March 3, 2011

ECAC Championship Ahead This Weekend

Bulldogs with Qualifying Times Will Take to the Track

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – This weekend, the Bulldogs will head to Boston to compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship. Seven athletes have qualified in individual events and three relay teams have bested the qualifying mark this season. The ECAC Championship is the last meet before the NCAA Division I Championship on Mar. 11-12.

This winter, junior Gabriella Kelly is qualified in the 400-meter dash, after clocking in at 56.68 seconds at Ivy League Championships last weekend. This time eclipses her 2010 season-best of 1:02.82 and allows her to compete at ECACs.  She will also be a member of the distance medley relay team, running the 400-meter leg.

Many of distance coach Mark Young '68's athletes also qualified for the meet, including two freshmen and three sophomores. Freshman Sarah Barry qualified for the 800-meter run and the 1,000-meter run during her first collegiate track season. She will compete in the 1,000-meter run as well as the 4x800 meter relay this weekend.

Sophomore Nihal Kayali had a standout season this year. After running a season-best of 5:01.12 in the one mile run last winter, she propelled herself to a season-best 4:45.04 in the same event at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton tri-meet two weeks ago. After her regular season performances this year, Kayali holds Yale top-10 times in both the 1,000-meter run and the one mile run. She has also qualified for ECACs in both of these events, and will compete in the one mile run, in addition to the 4x800 meter relay.

Another breakthrough season this year belonged to sophomore Annelies Gamble. Her season-best in the 800-meter run during indoor track last year was 2:16.21. She decreased it to 2:11.10 just last weekend during a preliminary heat of the Ivy League Championship. She will compete in this event at the ECAC meet in addition to being a member of the 4x800-meter relay team.

The 3,000-meter run became the forte of two other athletes this season. Freshman Melissa Chapman dropped her time consistently over the course of her first collegiate track season, beginning at 9:54.16 back on Jan. 22. She clocked in at 9:45.91 at the Ivy League Championship. Similarly, sophomore Elizabeth Marvin began her season with a time of 9:53.88 on Jan. 22 and was able to decrease it to 9:38.18 last weekend. Chapman and Marvin are both qualified for the ECAC Championship in this event but will not contest it, instead competing on the distance medley relay team to give them a break from the long race.

This weekend's meet is mostly about racing experience, "in preparation for the outdoor season," according to Young, since most of the younger athletes will not race again until the spring.

"We were pretty happy with last week individually, but we need to continue to get experience racing in various tactical situations. Hopefully, we can accomplish some of that this week," he said.

Senior All-American Kate Grace also shattered records this winter: she is now the fastest Bulldog in the one mile run in school history by four seconds. In addition to several meet records this season, she also claimed her third consecutive 800-meter run title at Heptagonals, a feat that she is only the second half-miler to accomplish in league history. Grace has qualified for the ECAC meet in the 800-meter run, the 1,000-meter run and the one mile run, but will not compete in an individual event this weekend. Nationally, she currently has the ninth-fastest time in the 800-meter run (first in the ECAC) and the 12th-fastest time in the mile (fourth in the ECAC), both of which should qualify her for the NCAA Division I Championship next weekend. Preferring to rest for those races, she will compete as a member of the distance medley relay at ECACs.

Junior Madeline Adams, sophomore Caitlin Hudson, sophomore Allison Rue and junior Jacque Sahlberg will also travel to the meet as alternate members of the relay teams.

Grace will find out on Mar. 8 if she will be competing at Nationals, which depends on how many athletes achieve the automatic qualifying marks before that date. Everyone who bests 2:05.00 in the 800-meter run or 4:37.00 in the one mile run is automatically qualified for the NCAA Division I meet. Currently, seven people are qualified in the 800-meter run and four in the one mile run.

The ECAC meet kicks off at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday with trials and semi-final preliminaries and continues on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. with final heats and relays. Field events take place on both days. More information, including a meet schedule, is available here.

Report by Natalie Villa '13, Yale Sports Publicity

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