Following five top-ten finishes this fall as well as a 16th-place finish at NCAA Pre-Nationals two weekends ago, the Bulldogs earned third place Friday at the Heptagonal Cross Country Championship at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.

The Elis were led by Lindsay Donaldson ’08, who finished second in the field of 94 runners. Donaldson registered a time of 17:16.5, which bested the previous Yale women’s record on the course, held by Olympian Kate O’Neill ’02, who ran the same course in 17:18.3 in 2002.

“I was really surprised by the outcome of the race,” Donaldson said. “I was just focusing on place because at Heps every place matters in the final team standings. That time was the fastest that I have run on that course before and I hope that someday I will be able to improve on it, but I don’t really put that much emphasis on time.”

Donaldson clocked in less than five seconds later than Columbia junior Caroline Bierbaum, who finished in 17:12.2 to win the race. Donaldson’s teammate, Cara Kiernan ’07 followed closely with a time of 17:20.3, good for fourth overall.

In addition to Donaldson’s record-setting performance, Kiernan’s time was the fifth best time ever ran by a Eli woman at Van Cortlandt. Donaldson credited her own time in the race, and the success of the team overall, to Kiernan.

“I was just trying to stay with Cara and we worked together throughout the race,” Donaldson said. “I definitely wouldn’t have run that time if it weren’t for her.”

Kiernan and Donaldson were also the first two Yale runners to finish in the pre-national competition two weeks earlier, taking 19th and 20th place, respectively.

“It was a lot of fun to work with Lindsay during the race,” Kiernan said. “In the back hills we enveloped a Harvard runner and then chased down a Princeton girl together. It was just the best feeling to know that we were putting two blue uniforms in front of them and helping our team get five in faster.”

Donaldson and Kiernan were followed Friday by captain Anne Martin ’05, who placed 19th with a time of 18:25.3. Meanwhile, Katherine McKinstry ’07 and Susan Chan ’05 finished 23rd and 25th, with times of 18:25.8 and 18:28.8, respectively.

Yale finished with a total of 73 points, behind Princeton (64 points) and race-winner Columbia (51 points).

“Heps is always the big race of the year,” Martin said. “We have great fan turnout, and the team’s placement in the Ivy League is the marker we use to measure our success. Proving that we could run as close to Princeton and Columbia as we did made us realize that we could be serious contenders for a bid to nationals.”

The Bulldogs will have an opportunity to show just how serious they are in two weeks when they return to Van Cortlandt Park for the NCAA Regionals.