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Bulldogs Record Highest Regionals Finish Since 2004

Kevin Dooney. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Kevin Dooney. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Dooney Leads Way as Three Elis Finish in Top 50 

NEW YORK, NY—The Yale men's cross country team did exactly what it set out to do on Friday at the Division I NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, finishing in seventh place with 199 points—its best finish at Regionals in nine years. The 10K race, held at New York City's Van Cortlandt Park, pitted the Bulldogs against all the top teams in the region, including many of their Ivy League rivals. The team appeared more than up for the challenge, finishing in line with their seventh-place regional ranking coming into the race. Yale finished just behind Dartmouth (101 points) and Harvard (155), while placing ahead of Central Connecticut State University (270) and Cornell (326). As expected, Syracuse (57), Columbia (78) and Iona (81) finished in the race's top three spots, respectively.

Sophomore Kevin Dooney (30:28.4) was the story of the day for the Bulldogs, finishing first on the team for his fourth consecutive race and placing 11th overall. By finishing in the race's top 25, Dooney—competing at Regionals for the first time in his career—earned All-Regional recognition. And by placing so highly in the top 25, Dooney very likely earned himself an automatic individual bid to the Division I NCAA Championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind., although announcements regarding official NCAA bids will not be announced until Saturday, Nov. 16. If Dooney qualifies for the NCAA Championships, he would be the first Yale runner to do so since Jeff Perrella in 2010.

Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins went so far as to compare Dooney to both Perrella and Lucas Meyer, the Yale cross country runner who qualified for back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2003 and 2004 (and the last Bulldog to qualify for the NCAA Championships before Perella).

"Dooney is starting to rank up with those guys," Harkins said. "He knew what he had to do in order to get in, and he was going after it. He got it done. It was impressive." 

The rest of the Elis' squad also made its mark on Friday. Junior John McGowan (35th – 31:06.1) finished second on the team, concluding his season with the impressive distinction of having placed in Yale's top three in every race in which he competed. Sophomore Duncan Tomlin (46th – 31:22.0), meanwhile, ran by far his best race of the season, finishing third on the team.

Rounding out the Elis' scorers were junior Isa Qasim (54th – 31:27.6) and freshman James Randon (55th – 31:28.8), who crossed the finish line nearly side-by-side. Qasim—who improved on his 90th-place finish at last year's Regionals—ended his season on a high note, finishing fourth on the team at both the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and Regionals. Randon, for his part, concluded what has been a remarkable freshman campaign. The youngster emerged as one of the Elis' top runners this season, and his strong showing at Regionals can only be a positive sign of things to come during the next three years. 

Sophomore Alex Conner (57th – 31:30.3) finished just a couple seconds behind Randon and Qasim. After a solid freshman season last year, Conner cemented his place as one of the team's most consistent performers as a sophomore, finishing first on the team at both the Harvard-Yale race and Iona Meet of Champions and consistently placing highly at each race in which he competed.

Senior Michael Cunetta (113th – 32:23.2) was the final Bulldog to cross the finish line, capping off an accomplished cross country career with his first ever Regionals race.

Harkins praised the entire team for its performance on Friday.

"I was very pleased with how the guys ran today," he said. "I'm just impressed with how the guys react day-to-day, week-to-week, and the progress they've made since the start of the year."

Indeed, after suffering a lopsided loss to Harvard in the team's opening race, the Bulldogs have made great strides this season. The team finished only 44 points behind the Crimson on Friday—a relatively small margin in a field as large as the one at Regionals.

"We aren't the same team we were when we first raced Harvard," Harkins added. "Obviously, the goal is always to beat Harvard, but we closed the gap significantly."

While Friday's race marked the end of the cross country season for most of the team, Dooney will likely run at the NCAA Championships next weekend, pending an official announcement from the NCAA on Saturday. 

Even with a probable trip to the NCAA Championships waiting, Harkins could not help but voice his optimism for next season.

"Looking forward to next year with the young guys we have coming back," he said.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity