Ivy League competition is still a week away, but a few of the women’s track stars already have their eyes on the national stage.

While captain Molly Lederman ’06 and Joslyn Woodard ’06 competed against the country’s best in the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, the rest of the team traveled to Princeton for the Sam Howell Invitational. There, Lindsay Donaldson ’08 finished third in the 5K to qualify for the NCAA Regional Championships in late May and Katrina Castille ’07 won two events in Woodard’s absence in Princeton. Lederman took third overall in the pole vault in Texas.

Lederman and Woodard were invited to Austin to join the nation’s top high school, collegiate and professional athletes. Competing against the fastest and strongest in the country, each got a taste of the national scene that can sometimes be missed in Ivy League competition.

Lederman vaulted an outdoor personal record of 4.05 meters Saturday to claim third place overall. She competed at Outdoor Nationals last season, and this weekend’s performance may be a precursor to several more appearances among America’s elite before season’s end.

“I was pretty pleased with my performance in Texas,” Lederman said. “It was great to have the opportunity to compete against some different schools and to be a part of such a big and exciting meet.”

Woodard took part in two events, the 100-meter dash and the long jump. She ran the 100 in 12.19 seconds, finishing 56th out of 76. Then, in the long jump, Woodard leapt 5.92 meters to finish seventh within the B division. Both performances were her best so far in the young outdoor season.

While Lederman and Woodard traveled to the sunny Lone Star State, the rest of the Bulldogs met a slightly lower profile field in soggy New Jersey. Despite the weather, several athletes put on their best performances of the season.

Castille led the way. Often forced to compete alongside the consistently exceptional Woodard, Castille took advantage of her time in the spotlight. She won the 100- and 200-meter dashes in 12.35 and 25.60 seconds, respectively.

Also capitalizing on the absence of her event’s typical headliner, pole vaulter Ashley Nolet ’07 cleared a height of 3.65 meters to place second overall. In recent weeks she has emerged as a solid compliment to Lederman, the league’s reigning champion.

Erica Davis ’07 joined Castille in the winners’ circle. She took the discus, her bread-and-butter event, with a spinning heave of 46.26 meters, a full meter and a half better than any throw of her career. Davis then turned in a third-place finish in the shot put, a result of a personal and school record toss of 13.89 meters.

Davis said she has begun to appreciate the shot put more and more as her success builds.

“I think I’ve always liked discus better,” she said. “I think it’s because I’m more consistent in discus. You always enjoy something more when you’re doing well with it.”

Doing well may be an understatement. Saturday marked the second time in the past three meets that Davis has broken the school shot put record.

Fellow thrower Margo Angelopoulos ’06, who has watched Davis progression over the past three years and especially in the last month, said Davis is in great athletic after running up and down the hardwood all winter.

“Shes been doing great,” Angelopoulos said. “I’ve got to attribute that to the athletic shape shes in from basketball.”

Before the rest of the meet got going, a handful of distance runners hit Princeton’s track on Friday. Donaldson headlined the Elis’ early showing. In finishing third in the 5K in 16:36.00, she met the qualifying time for Regional Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Last year, Donaldson finished seventh at Regionals, then advanced to Nationals and placed sixth to earn All-American honors.

Saturday’s invitationals marked the end of the early season. Next weekend the squad will commence league competition, hosting Penn and Princeton. Heptagonal Championships, the league championships, are less than a month away.

With the move to team scoring, athletes will have to contribute in new events under different circumstances. Lederman said the team is prepared to adjust smoothly.

“I think our team is ready for some Ivy League competition,” she said. “We’ve had the chance to compete in invitationals these past few weekends, and I think we’re geared up to transition to a team-oriented mentality and effort.”

Davis, who did not compete in the winter while she started on the basketball team, said she is ready for her first Ivy League meet in almost 11 months.

“There’s always that extra edge of competing against league competition,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”