In an odd twist, the Yale cross country team’s drive to Friday’s venue was only a little longer than the time they spent running the course.

The Elis trekked over to Hamden for a quick tune-up for the tournament season and before their slightly longer jaunt to Maine next week for the Keatinge Invitational at the University of Maine-Murray. Their Hamden hosts, Quinnipiac University, protected their home field with dominating first-place finishes in both the men’s and women’s divisions of the invitational. But that dominance comes with an asterisk.

The top Bulldog runners did not take part in the meet, which the team mainly used as an opportunity for some of the younger members to get experience running at a college meet. On the other hand, Quinnipiac and the three other schools all trotted out their best. Team members said Quinnipiac is a good team, but that the Bulldogs still expected to beat the other schools.

“These meets give some of the younger runners a chance to compete in more college level meets which can only help come Ivy League season,” Kelli Buck ’09 said.

Despite their youth, the women’s team placed five runners in the top 15, led by Allyson Rinderle’s ’10 fifth-place finish with a time of 19:02.9. Elizabeth Calle ’08 and Meredith Leenhouts ’08 aided the Bulldog cause with strong runs of 19:22.0 and 19:31.5, which were good enough for 10th and 12th overall. The top five Bulldogs ran as a pack, all finishing within 40 seconds of one another.

But that wasn’t enough, as Quinnipiac swept the podium with the top four finishers. The Bulldogs still easily ran past Rhode Island, Northeastern and Hartford to take second place in the meet. Their score of 56 put them 40 points behind Quinnipiac, but still an impressive 20 points ahead of their nearest competitor, Northeastern.

The men’s team suffered a similar fate as they too took a backseat to Quinnipiac. Matthew Bogdan ’11 and Kevin Brown ’10 paced the Bulldogs with times of 27:28.6 and 27:51.5, placing eighth and 13th overall. Quinnipiac took five of the top six slots, and a Quinnipiac alumnus won the event by an astounding 30 seconds. The young Bulldog contingent, consisting mainly of freshmen and sophomores, turned in a strong team performance, with all six finishing within 90 seconds of each other. Yale finished with 69 points, narrowly edging out URI but still lagging 47 points behind Quinnipiac.

While some were disappointed with their individual placing, things were kept in perspective.

“It’s only the second meet, and it’s still really early in the season, said Bryce Scanlan ’10. “Our ultimate goal is doing well in the Heptagonal Championships at the end of the season, and we usually train through the early meets.”

The practice sessions are intensifying as the Yalies increase their mileage and hone their bodies for the real trophy, the Heptagonal Championships on October 26.

“The talent on this team is almost limitless, and we have the potential to do some really big things come championship season,” Kevin Brown ’10 said.