An undiagnosed case of anemia left Pat Dantzer ’06 gasping for breath and seeking answers throughout the cross country season. But after he won the 3K at Saturday’s Yale Invitational at Coxe Cage, everyone should know the only answer that matters now: he’s back.

Dantzer and the other Eli distance runners assaulted the field, winning a slew of events. The rest of the team did not fare nearly as well, but several runners insisted the meet was solely about shaking off the post-break rust and preparing mentally for the grind that lies ahead.

In his first race since a 69th-place finish at the IC4A Cross Country Championships on Nov. 19, Dantzer proved he has gotten himself back into the type of shape that helped earn him the 2005 cross country captaincy. He finished the 3K in 8:29.67, edging out Stony Brook’s Brian Farrell by eight-tenths of a second.

“Yeah, I think I’m back,” Dantzer said. “It’s really nice to run well.”

But most impressive of all — and perhaps most unusual — Dantzer, third-place finisher Andrew Pitts ’07 and Jake Breune ’09 had participated in a workout immediately before the meet. The workout culminated with the 3K race, as planned. What may not have been planned was Dantzer’s dominating return and his teammates’ ensuing high hopes.

Justin Thaler ’09 said he had heard about Dantzer’s potential but had never seen it fully realized this season. He said Dantzer’s return as the distance squad’s leader will boost expectations.

“It’s a big deal to get Pat back running where he once was,” Thaler said. “It’s great to see what we know he is capable of because we know he will be a big contributor and leader.”

Even a sprinter, Russ Kempf ’07, was astounded by the Bulldogs’ performances in the 3K, and hinted that races like that from Dantzer will solidify his influence as a leader.

“They definitely knew they had a good chance to win, but the way [Dantzer] competed was just ridiculous,” Kempf said. “That performance really set the tone.”

Murat Kayali ’09 built upon his teammates’ successes, turning in a second-place finish in the one mile. Even though it was only his first collegiate indoor race, Kayali battled through early difficulties to clear himself from the pack and establish a comfortable position. A group of competitors boxed Kayali in at the gun, but he elbowed his way free later in the race.

Southern Connecticut State’s Ramon Lamboy led wire to wire, winning in 4:13.14, eight seconds ahead of Kayali.

The Elis’ success extended beyond the individual events. In the 4 x 800 relay, the Yale A team was forced to replace its fastest runner, Courtland Keteyian ’06, because he was late from a medical school interview. Nevertheless, the group ran 7:47.77, second behind UConn’s 7:42.49. In third, the Yale B team ran 7:59.91.

And in the distance medley, the Bulldogs took first and third places. The B team won in 10:04.29, trailed by UConn and the Yale A team, each less than four-tenths of a second behind.

Strong races by Dantzer, Pitts and Kayali stole the show. But the Eli sprinters, jumpers and throwers made little more than a dent in the meet.

Dan O’Brien ’08 finished second in the 60-meter hurdles, posting an impressive time of 8.30 seconds. But O’Brien produced the only bright spot for an otherwise invisible sprinting corps, due both to underwhelming times and the absence of many runners. No one ran in the 400.

The Bulldogs’ top finish in the 60-meter dash was Kempf (13th). And in the 800, Thaler, John Hannon ’09 and Michael Marino ’06 placed 10th, 12th and 14th.

John Langhauser ’07 finished second in the shot put with a throw of 15.65 meters. He trailed only Evan Lasher, an unassigned competitor who threw 16.96 meters. Langhauser also finished 11th in the weight throw. No other Bulldog competed in the shot put, weight throw, long jump, high jump or triple jump, instead resting for next weekend’s meet in Hanover, N.H.

Next Saturday, Ivy League competition will commence at Dartmouth in a meet with the Big Green and Columbia. While the Yale Invitational was meant to prepare the Elis for the mental intensity needed for Ancient Eight competition, Dantzer said the season is still so young that next Saturday’s meet will not be critical.

“Obviously we will try to win, but it’s still so early in the season, so we’re not going to taper our workouts or change what we do or anything,” he said. “We’ll want to win but if we don’t it’s still so early that it won’t be the end of the world.”

The next few meets will be considered part of the season’s first half. As a result, times will be less important when compared to progress and health as the league’s competitors focus on the Heptagonal Championships on Feb. 25.

“This is not the point in the season where we run our fastest,” Dantzer said. “It’s obviously early in the season so everybody is not where they want to be by the end. But you can only do so much in practice, you need to get out there and compete.