After mixed results in last weekend’s annual Yale-Harvard-Princeton race in Franklin Park, Boston, the women’s cross country team now enters the crucial stage of the season, which culminates in the Heptagonal Championships and potentially a trip to the NCAA National Championship.

Last Saturday, the Elis easily beat Harvard 22-37. But Princeton swept the top five places, scoring the minimum 15 points compared to the Bulldogs’ 46. Princeton defeated Harvard 15-48 and won the Cheever Memorial Trophy. In cross country, the team with the fewest number of points wins.

Most of the Bulldogs will have a run at another trophy at Franklin Park tomorrow when they compete in the New England Championships. Among the teams scheduled to compete are Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard. A smaller contingent will rest this weekend in preparation for the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 18 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“We’ll be running on the same course as last week so it will be a good opportunity to improve our times,”ÊKatie Matlack ’06 said. “It is rare in cross country to be able to compare times from the same course during the season.”

The New England meet will be the last race before the Heptagonal Championships for the majority of the Elis. Teams from throughout New England will race, and the Bulldogs will gain race experience that should prepare them for Heptagonals on Oct. 31.

The Bulldogs’ top nine runners will not compete tomorrow. Instead, they will run next weekend against most of the top teams in the country at the Pre-Nationals meet to gain points toward qualifying the team for NCAAs.

Last weekend proved that while the Bulldogs work well together and have made improvements, the Eli harriers still have a lot of ground to make up before Heptagonals later this month.

This past Saturday, the Bulldogs ran against Harvard and Princeton in the Big Three meet. All three teams ran together, but the tournament was scored as three separate dual meets in which two of the three teams competed. Cara Kiernan ’07 placed first for the Bulldogs in 6th place overall in a time of 17:46, a mere four seconds out of 3rd place. Melissa Donais ’06 and captain Rebecca Hunter ’04 finished within a second of each other to grab the 9th and 10th spots, 12 seconds behind Kiernan. Consistent top-five finisher Anne Martin ’05 and Quinnipiac Invitational runner-up Susan Chan ’05 were the Bulldog’s last two scorers, finishing 17th and 20th respectively.

The H-Y-P meet was the second this season in which Kiernan led the Bulldog finishers. She praised the team for supporting all of its runners, especially the younger ones, and stressed that despite the loss to Princeton the Bulldogs’ teamwork was phenomenal.

Only 36 seconds separated the Bulldogs’ top five runners, a sign of excellent pack running, but Princeton’s pack dominated. The Tigers’ 3rd, 4th, and 5th runners finished within three seconds of each other, all ahead of the Bulldogs’ 1st. The Tigers placed 12 runners before the Bulldogs’ 5th, and took 15 of the top 25 overall spots.

Princeton also dominated the field in the individual competition. Senior Emily Kroshus, winner of the Iona Invitational, extended her winning streak, finishing in a time of 17:08 over the five-kilometer course. Tiger sophomore Cack Ferrell, runner-up at Iona, took 2nd to her teammate again, this time by a slim four-second margin. The two Tiger harriers opened a large gap between them and the rest of the pack, finishing 30 seconds ahead of the 3rd place finisher

“We are especially deep from runners 9 to 20,” Kiernan said. “[But the Tigers] have a pack of five that was better than our front [runners].”

Harvard was never close; the Crimson only managed to place three runners in the top 25.