The men’s and women’s cross country teams turned in less than stellar performances at the Heps and Regional Championships this year, but runners on both squads said they were proud to close the curtain on their seasons with their Nov. 17 finale at Van Cortlandt Park.

The men’s team finished sixth out of 15 teams at the IC4A Championships in the Bronx, and the women’s team garnered a fifth-place finish out of 12 teams at the ECAC Championship, held on the same course.

Women’s captain Lindsay Donaldson ’08 was the sole Eli to travel to Terre Haute, Ind., for individual action at the NCAA Championship, where she earned her sixth All-American honor with a 38th-place finish. She currently holds a Yale record, with two top-ten finishes at nationals, where she placed sixth in 2004 and third in 2006.

The Eli men ran the course in New York without three of their top four finishers — Jake Gallagher ’09, Chris Labosky ’10 and Johnny Van Deventer ’11 — which gave the younger runners a chance to compete against stiffer competition, head coach Dan Ireland said.

“Some of [the younger runners] think if they are running as number eight, their finish doesn’t matter,” he said. “This race allowed them to perform under pressure because they knew they had to be a top-five scorer, so they approached it differently.”

Jared Bell ’09 led the Eli pack in the 8,000-meter course, improving his individual best on the course by 20 seconds.

Bell placed sixth individually, with a time of 25:26, despite Achilles tendonitis that hounded him during his sophomore season and was a roadblock as he began training for this year.

“It was definitely a struggle to find a balance between training hard and not hurting myself,” he said. “I was expected to be a leader this year, but my injury last year prevented me from training at the right level, so I really had to forget about how my body felt and get my mind under control.”

Bell said this balance between training and fear of injury was a psychological hurdle, preventing him from performing at his maximum capacity this season.

“I was pretty surprised with my finish at this race,” Bell said. “I had been disappointed with the two previous races, but my mindset was right for this race. Coach Ireland had told me to just have fun and not put as much pressure on myself.”

Murat Kayali ’09 and captain Tadhg O’Callaghan ’08 followed Bell in the race, finishing in 21st and 40th places, respectively. The scoring was completed by Maxwell Brown ’10 (41st, 26:02) and Max Walden ’11 (79th, 26:35), who recorded their first finishes in the Bulldog’s top five this season.

“We really wanted to end the season on a good note,” Ireland said. “That is why we go back to this race every year. It is a course we are familiar with, and the confidence we gained will springboard us into next year’s season.”

The women were also in action at Van Cortlandt Park for the ECACs, a race in which they have not finished worse than sixth in the past four years.

Ingrid Sproll ’08 led the Elis with her 17th-place finish, in 18:29 — her fastest time ever on the course. Kelli Buck ’09 and Meredith Leenhouts ’08 followed her in 23rd and 31st places, respectively, and Elizabeth Calle ’08 and Kathryn Schleckser ’09 rounded out the Eli pack.

“I wanted one last chance to compete in uniform,” Sproll said. “This was a course we run a lot, so it’s like a tradition, and I try to make the most of every opportunity I have to run for Yale.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will have over a month to rest and train in preparation for the upcoming indoor track-and-field season. Although the official indoor season starts on Dec. 8 at Coxe Cage, the cross country Bulldogs won’t begin contributing to the team’s efforts until early January so they have sufficient time to train for their individual indoor events.