MADISON, Wis. – The Yale women's cross country competed in the highly competitive Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, finishing 11th out of 31 teams, amongst the top teams in the nation. The field included a total of 18 ranked teams, as well as four other Ivy League teams. It was so competitive that essentially half of the over 200 runners finished within one minute of each other. No. 4 Washington won the meet with 124 points, while No. 3 NC State and No. 1 Providence took runner-up and third with 166 and 170 points each.
The team's biggest strength of the afternoon was its ability to run close together, an important strategy the Bulldogs are developing very well over the course of this past season. The women's Cross Country Coach Amy Gosztyla put it well, stating, "the team continues to do a great job working together in their packs, but we unfortunately didn't get a great position in the field, so it made it tough to move up."
The tight nature of the race made it particularly difficult for the Bulldogs to get a good leg up. Through the first two kilometer split, the team was 15th, most notably behind No. 29 Harvard in 11th place at the time. Yet, all seven Bulldogs were within a two second range of each other.
Yet, four kilometers in, the Bulldogs were not in great shape, either "placing" 17th through that split with frontrunner senior Emily Waligurski in 66th place. But the team's ability to use each other well prevailed. The fifth scorer at the time, sophomore Ellie Atkinson, was just six seconds behind Waligurski with a split of 14:17.5 (5:45/mile).
Noticeably, this is the first time that the Bulldogs faced such a tough field of competitors. However, Coach Amy Gosztyla pointed out that this was overall a beneficial experience for the Bulldogs. In particular, she emphasized, "I think we have room to improve from this point of the season, which is really exciting. It was an important learning experience for the team and we know what we need to work on over the next few weeks as we get ready for the championship season."
But the Bulldogs really outdid themselves in the closing two kilometers of this six kilometer race. Waligurski moved up a stunning 25 spots to take 41st place for the Bulldogs with a final time of 20:54.1 (5:37/mile). The trio of senior Meredith Rizzo and juniors Kelli Reagan and Dana Klein ran together well throughout the course of this race. Throughout the first four kilometers, the two were just a couple of seconds apart from each other. Rizzo just edged out her teammates, finishing 62nd with a time of 21:04.6. Reagan and Klein finished 73rd and 75th, with times of 21:07.8 and 21:09.7, respectively.
Sophomores Ellie Atkinson and Andrea Masterson also ran very well together this race, finishing side-by side in 84th and 85th places with times of 21:16.1 and 21:16.3, respectively. Senior captain Frances Schmiede rounded out the Bulldogs competing, clocking in at 21:41.2 for 122nd place. Overall, there were just 22 seconds between frontrunner Waligurski and fifth-scorer Atkinson.
Despite her "dog of a race," captain Schmiede was happy that the Bulldogs "still had a strong enough pack to hold our position in the region" despite the fact that the Northeast Regional will be particularly competitive when it takes place in a few weeks. Schmiede reflected, "I realized very soon into the race that it was not going to be a good day for me and as soon as five other teammates were ahead of me, I was fairly certain it was going to be an okay day for the team because of the strength of their abilities." Yet she was quick to emphasize her unwillingness to become complacent with how well they perform now because this squad can still get even better.
With just two weeks until the Heptagonal Championships and three until the Northeast Regional, the team is closer than ever to having its best performances in these two races in well over a decade. The athletes who competed this week will most likely take this next week off in preparation for these two big meets. Meanwhile, those who did not get the chance to compete this week will be able to compete in next week's CCSU Mini Meet.
Results of today's meet can be found above.
Report by Ariel A. Sánchez '19, Yale Sports Publicity