Bulldogs Preparing for Pre-National Invitational in Indiana

John McGowan. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
John McGowan. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Team to Face Some of the Nation's Top Programs in Challenging Meet

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—The Yale men's cross country team is traveling farther than normal this weekend, as it heads to Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday to compete in the Pre-National Invitational, hosted by Indiana State University and held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.

The Bulldogs, who last competed in the meet in 2007, will be facing their biggest challenge of the season. In addition to running the 8K race alongside some of their familiar regional rivals—such as Cornell and Penn—Yale will be pitted against some of the country's premier cross country programs. In fact, nine teams currently ranked in the top 30 of the USTFCCCA poll will be competing against the Elis at Pre-Nationals, including Oklahoma State (1st), Colorado (2nd), Oregon (4th), Tulsa (9th), Princeton (10th), Indiana (12th), Iona (18th), Boise State (19th) and Stanford (29th). A solid performance against this top tier of teams could go a long way to aiding Yale's chances of qualifying for the Division I NCAA National Championships in November—also held in Terre Haute.

"This is a big meet for us," said Head Men's Cross Country Coach Paul Harkins. "It will give us a good indication of how we will stack up with the rest of the Ivy League and the region. It also gives a great opportunity to see a lot of teams that we don't normally see. These are the meets we have to be at if we are to become a nationally prominent program."

The Bulldogs enter Pre-Nationals riding a wave of momentum following three strong showings: a second-place finish at the Iona Meet of Champions, a seventh-place finish at the Paul Short Invitational and a 10th-place finish just last weekend at the New England Championships. But given that none of the seven athletes Yale is sending to Indiana competed at last weekend's New England Championships, the group should be well-rested and prepared for action come Saturday.

Of the seven competing athletes, sophomore Alex Conner, freshman Andre Ivankovic, junior John McGowan, freshman James Randon and sophomore Duncan Tomlin have all placed in Yale's top seven in all three meets in which they have competed this season. Conner and McGowan, specifically, have dominated to this point in the season, placing in the team's top three in all meets in which they have participated. Randon would likely belong in that group as well, if not for a fall he suffered during the early portion of Paul Short—a race in which he still managed to finish sixth on the team.

Sophomore Kevin Dooney and junior Isa Qasim will also run for the Bulldogs this weekend. Dooney comes into Pre-Nationals on a bit of a hot streak, after following up a fifth-place team finish at the Iona Meet with a first-place team finish and personal record (24:38) at Paul Short. Qasim ran a 25:06 at Paul Short, an improvement on the time of 25:24 he posted at the Harvard-Yale season opener.

Besides Dooney, McGowan (24:44) and Tomlin (25:01) are the only other non-freshmen on the team to have set personal records this season, and the pair will be looking to reduce those times even further this weekend.

Given the Bulldogs' recent success and improvement, it is no surprise that Harkins is looking forward to competing at Pre-Nationals for the first time in his Yale coaching career. 

"I'm excited because the guys have been preparing extremely well over the last couple of weeks and are progressing rapidly," said Harkins. "This is when all the hard work begins to pay off."

Yale will compete against 51 other schools in the men's "blue race," which begins at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. The official meet program—which includes a course map, entry lists, a meet schedule, and information on course records—is available here. Results will be available at www.gosycamores.com and www.yalebulldogs.com following the conclusion of the race.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity