Many Yalies don’t know that running can be a team sport, but the women’s cross country team definitely does.

Following their race plan expertly, the Elis ran in packs this Saturday at the Fordham Invitational in Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y. With Lindsay Donaldson ’08 and Katie McKinstry ’07 together at sixth and seventh places, respectively, and with captain Katie Matlack ’06 and Meredith Leenhouts ’08 at 16th and 17th, respectively, the Bulldogs helped each other throughout the challenging course to earn 74 points as a team.

Although this placed them behind Princeton and Providence, who had 32 and 47 points, respectively, the Elis said the performance was a good way to start the season.

“We went out basically to see where we were at and to practice running as groups and we came away from it with a very positive feeling,” Matlack said. “All of the packs stayed together through the point they were supposed to. I was also very impressed with the amount of encouragement within packs while running.”

According to Matlack, Yale head coach Mark Young was going to check to make sure that the Elis were staying together in specific groups up to the bridge at the course’s 1.5 mile mark. Matlack said the Bulldogs had solid packs at that point.

Matlack said she and Leenhouts, who finished at 19:02 and 19:03 respectively, benefited from the system of pack running.

“[Leenhouts] and I lost touch a little bit around mile-two, but we came back together around the end,” Matlack said. “We were trying to get each other to pass this girl down the final straight away. I think I got her, but not if Meredith hadn’t been right there.”

Leenhouts said the personal-best time that she ran this weekend was due to the hard training she did this summer.

“What I did [Saturday] proved to myself that I can step up this year and make a difference for the team’s score,” she said. “I feel like I can still improve some more. I’m in good shape, but with more speed workouts I can get better.”

While Matlack and Leenhouts intended to stay close, the other pack of Donaldson-McKinstry was more of an accident, McKinstry said.

“We are very different runners — Lindsay has a lot of leg speed while it takes me a while to get to pace,” McKinstry said. “I caught up to her and thought, ‘Run to Lindsay,’ and once I got to her we were able to use each other in the back hills and the last, most painful part.”

Donaldson finished at 18:27 while McKinstry came in at 18:29, only four seconds slower than what she ran at the Heptagonal Championships last November.

Following the first four for the Bulldogs were Ashley Campbell ’08, Liz Calle ’08, and Claire Hamilton ’07 to round out the top-seven. These three harriers were within 25 seconds of Matlack and Leenhouts to complete the pack.

The race was also important for the rookie Bulldogs, who now have some college running experience under their belts. Matlack said Claire Leatherwood ’09 and Lauren Bowles ’09 had particularly good races. Leatherwood clocked in at 19:37 and Bowles was two seconds behind her.