It might be easier to run scared and not give it your all when facing teams that are the best in the nation. It might even be an option if you are not a Bulldog.

On Saturday the men’s cross country team traveled to the University of Northern Iowa for the NCAA Pre-Nationals. The Bulldogs came in 24th overall in a field of 35 teams, edging out Dartmouth and solidly defeating Harvard. Only three Ivy teams were represented at the event. The University of Colorado, which placed fourth at the NCAA Championship last year, won the meet. The Elis top finisher was Lucas Meyer ’05, who came in 26th with a time of 24:09.1 for the 8000-meter course.

Meyer ran a personal best in the race and said he thought he could have done better.

“It was fine, nothing spectacular,” Meyer said. “I feel like I could have raced a little tougher at the end, but I ran hard.”

The Bulldogs, who are accustomed to running on hilly courses like the Yale Golf Course, had an opportunity to run on a flatter course this weekend. Meyer described it as a really fast course.

Though running conditions such as the weather were optimal, it was a challenging race for the Bulldogs. The meet featured teams like the University of Colorado, which has a storied cross country program and provides funding for athletic scholarships. But the Elis competed well and had good races all around.

The Elis’ strategy for the race was to have Meyer go out strong and establish himself in the front pack. The rest of the Bulldogs planned to start conservatively — just under a five-minute mile pace — stick together for the first mile, and then begin to move up.

Casey Moriarty ’05, who ran a 24:57 and was the Eli’s second-best finisher, said the race plan worked well for the team.

“I did pretty well with this strategy,” Moriarty said. “I actually ran a faster second [half] 4000-meter, than my first 4000-meter and I’m happy about that.”

The third-best finisher for the Bulldogs was David Napper ’07, who according to Moriarty has been an all-star harrier so far. Napper ran a personal best time of 25:04 and came in 98th place. This was Napper’s first full 8000-meter race, and he was challenged by the third-mile of the race.

“The middle of a race is always tough,” Napper said. “But you just have to stay tough because racing is really a mental game.”

Rounding out the top five scorers for the Bulldogs were Josh Yelsey ’05 and captain Robert Dwyer ’04. Yelsey came in 161st and Dwyer came in 190th.

These finishes set up Yale’s defeat of Dartmouth by 23 points. This victory was especially valuable for the Elis because the Big Green have won the Ivy League title for the past three years — according to Moriarty’s estimates, it has been a decade since the Elis last beat the Big Green in a race. Napper said he was also thrilled by beating Dartmouth and Harvard.

“It was great that we beat Dartmouth and Harvard,” Napper said. “We showed that we are an up-and-coming team. We are really coming out of the woods at the right time.”

Because of this victory, the Elis’ confidence has been boosted for their next competition, the Heptagonal Championship, Moriarty said. The entire team hopes to trump Dartmouth again at the Heptagonal Championships, which will take place at Van Cortlandt Park in New York on Oct. 31. The Bulldogs finished last at the championship last year.

“Heps are wide open now,” Moriarty said. “There is no reason that we can’t win them.”