The women’s cross country team began its 2001 campaign this weekend with a pair of meets and several impressive individual performances.

On Friday, Yale sent six junior varsity runners to Quinnipiac for the Connecticut Intercollegiate Cross Country Championship. The Bulldogs had a strong showing, placing four runners in the top ten, and finishing second in the team standings. Melissa Wisner ’05 and Vanessa Everding ’05 highlighted the team’s performance, finishing first and fourth, respectively. On Saturday, the varsity squad saw its first action, placing fourth at the Iona Meet of Champions at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, N.Y.

“We used the Quinnipiac meet as an opportunity to bring along some of our younger runners,” head coach Mark Young said. “The (Quinnipiac) course is 5,000 meters, which made it an ideal first race for a lot of the runners, who will have to run several 6,000-meter races this year.”

Saturday in the Bronx, the varsity runners got their first chance to race this season. Last year, the varsity had its most successful season since 1987, finishing seventh in the nation. With five of last year’s top seven runners returning, the Bulldogs looked to continue their success.

On a cold day, the team placed fourth on the 6,000-meter course. Kate O’Neill ’03 led the Bulldogs with a time of 20 minutes, 46.4 seconds and finished third overall. Laura O’Neill ’03 finished 12th at 21:13.3, and Amanda Brewster ’03 finished 20th with a time of 21:27.3. The team also benefitted from fine performances from Alex Sawicki ’04, Geraldine Smith ’04 and Susan Chan ’05.

“Alex and Geraldine have made the transition from top JV runners to important varsity contributors,” Young said. “Susan also has the potential to be an important factor on this team. The most promising thing is that Kate, Alex, Amanda and Rebecca [Hunter ’04] are all running at levels at or above where they were in November of last year, six weeks later in the season.”

The Iona meet featured very strong competition. The field of 23 included Boston College — ranked fourth in the nation last season — Villanova, Michigan, and league rivals Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth.

“There were a lot of very tough teams at the meet, and many of those teams have already raced this season,” Young said. “Of the top competition in our district, only Providence did not compete at this meet.”

Yale’s team score of 115 points was narrowly bettered by Boston University with 109 and Cornell with 114. Boston College finished first with a score of 31 points.

“We were a little disappointed with how our team placed, but we all know that this is just the first meet of the season,” Kate O’Neill said.

The Bulldogs still accomplished many of the goals they had set for the meet.

“We wanted to stay competitive and focus primarily on pack running,” Young said. “We’re training for late October and November. None of us likes losing, but, given our objectives, we succeeded.”

The Bulldogs remain confident they will continue their success from last year, using this meet as a steppingstone. The team next travels to Princeton this weekend for the H-Y-P competition.

“I’m very confident that the team will do well this weekend,” Young said. “We placed five runners in front of Harvard’s first at the Iona meet, which gives us a lot of confidence. We’re going down there with the intention of remaining H-Y-P champions.”