Grace, 4x800-meter Relay Team Qualify for Finals at ECAC Championships

May 16, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Qualifying members of Yale's women's track and field team participated in preliminary heats of the ECAC Championships on Saturday, the second day of competition in Princeton, N.J. A few distance events were held Friday evening, and finals for the remaining events will be held on Sunday. Yale had athletes competing in a variety of distances: the 400-meter dash, 400-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, and all three relays.

Sophomore Kate Grace was once again the star of the day as she finished in a strong second in the 800-meter run trials. Her 2:06.75 finish was the fastest she's run all season. She'll have tough competition, though: Maggie Infeld, the Georgetown senior who holds the best time for the day, finished a good two seconds faster, in 2:04.44. Last year Grace qualified for the finals in the event (with a slower 2:08.41 finish) but did not run. This year she definitely is going to compete, because she needs practice competing at such high levels two days in a row; it has been hard for her in the past, as at indoor NCAA Championships in March, when her performance in the finals was not as fast as in the preliminary rounds, because of tired legs. She is getting ready for NCAA regional championships, which she qualified for over a month ago, and which are coming up in two weeks (May 29-30 in Greensboro, N.C.). The NCAAs also feature two days in a row of qualifying heats and then finals.

Grace also qualified for the 1,500-meter run, but decided to focus on the 800-meter. Her qualifying time of 4:30.31 would have placed her 15th in the trials Saturday.

Yale's other qualifying finisher was the 4x800-meter relay team, which just made the qualifying cut with the eighth-fastest time of 8:58.76. Last year Yale also qualified for the finals in this relay (finishing sixth overall), but only two of the runners returned for this year's race: senior Kathryn Schleckser, who took the opening lap, and junior Stephany Reaves, who anchored the relay. Also competing on Saturday were junior Erin Walsh and senior Kelli Buck.

Senior captain Jennifer Lin said of the team: "They really came together today. It was great that there were so many upper classmen, and so many of them have had ups and downs with injuries and other stuff, and it was really great to see them come together. They should do well tomorrow."

Currently the frontrunner is the Brown team, which finished in 8:45.65. The team also won the Heptagonals Championship in the event, though with a slower time of 8:49.29. The other Ivy contender is Harvard, which finished with the second-fastest time today (8:51.13) though they finished behind the Bulldogs at Heps.

Other Bulldogs who competed on Saturday included Lin, who finished the 400-meter hurdles in 1:04.01. Her personal best in the event is 1:01.82, which she ran at Heps last weekend. But for her participation in the 4x400 meter relay, this was the last race for Lin, who has been a strong leader for the track and field team throughout her term as captain in the 2008-2009 season.

Junior Claudia Duncan, in her first time qualifying for outdoor ECACs, finished the 400-meter dash in a time of 56.47 seconds. Duncan finally qualified just a week ago for the meet while running at Heps, where she placed third with her school record-setting time of 55.49. Duncan, a mainstay of the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays, was missed in those events, but both competed well without her.

The 4x100-meter relay team showcased freshmen Alexa Monti and Gabriella Kelly, sophomore Jennifer Parker and junior Faith Briggs, the recently elected captain for the 2009-2010 season. The Bulldogs finished in 48.10 seconds for 24th place in the trials.

The 4x400-meter relay team was almost identical to the 4x100-meter, but for the switch of Lin for Monti. Briggs anchored again. This was the same team that ran at Heps, and this time it felt much more like a team. The Bulldogs finished in 3:49.41, which is significantly faster than their 3:51.89 finish last weekend. It was an incredibly close race at the end; the Rutgers team finished only .26 seconds ahead of them, while the team from Monmouth University came only .33 seconds behind.

"Faith ran really well," Lin said. "She was coming of the turn at a phenomenal speed, and then hit the wall. We ran a good time, though, and we held our own among some big name schools like Georgetown."

Grace will compete at 1:35 p.m. on Sunday, and the 4x800 meter relay finals will take place at 2:40 p.m.

Results will continue to be posted live at LancerTiming.com and at YaleBulldogs.com at the end of the day.

Report by Kyle Eichner '12, Yale Sports Publicity