, he will face friendly competition from freshmen Adam Lundquist and McDonald. Lundquist will also compete in the shorter hurdle distances, along with sophomore Daniel Kemp and Udeh.

Jumps and Throws

In addition to his role as a sprinter, Lindberg also moonlights as the Elis' top long jumper, an event that he won last year at the Dartmouth-Yale-Columbia meet. The Bulldogs will also be counting on big contributions from senior long and triple jumper Tommy Winger. Meanwhile, the high jump is the domain of sophomore Kyle Bajtos.

After being sidelined by injury for his freshman year, junior pole vaulter Paul Chandler had a very strong sophomore effort, including a victory at the Giegengack Invitational and seventh-place showing in the East Division of the prestigious Penn Relays. He will be pushed by freshman Brendan Sullivan, a two-time state champ in the pole vault and the Massachusetts state record holder.

Senior Mike Levine has been one of Yale's most dominant athletes throughout his career, qualifying for IC4As last year in all three of his events (discus, hammer and weight throws). Last year, he took third at Heps in the hammer throw and sixth in the weight throw. But his focus is on the discus, an event that last year took him to a second consecutive Ivy League crown and the NCAA National Championships, concluding the season decorated with All-Ivy, All-East and honorable mention All-America accolades.

Junior Stefan Palios and Van Meter pick up the slack in other throwing events. Palios competes in several disciplines, but specializes in the shot put, while Van Meter is a javelin thrower.

Apart from the Season Opener this weekend, the Elis have three more home meets on the horizon, all at Coxe Cage. The Yale Invitational is scheduled for Jan. 12, after which the Bulldogs will host Columbia and Dartmouth on Jan. 20 and the Giegengack Invitational on Feb. 1-2. The indoor season concludes with Heps (Feb. 23-24), IC4As (Mar. 2-3) and the NCAA National Championships (Mar. 8-9).

The team will compete outdoors for the first time over spring break at the Tribe Invitational in Williamsburg, Va. on May 23. Other regular season highlights include the Sam Howell Invitational (Apr. 5-6), Larry Ellis Invitational (Apr. 19-20) and Penn Relays (Apr. 25-27). The postseason begins with Heps on May 4-5 at Princeton.

Report by Eian Katz '13, Yale Sports Publicity