The women’s cross country team demonstrated that it can run with the best this weekend at the NCAA Pre-Nationals.

The Elis, ranked No. 22 in the country in the latest USA Today cross country poll, finished ninth out of 37 teams in the Purple Division of the NCAA pre-meet at Furman, S.C. Saturday. Because of the large number of entries, the race was broken into equally competitive divisions featuring top teams from around the country.

“This race just made it very clear that we have the potential to run with the best teams in the country,” captain Millie Grinstead ’02 said. “It really fired people up.”

Kate O’Neill ’03 was the Bulldogs’ top finisher, coming in 12th overall with a time of 21:11, 45 seconds behind the winner, University of Washington’s Sabrina Morno. Laura O’Neill ’03 placed 24th, 28 seconds behind her twin sister. Amanda Brewster ’03 (67th), Lindsay Mitchell ’03 (88th) and Alexandra Sawicki ’04 (115th) rounded out Yale’s score of 306. No. 2 Stanford won the division with 72 points overall.

The Bulldogs, who finished seventh in the NCAA Championships last year, beat all of the teams from the Heptagonal Championships that raced Saturday. But Grinstead said the Heps’ teams showed improvement over last year, which means the Elis will have to work harder if they want to repeat as the Heps’ champions.

“You can go to a meet like this and do really well and become complacent,” Grinstead said. “[For us], it serves as motivation.”

Grinstead said the Elis, who did not rest before the race as some other teams did, will have another week of intense workouts. After that, the team will focus on fine-tuning for the important races that loom on the calendar: Heps, the NCAA regionals, and, if they earn a bid, the NCAA Championships.

“We did fine,” Grinstead said. “We will have to do better in five weeks, but for where we are right now, we did fine.”

In other running action this weekend, the men’s cross country team finished third at the New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston, Mass.

Alexis Surovov ’02 finished in 11th place overall with a time of 25:03, 39 seconds out of first place. Lucas Meyer ’05, in only his second collegiate race, was Yale’s next best finisher, placing 22nd with a time of 25:24.

“We ran as we expected,” Meyer said. “We didn’t overachieve, per se; we didn’t underachieve.”

Meyer said the competition featured many Division II and III teams, but with quality teams like Providence College and Harvard, who finished first and second, respectively, the race provided a good early test for the Bulldogs.

John Reindl ’03 finished 31st, Eric Klein ’02 placed 40th, and Chris Andrew ’04 came in 43rd to round out Yale’s score of 143. Providence’s Hamish Thorpe won the individual championship with a time of 24:24.

Providence won the team championship as well, with a dominating total of 17. Harvard finished second with a score of 109.