There's a reason why Wilmington Tatnall School (DE) continues to return to Coxe Cage for the annual Yale Track Classic in New Haven, Connecticut.
"For us, it's worth it," said Tatnall School's Patrick Castagno, a 17-year coach of the cross country and track and field teams, "because there's magic on that track."
On Friday, Tatnall will arrive at Yale's famed 200-meter track for the 12th straight year, bringing nearly two-thirds of its team to compete. It doesn't come without a cost, though. Castagno said the meet is one of the most expensive of the year.
"Just a bus alone costs $3,500 to get up there for the three-and-a-half-hour drive," he said.
But the event usually does provide a return on investment. Over the years, Tatnall School, which is preparing for its indoor state championship on Feb. 4 in Maryland, has scored U.S. #1 times and qualifications into bigger meets like the Penn Relays at the venue.
"The way the whole meet is run, it's something the kids look forward to," said Castagno, who added that Delaware doesn't have an indoor track facility.
"So it's worth going back."
Sophomore Keelin Hays, an emerging distance product who qualified for NXN in Portland, Oregon, (18:55, 54th) as a freshman, will be running in her first 3000m race of the season.
She'll attempt to qualify for New Balance Nationals Indoor below the 10:08 standard.
"I feel like my fitness is definitely a step up from even where it was at the end of the outdoor season," Hays said. "Right now I'm confident where I am physically."
The race may provide yet another example of her rising talent.
"The Yale meet will be a great marker for her," Castagno said.
What's interesting to note, however, is that Hays has grown six inches in the last six months.
"I try not to focus so much on how I've grown," Hays said. "It was after track last year where I struggled a bit, but more recently, I try to think it doesn't have much of an effect on me. At the end of the day, I just know I'm growing."
Still only 15, that evolution of her frame could wreak havoc on form and fitness. But Castagno said it hasn't limited Hays one bit.
"She's strong, I'll say that about her," he said. "The workouts she's done the past month have indicated she's ready to run a time that's legit."
Hays will compete in an invitational field that will include Jamesville-Dewitt High (NY) senior Hannah Butler (9:58.86 PR in the 3000m), New Milford (CT) senior Mia Naham (4:54.01 PR in the 1600m) and Burnt Hills Ballston Lake (NY) High senior Eva Scott (4:43.61 PR in the 1500m).
Hays is a 2:17.04 outdoor 800m runner who ran 4:52.81 in the 1500m at the Marine Corps Holiday Classic on Dec. 29 at the Armory in New York.
"Just to race some of the best competition on the East Coast," Hays said, "it's a great experience for all of us to go."
"It's hard to come off NXN and be ready right away for January with your peak performance," Castagno said. "But as we go through the season, all the kids stay relaxed and mentally prepared.
"We take what we can get and continue to grow and think big."
Ultimately, Castagno keeps coming back to the venue itself.
"The track at Yale is fast and it has something special about it," he said. "It's a historic venue."