TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The Yale women's cross country team closed out the 2016 campaign at the NCAA National Championship this morning. In the team's first time qualifying since 2001, the Bulldogs had great performances, but ultimately fell to 30th in a very stacked field. The meet, which took place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind., featured 31 teams from across the nation vying for the title of National Champion. The No. 12 Oregon Ducks upset the field in a surprise win, racking up 125 points to just edge runner-up No. 5 Michigan's 126 points. No. 1 Colorado took third with 134 points. Meanwhile, No. 29 Penn took 24th in the afternoon while archrival No. 17 Harvard took 26th.
Though it was a tough afternoon, for the Bulldogs, the team overall held itself well against a tough field.
"We had a really strong run today and held our own on the national stage in some tough conditions. This team has had one of the most consistent seasons in program history and I'm really proud of their performance today and all season long," said women's cross country coach Amy Gosztyla of today's championship meet. "The leadership of seniors Frances, Emily, and Meredith will be missed next year. They stepped up today and led us with a strong performances. I'm excited that we return a great group for next year who will take the experience of the national meet with them to help our program continue to perform at the national level. It's been a special group this season to coach."
Senior captain Frances Schmiede said of a very tough race, "I expected it to be similiar to Pre-Nationals, which we attended last year, but it was even faster and more tightly packed than that race. I think I ran to my ability but at this meet that's just not very high up there. It's bittersweet to be a senior attending your first NCAAs because you learn so much from the race but don't have the chance to have another go at it." Yet the All-Ivy and All-Region honoree reflected fondly on the season as a whole, stating, "The team could have another chance to improve on this year and I hope they take this race as a starting point. We kept setting higher goals for ourselves each year I was on the team and I hope the team keeps doing that because it has been pushing us forward."
Of course, what made this year's squad special was that there was not just one special runner that led her teammates at every meet. Instead, the strength of the Bulldogs all season long has been their ability to run together in a tight pack. This afternoon, for example, the split separating frontrunner senior captain Frances Schmiede and sophomore Andrea Masterson was a staggering 28 seconds. Surprisingly, this split was the second-shortest at Nationals, only beaten by an impressive performance by the third-place Colorado team.
The seniors led the team in what was their final race of their collegiate career: Captain Schmiede finished 119th out of a field of 250, logging a time of 20:55.0. She was followed by senior Emily Waligurski, who crossed the finish line at 21:06.0 for a 157th place finish. A few steps behind her was senior Meredith Rizzo, who finished 21:09.7 for 165th.
Junior Dana Klein and Masterson closed out the scoring members of the team, finishing with times of 21:16.7 and 21:23.7 for 179th and 195th places, respectively. Junior Kelli Reagan and sophomore Ellie Atkinson finished with times of 21:25.0 and 21:45.8, respectively.
The indoor track season will begin in three weeks at home with the Yale Season Opener.
Report by Ariel A. Sánchez '19, Yale Sports Publicity.