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Forget Puerto Rico and Daytona Beach. Women’s track captain Molly Lederman ’06 and teammate Lindsay Donaldson ’08 spent spring break in the best place they could imagine: Fayetteville, Ark.

The two Elis competed at the NCAA Indoor National Track and Field Championships, held at the University of Arkansas on March 10, then joined the rest of the team and the men’s squad in Irvine, Calif., for spring training. The trip culminated with the season’s first meet, the Long Beach Classic, in which the women placed third and the men fourth.

Lederman, who competed at Outdoor Nationals last spring, made her first appearance at Indoor Nationals. Coming off a personal and meet record 4.10-meter effort at Heps in late February, Lederman vaulted 3.85 meters to finish 15th out of 17 competitors.

But for Lederman, the best female pole vaulter in Bulldog history, a trip to Nationals validated the hard work of her entire indoor career.

“I was thrilled to be able to go to Nationals this year,” she said. “I didn’t vault as well as I would have liked to. There were a couple things I did well, but overall I was disappointed that I didn’t jump better. [But] I feel lucky that my last indoor meet ended up being somewhere that I have been working towards getting to for the past three years.”

Donaldson, on the other hand, made her second trip to Indoor Nationals in as many years. Last season, as the only freshman in the field, Donaldson finished fourth in the 3,000-meter run. This time around, she got another shot at the 3K and made it in the mile as well.

Before running the 3K, Donaldson qualified for the finals of the mile run and then took seventh overall in the final heat with a time of 4:43.74. Her performance earned her All-American status. Less than two hours later, she placed 17th in the 3K in 9:37.61.

Donaldson said the slow pace of the mile surprised her at the start.

“There were 10 girls in the race, and it went out a little slower than I expected,” she said. “There was a lot of jostling and a very tight pack for most of it, but in the second half it opened up and the pace was faster.”

Nationals provides the rare opportunity for Ivy League competitors to meet the creme de la creme of the nation’s most powerful conferences, such as the SEC, Big 12 and ACC. In the distance events, Ancient Eight runners are usually far from a novelty. But last year Donaldson traveled as the lone Eli in the field.

“In my experience there has been significant representation from the Ivy League,” Donaldson said. “I think it’s come to the point where people don’t count us out because we’re from the Ivy League. It’s really hard to explain how important it was to have a teammate like Molly there.”

Lederman and Donaldson then joined both the men’s and women’s teams in California for training. Ten days of sun and hard work awaited them in Irvine. That, and an outbreak among a few of the female runners of scabies — an irritation of the skin that occurs when mites burrow underneath the surface and lay eggs — that apparently originated in the hotel’s sheets.

Despite the mysterious rashes, the Bulldogs posted solid performances at the Long Beach Classic. The women, led by Lederman’s meet record vault of 3.80 meters and a win by Katherine Dlesk ’07 in the 400-meter hurdles, placed third with 121 points. A familiar foe stood alone in first. Cornell, which won Saturday with 181 points, repeated as indoor league champions at Heps just a few weeks earlier, one spot ahead of the Elis.

The Bulldogs’ third star, Joslyn Woodard ’06, finished second in both the long jump (5.74 meters) and the 200-meter dash (24.89 seconds). Olakitan Awolesi ’08 took second in the triple jump with a 11.63-meter effort. And Erica Davis ’07, a center on the basketball team, joined the team for the first time all year to finish second in both the discus (43.52 meters) and the shot put (13.76 meters).

The men, who competed without a distance corps that raced at Occidental College the day before, finished fourth overall at the Classic with 76 points. The host, Long Beach State, cruised to a win with 132 points.

Several Elis turned in stellar performances. Dan O’Brien ’08 won the 110-meter hurdles in convincing fashion. His time of 14.35 seconds was surprisingly fast for a spring debut. The 4 x 100 team won in 41.82 seconds. Kevin Alexander ’06, who ended the indoor season by setting a school record in the 400 with a time of 47.43 seconds at the IC4A Championships in Boston, anchored the 4 x 100 relay and then joined the 4 x 400 group, which also won in 3:13.85. That time put the quartet three seconds ahead of their pace from this time last year.

Jake Gallagher ’08, who finished third in the 1,500-meter run at Occidental, said the team returned home feeling good about the way break had gone.

“We fared OK,” he said. “Everyone was bruised and battered from training. It was a good way to kick off the season.”