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The women’s track season is technically halfway over, but for the Elis, it has barely even begun.

Knowing the meat of the season still lies ahead, the Bulldogs logged some impressive times and high finishes at Saturday’s Terrier Invitational in Boston. The meet was the first of back-to-back invites meant to help the team secure qualifications for the ECAC and NCAA Championships and ease the Elis into the intensity of the winter’s latter half.

Captain Molly Lederman ’06 helped lead the way, as always. She won the pole vault with a facility-record height of 3.86 meters, first among 20 competitors. More importantly, as the Bulldogs look toward Ivy competition, each successive vault this season has yielded an improved height.

After Lederman, the usual suspects headlined the Bulldogs’ appearance in Boston. Lindsay Donaldson ’08, an All-American in the 3K last year, placed fourth in the event with a time of 9:20.34. Donaldson finished fourth at the NCAA Indoor National Championships last year with a time almost four seconds slower.

With this weekend’s race she all but assured herself a place in the Nationals field, easily eclipsing the provisional qualifying time of 9:35.00. Donaldson said securing a trip to Fayetteville, Ark., was not on her mind during the race.

“I guess it’s nice to have that out of the way,” she said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it at all.”

A new year has not brought new challenges for Donaldson. Instead, like last season, she will be chasing Princeton’s Cack Ferrell, who won the 3K Saturday in 9:17.08. Ferrell finished third at Nationals last year, but Donaldson beat her at the 2005 Indoor Heptagonal Championships.

Donaldson said competing against Ferrell has bred a sense of mutual respect.

“Cack is a great competitor,” she said. “She’s never afraid to take the pace, and she’s really experienced.”

Joslyn Woodard ’06, the third member of the Bulldogs track triumvirate, claimed sixth in the 200-meter dash in 24.68 seconds and fifth in the 55-meter dash in 7.26 seconds. Teammate Catrina Castille ’07 led the way in the 55, placing fourth in 7.22 seconds.

The leadership trio of Lederman, Donaldson and Woodard provides a security blanket of sorts for the other team members. Each can be depended upon to secure much-needed points in team meets and to post solid scores.

Bevin Peters ’09, who ran a personal best 9:53.91 alongside Donaldson in the 3K to finish 22nd, said she and the other rookies look up to the threesome in practice and in meets.

“We’re definitely looking to see how each of them does,” Peters said. “Not only are they out there performing, but they’re also always cheering us on. It’s also cool because they’re in such different events. We basically have all of our bases covered with them.”

Katie Dlesk ’07 continued her strong season with a fourth-place finish in the 400, crossing the finish line in 57.61 seconds. Dlesk also helped lead the mile relay team to a fourth-place finish. The A team’s time of 3:52.18 was good enough for fourth best in Yale history.

Sharifa Love ’09, who ran with Dlesk in the relay, said her foursome’s performance Saturday will help boost confidence as the squad heads into more intense Ivy League competition and sets loftier expectations.

“We’re definitely expecting to run a lot faster this year,” she said. “But it was a good landmark to know that we can run well and consistently put out a good four-by-four team.”

Katie McKinstry ’07 also secured a small spot in Yale history. Her time of 16:53.78 in the 5K placed her 10th in the race but 4th in the school record books. The race may have also signalled McKinstry’s rising chances of qualifying for Nationals, which can be done automatically with a time of 16:10.00 and provisionally with a time of 16:46.00.

A pair of triple jumpers rounded out the Eli scoring. Dionna Thomas ’06 finished fourth with a jump of 11.73 meters, followed by teammate Olakittan Awolesi ’08 (fifth, 11.54 meters).

Next Saturday the Bulldogs will continue their tour of the invitational circuit, competing in the Giegengack Invitational at Coxe Cage before beginning the season in earnest. The following Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet and Heps will signal the start of a new stage of intensity that cannot be matched in the atmosphere of an invitational.

But Love said the experience gained in the massive fields of the early season’s invites will help the Elis, especially the freshmen.

“At invites you’re looking for a better performance as far as time,” she said. “We can use what we gain by running in large meets later in the season. Especially for the freshmen, we’re still acclimating to collegiate training and expectations. We’re still feeling out where we stand and what we’re doing.”

Donaldson said she agreed that after next weekend’s meet there will be a new set of priorities and expectations.

“In scoring meets there is definitely more urgency in scoring points for the team,” she said. “We know we have a lot of challenges ahead.”

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