Running can become boring, even for those who love it — like the members of the women’s cross country team. That was why waterskiing, inner tubing, and relaxing on a beach in Vermont were just what the Elis needed for their preseason.

With leisure time mixed in with preseason running, the Bulldogs bonded as a team in preparation for a season that is shaping up to be intense. At the Ivy League’s Heptagonal Championships last year, the Elis finished in third place behind Princeton and Columbia. But since captain Katie Matlack ’06 and the Bulldogs are not satisfied to sit at that position, they must work as a unit to make up for the losses of two of their top five runners in order to move up in the Ancient Eight.

“I think we are really working on building a strong class of winners,” Lindsay Donaldson ’08 said. “We have a strong team and a strong top seven who can hopefully contend for the league title with top teams like Princeton and Columbia. We have a rather young team with some injuries, but hopefully we will be able to overcome those.”

Donaldson herself is representative of the youth of the team. After placing second at the Heptagonal Championships and sixth at NCAAs during her first season as a college runner, the speedy Donaldson had to deal with an injury in the spring but said she is feeling healthy now. Her health is especially important because her training and racing partner, Cara Kiernan ’07, is still dealing with an injury.

Kiernan, who placed fourth at Heps and 33rd at NCAAs, has been doing some cross-training but will not race in the beginning of the season.

“She is slowly getting back into it, but it hurts our team a lot,” Donaldson said. “We want her to be healthy and fully recovered before she comes back into it. Hopefully she will be back for Heps. She helped me through so many workouts and races last year.”

But despite that injury, Claire Hamilton ’07 said the team is not too worried.

“I think we are feeling really good and gearing up for a great season,” Hamilton said. “During the summer we stepped up our training, so we are stronger and more in shape, and we welcomed an extremely hardworking and talented freshman class that could go beyond expectations.”

Hamilton said the team’s goals are twofold. The first is to move up in the standings at Heps by passing the Tigers, the Lions or both. Since the Lions are returning four of their five top runners and the Tigers return all five of their fastest harriers, the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them.

The second goal is to look past the Ancient Eight to qualify for the national race as a team. Last year, the Bulldogs missed qualifying by one place, finishing third at the NCAA Northeast Regionals.

Because of these two goals, it might be easy to focus on the opponents’ conditions. However, Katie McKinstry ’07, who finished fourth on the team last year at Heps, said the Elis are team-oriented and not competitor-oriented.

“We are just worrying about us and we are ready for whatever comes,” McKinstry said. “As [head] coach [Mark Young] says, ‘All we have to do is focus on our team.’ We can’t rely on Princeton to have a bad day to make that happen. If we perform what we are capable of, I think we can totally win Heps.”

The Bulldogs start their road to Heps and Regionals this weekend at the Fordham Invitational in New York. The meet will provide some of the newer runners a chance to run at Van Cortlandt Park where Heps are held. On top of that, the race will provide the Elis a way to start getting back into their competitive mindset — something that will have to be as strong as their legs and lungs come October.