If the less-experienced and rookie runners are any indication of the overall strength of the teams, both men’s and women’s cross country are poised to exceed expectations at Pre-Nationals this upcoming weekend.

Without the aid of the majority of their top runners, the women placed eighth and the men finished 13th at the New England Championships on Saturday. Since this meet has little bearing on qualifying for nationals, the Elis’ top runners took the weekend off and gave the rookies a chance to shine. Both the women’s and men’s teams showed significant improvement from last year, when they placed 15th and 20th, respectively.

On the men’s side, Yale placed 13th out of 45 teams with 354 points. Although they were no match for the top team from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, which tallied a mere 76 points, nearly all of the Elis placed in the top 100 out of a field of over 300 runners.

Andrew Samuel ’09 took the top Eli spot with a 47th-place finish in 25:33 on the 8K course. Close on his heels were Eric Kerchberger ’08 and Brian Hanak ’07, who finished with times of 25:38 and 25:45, respectively. Rounding out the top five were Rolando Garcia ’09 (26:00) and Chris Labosky ’10 (26:03).

All of the Elis who ran last weekend showed considerable improvement in their times since the previous race. Although none of the men who ran this weekend will be competing at Pre-Nationals, their performances are indicative of the overall improvement of the team, Andrew Pitts ’07 said. The upperclassmen hope to prove that the trend of improvement exhibited by the underclassmen extends to the rest of the team.

“We are looking to do the same at pre-nationals, because we will be well rested,” Pitts said.

The team will not train as rigorously this week in order to perform at their maximum on Saturday.

The women’s team, with mostly freshmen runners competing, earned eighth place overall with 265 points, 149 points behind top finisher Boston University. The Elis also finished ahead of Ivy League rivals Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard.

In only her second cross country race, rookie Allyson Rinderle ’10 led the way for the Bulldogs, finishing 17th in an impressive time of 18:11. Stephanie Pearl ’10 placed second for the Elis in 18:29, followed by Stephany Reaves ’10 (18:53), Liz Calle ’08 (19:02), and Alexandra Cadicamo ’10 (19:02).

The biggest challenge the Elis had to overcome was the narrow course, which made the start especially difficult because of the number of runners competing.

“[We had to] stay focused and get out at the start as fast as possible,” Cadicamo said.

With freshman runners accounting for four of the top five times, the future looks bright for the squad and, overall, the Bulldogs were pleased with the performance.

“As a team, our coach wanted us to place in the top 10,” Rinderle said.

The meet also served as preparation for Rinderle and Pearl, who will be racing at Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., this weekend.

“It was definitely good preparation for me,” Rinderle said. “It gave me some experience in a larger meet, just so I have a better idea of what it’s like to race.”

For the rest of the women’s squad, the weekend off was “both a physical and mental break,” top runner Lindsay Donaldson ’08 said. In order to qualify for Nationals, the Elis must either place first or second in the region or earn an at-large bid by beating top teams from other regions — a feat the Bulldogs hope to accomplish at Pre-Nationals this weekend.

After failing to make the cut for Nationals last year, the Elis are aiming for success this time around.

“We didn’t do as well as we hoped [last year],” Donaldson said. “This weekend we can get a chance to see where we are at this point in the season and then build from there.”