Despite a trip to the emergency room for one runner and a traumatic fall in the back woods of Van Cortlandt Park in New York for another, the women’s cross country team managed to finish in the top half of the Ivy League at the Heptagonal Championships last Friday.

The Bulldogs finished fourth, their lowest finish since 1999. No. 12 Columbia won the meet with 33 points, only 5 points better than No. 14 Princeton. Dartmouth took third with 86 points, 31 points ahead of the Bulldogs. In cross country, the team with the lowest point total wins.

“I think we can run better, but we didn’t run bad,” head coach Mark Young ’68 said.

Cara Kiernan ’07 continued her strong rookie season, placing fifth in a time of 17:40.6 and earning first team All-Ivy honors.

“[Kiernan] definitely broke out with an impressive performance, especially considering that she’s just a freshman. We were all really pleased with that, and very proud and excited for her,” captain Rebecca Hunter said.

Kiernan was the first freshman by 29 seconds, and according to Young, she placed higher and ran faster than any Bulldog freshman ever has at Heps.

Susan Chan ’05 took second for the Elis and 25th overall in a time of 18:28.5. Right behind her were Anne Martin ’05 and Nadia Sawicki ’04 in 27th and 28th respectively. Emily Vince ’06 was the last Bulldog to score, placing 32nd, seven seconds behind Sawicki.

The Bulldogs were afflicted by a serious case of bad luck. Alex Sawicki ’04 missed her final Heps competition after an allergic reaction to some medication forced her to go to the hospital in the morning. Melissa Donais ’06, who has been consistently finishing second for the Bulldogs, was right where Young expected her to be when she crossed the bridge into the back woods on the course at about a mile and a half. But on the toughest part of the course in an area with steep hills, she tripped and fell.

“[Donais] took a pretty mean spill in the hills,” Young said.

She rolled down the gravel hill, hit the railroad ties on the course, and was trampled by a horde of spike-clad runners as the main pack ran past or over her. The fall took Donais out of the race, but she still managed to get up and finish the race with knees that looked like what teammates described as “hamburger meat.”

“She was so tough, and that says a lot about our team that she can get up and do that,” Kiernan said. “We can get through anything together.”

Even if Donais had not fallen and finished in the top 10 as expected, the Bulldogs would still have lost to Dartmouth and placed fourth.

In an exciting team race, Columbia and Princeton dominated, taking 12 of the top 15 places and practically turning the competition into a dual meet. Princeton harrier Emily Kroshus turned in the fifth best performance at Heps ever with a time of 17:15, and teammate Cack Ferrell placed second three seconds back. But the Tigers’ 1-2 punch wasn’t enough to overcome the Lions’ pack which put six runners before the Tigers’ fourth.

Young stressed the positives from Friday’s race.

“Cara ran great and we still finish in the top half of the league,” Young said. “Taking everything that happened, I thought the kids kept their poise.”

While the meet was the league championship, the Bulldogs must continue to train for the NCAA regionals on Nov. 15 when they will meet Columbia and Dartmouth again. There the Elis hope to place first or second to earn a spot in the NCAA national championship meet on Nov. 24.

“What we need is for everybody to have her best race, her best mental and physical effort, at Regionals,” Hunter said. “I think the goal now is to train hard for two weeks, and get mentally prepared.”