Women’s Cross Country Team Anticipates 2011 Season

(photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)
(photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Welcome New Coach to Helm

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's cross country season will get underway on Saturday, Sept. 10, when the Bulldogs will travel to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, N.Y., to toe the line at the Fordham Fiasco and Follies Invitational. The Bulldogs have already experienced one major change before the season has even begun: they welcome Amy Gosztyla as their new head coach. The team ended last season with an 11th-place finish at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship, and is looking to build on the strength of individual performances, as well as team efforts.

Senior captain Anne Lovelace mentioned that "this season is going to be an adjustment for us since we have a new coach, but I think everyone is excited and motivated to see what we can do," adding that Gosztyla "has been great so far."

"The team has more fire than I've seen from us in the three-plus years that I've been here," said Lovelace.

Gosztyla commented on the team's outlook for the year: "My immediate goal is to transition the team into a training and racing routine that will set the program up for both short-term and long-term success. Our goal is always to improve and I feel we have a terrific group of returning women this fall, along with some new talent, that will help to move the program up the Ivy League and Northeast Regional rankings."

The Bulldogs return several top runners from last season, including sophomore Melissa Chapman and junior Elizabeth Marvin. Both are coming off strong track showings, where Marvin competed in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA First Round competition and Chapman placed seventh in the 3,000-meter run at the ECAC Championship. Marvin highlighted her 2010 cross country season by finishing 33rd out of 247 runners at the NCAA Northeast Regional, where Chapman was 79th. Sophomore Sarah Barry, Lovelace, and junior Jacque Sahlberg are also returning key members of last year's squad.

Gosztyla also mentioned junior Nihal Kayali as a track stand-out who will make an influence this year.

"I anticipate their track successes will translate into big improvements in cross country this fall," she commented.

In addition to Lovelace, the Bulldogs will gain leadership from their four other seniors. Veterans Madeline Adams, Kate Grace, Kristin Johnson and Gabriella Kelly are entering their last year with the team and will be in an expert position to offer guidance to the younger members.

The team's eight juniors will step into their veteran shoes next year. Jennifer Donnelly, Victoria Flannery, Annelies Gamble, Phoebe Gaston, Caitlin Hudson and Nihal Kayali will look to make an impact during their first season as upperclassmen.

Fresh off their rookie years, the team's sophomores will draw on their experiences from last season to step into their new role. Wendy DeWolf, Liana Epstein, Clare Kane, Rachel O'Driscoll and McLane Ritzel are ready to be back in action.

This year, six freshmen will join the team, adding new life to its experienced ranks. Hannah Alpert, Sarah Eckinger, Samantha Fry, Kira Garry, Alyssa Laguardia and Jillian Williams will all put on a Yale uniform for the first time this season.

"I have high expectations for all of the freshmen," commented Lovelace.

As always, the most anticipated meet of the season for the Bulldogs will be the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships (Heps), which are hosted this year by Princeton on Oct. 29.

"Our goal is to improve dramatically on last year," said Lovelace, "and we're looking for the team to build meet-to-meet, training into full racing shape by Heps."

The Bulldogs will face off against Harvard on Sept. 17 in Boston and will preview the Heps course at Princeton on Oct. 15. At the end of the season, the team will visit Buffalo, N.Y., for the 2011 NCAA Northeast Regional Championship, with the potential to qualify for the NCAA National Championship in Terre Haute, Ind.

Gosztyla commented of her new team, "I'm very excited to be working with this extraordinary group of women. So far the transition has been great, and I feel the leadership from the senior class, including captain Anne Lovelace, has been tremendous. I'm looking forward to our first competition."

The first meet of the season will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10. It is intended to recognize the tenth anniversary of the September 11th, 2001, tragedy. A ceremony to observe the day will take place prior to the meet at 10:00 a.m. More information can be found at the meet website. Results will be available at www.YaleBulldogs.com.

Report by Natalie Villa '13, Yale Sports Publicity