October 26, 2011

No. 36 Cross Country to Race for Heps Title

Team is Ranked Second-Highest Nationally of Ancient Eight

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's cross country team, currently ranked 36th in the nation, will travel to Princeton on Saturday to toe the line against the rest of the Ancient Eight in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships (Heps). The Bulldogs are looking to avenge an eighth-place finish at last year's race. This goal looks entirely possible because the team has come close to breaking the top 30 in the nation this season, and has been ranked in the top 36 for the past three weeks.

Only two other teams that the Bulldogs will face this weekend are currently ranked: Cornell (25th) and Princeton (37th). Though Princeton had been ranked as high as 19th at the beginning of the season, it has since fallen, coming to rest this week just below the Bulldogs. By contrast, Cornell has ascended the rankings recently, jumping from 39th to 25th in the span of just two weeks.

Head coach Amy Gosztyla thinks her team is ready for the test: "The goal for this weekend is to be contending for an Ivy League title. We're looking to execute our race plans as we've done all season long, and the team is really ready to continue the success we've had so far this year. It's going to be a close meet with multiple teams in the hunt, and we are excited and ready for that challenge," she said.

Yale has not competed often against Ivy schools represented by their full complements this season; several times teams sent their top runners to other meets. Yet, the Bulldogs came up big against the full Princeton squad in the first two meets of the season, placing just behind the Tigers both times. At the season-opening Fordham Invitational, Yale scored only nine points more than Princeton, which was a miniscule total in a meet of 17 squads. The next week, at the HYP tri-meet, the Bulldogs again scored nine points more than the Tigers. Yale has not competed against Princeton's top runners since the beginning of the season.

Heps represents the beginning of the championship season for the cross country team, and the beginning of the culmination of their hard work.

"The team has been building up to Heps all season long. Each race we have run this season has helped us gain strength and confidence and we know we are now in the mix for the championship title this weekend. We've really flourished with our pack running," most recently at the Princeton Invitational, where Yale runners swept the first five spots in the race to secure the title, said Gosztyla.

Gosztyla is also excited by the number of different runners who have placed first for the team so far this season. Sophomore Melissa Chapman, sophomore Liana Epstein, junior Elizabeth Marvin and senior Lindsey Raymond have all been the first Bulldog across the line at one or more meets, which is a testament to the depth of the team. Depth will be an important factor in Saturday's championship, especially given the close margins between Yale and other Ivy squads already this season. If the Bulldogs can run and place together, as they have shown they can, they will reduce the number of jerseys of other colors between the Yale blue and have a lower team score.

Sophomore Sarah Barry, junior Jennifer Donnelly, freshman Kira Garry, junior Caitlin Hudson, junior Nihal Kayali, senior captain Anne Lovelace, sophomore Rachel O'Driscoll and junior Jacque Sahlberg will also represent Yale on Saturday.

The women's 6k race will begin at noon. The meet website, where results will be posted, is available here. Results will also be available at www.yalebulldogs.com. A live blog, along with more information about the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, is available at http://www.ivyleaguesports.com/championships/xc/2011-12/index.

Report by Natalie Villa '13, Yale Sports Publicity