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Shirvell Places Second, Qualifies for NCAA East Regional Finals

James Shirvell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
James Shirvell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Middle-Distance Star Sets Third-Fastest 1,500-Meter Personal Record in Yale History to Keep Season Alive

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—The Yale men's track and field team has one athlete left running after Thursday's action at the NCAA East Regionals, which serve as a preliminary round for the Division I NCAA Championships. Three Bulldogs—senior Mike Levine, junior Dana Lindberg and junior James Shirvell—competed on day one of Regionals, representing Yale on the national stage. While all three gave valiant efforts at the meet, hosted by North Carolina A&T, only Shirvell qualified for the Regional finals, which take place on Saturday.

Thanks to a 3:44.84 personal record he had run at the Virginia Challenge a couple weekends ago, Shirvell entered Regionals as the 20th seed in the 1,500-meter run—and 24 of the 48 competitors in the event on Thursday were slated to move on to the next round on Saturday. Competing against many of the country's top athletes, Shirvell needed to run one of the best races of his life to have a good chance of continuing his season. 

Despite the pressure, Shirvell more than rose to the occasion, setting a new personal record (3:43.43) and running the second-fastest time among all of the talented runners competing in the race, finishing just behind Notre Dame's Jeremy Rae (3:43.33). Shirvell's time on Thursday was the third-fastest 1,500-meter personal record ever set by a Yale track and field athlete, trailing only Rick Wemple's 3:42.09 in 1991 and John Van Deventer's 3:43.34 in 2011.

Shirvell, who was recently elected the Elis' team captain for the 2013-2014 season, has been constantly improving all season long. He entered the outdoor season with a 1,500-meter personal best time of 3:51.36 but has set five new personal bests throughout the course of the season. Shirvell's remarkable time on Thursday was about eight seconds faster than the time he ran to place sixth at Heps just a few weekends ago. 

On Saturday, Shirvell will compete against the 23 other East Regionals runners who kept their seasons alive on Thursday. Following the 1,500-meter East Regional finals on Saturday, the field of runners will again be cut in half, as 12 athletes will earn the chance to compete in the Division I NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 6-8.

While Shirvell is the only Bulldog still left competing, Levine and Lindberg also represented the Bulldogs well on Thursday and will certainly be very proud of their performances this season. 

Levine was the Elis' star in the field events all year long, competing in the weight throw during the indoor season and the discus and hammer throws during the outdoor season. Levine, a senior, capped off an illustrious and accomplished career on Thursday by competing in the discus throw at the NCAA East Regionals for the fourth time in his career. Levine entered the meet as the 22nd seed due to a personal record of 182'5" (55.61m) that he set in his second-place finish at Heps, and he had high expectations as he traveled to North Carolina. Unfortunately, Levine fouled on all three of his attempts on Thursday. Regardless, Levine will go down as one of the Bulldogs' top field athletes of all time. He holds the second-best personal records in Yale history in both the discus and hammer throws, is a two-time First-Team All-Ivy honoree and went all the way to the NCAA Championship discus finals as a junior.

Lindberg, meanwhile, was the Bulldogs' best short sprinter and long jumper throughout the outdoor season. Specializing in the 200-meter dash, long jump and several relay events, Lindberg qualified for Regionals in the long jump with his leap of 24'3.5" (7.40m) at the Harvard-Yale dual meet earlier this season. Lindberg's personal record—the seventh-best in Yale history—earned him a first-place finish against Harvard. As a result, Lindberg entered Regionals as the 36th seed, but—amongst a field of some incredible field stars—his mark of 21'8.25" (6.61m) was not quite enough to earn him a spot in the Regionals final. Lindberg put on a strong performance, however, improving on each of his three attempts en route to his final measurement. 

While Levine and Lindberg will now get the chance to reflect on their brilliant seasons (and in Levine's case, the conclusion of his esteemed collegiate career), Shirvell will get the day off on Friday before hitting the track again on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. with a chance to earn a ticket to Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Championship final. Results will be available on on Saturday evening.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity