First place in the annual Heptagonal Championships is quite an accomplishment, and after this weekend, Yale’s Lindsay Donaldson ’08 can check it off of her list of things to do before graduating.

With competitors from every Ivy League school lined up at the starting line on Friday for the Heptagonal Race at Van Cortlandt Park in New York, N.Y., both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams finished fourth overall. Unsatisfied with placing behind conference rivals, the teams are now even more motivated to beat them in the upcoming NCAA Regionals.

“This was obviously a big meet for us, so going into the weekend we were hoping to place and compete really well against the tougher teams in the Ivy League like Columbia and Princeton,” Donaldson said. “This race, more than the rest, was very team-oriented in an intense kind of way because it is all about your pride in the Ivy League.”

Donaldson greatly contributed to the women’s team’s success with her first place finish (17:05.4). Other top finishers were Ashley Campbell ’07 in 17th (18:05.3), Allyson Rinderle ’10 in 19th (18:08.4) and Katherine McKinstry ’07 in 21st (18:12.7). Closing out the top five was Bevin Peters ’09, who placed 37th with a time of 18:39.2.

Eli runners said collaborating as a team in training helped to prepare for this weekend’s race.

“You see how hard [your teammates] are working because we have been training together all year long,” Peters said. “We will all share the same amount of the reward if we all push ourselves.”

Each runner felt the pressure to succeed from her teammates, Donaldson said, and worked that much harder in order to lead the Elis to their top-five finish.

“Just seeing how hard all of your teammates work is inspiration to do your best in the race,” Donaldson said. “You know that everyone else is working as hard as you, and you want to give them your best to help the team achieve its goal.”

The men’s cross country team improved from last year’s seventh-place showing to mirror the women’s team’s fourth-place overall standing. Leading the pack of Bulldogs was Jake Gallegher ’09 with a 10th place finish and a time of 24:59.5. Following closely behind was Murat Kayali ’09, who finished in 15th with a time of 25:12. Rounding out the top five for Yale were Tadhg O’Callaghan ’08 in 26th (25:20), David Napper ’07 in 31st (25:23.1) and Brian Gertzen ’07 in 34th (25:26.6). The solid showing at Heps gives the men’s team momentum as it heads into the upcoming Regional competition.

“We weren’t really performing as well as we were training, but this past weekend just went to show how well we can do when we’re at our best,” Andrew Pitts ’07 said. “We will still be able to reap the benefits of our hard training and hard work that we have put in over the past few months at Regionals.”

Pitts said the men’s cross country runners built upon each other’s strenuous efforts throughout the race to push the team.

“You feel this force when you are running together during a race,” Pitts said. “That [force] acts like a snowball rolling down a hill, because you gain momentum throughout the race when you are together, and at the end of the race you just want to pick off guys.”

Whatever forces were at work this past weekend, a first-place individual finish on the women’s team and an overall fourth-place finish for both teams are impressive, but they also leave room for improvement in the upcoming Regionals.