Splitting the teams to compete in two separate meets last week focused the attention of the men and women’s track and field teams on their individual events, and three Bulldog runners transformed that attention into standout performances over the weekend.

The women’s team fell to Ivy League rivals Penn and Princeton in Philadelphia on Saturday, coming in third with 39 points, following Penn’s 79 and Princeton’s 84. The men’s team was also in action in Pennsylvania, competing in the un-scored Bison Outdoor Classic at Bucknell University.

But the spotlight was diverted to the individuals as Kate Grace ’11, Jared Bell ’09 and Jake Gallagher ’09 all earned tickets to the NCAA regional championships.

Grace spearheaded the Eli women’s effort with her performance in the 800-meter run. The freshman’s time of 2:06.32 edged out the time of 2:06.45 by Penn’s Jesse Carlin, an All-American and Heps champion.

“As a freshman, I am not really familiar with who the best athletes are in the Ivy League,” Grace said. “Supposedly the girl I ran against was the one to beat, so it was really fun finding that out afterwards.”

Jennifer Parker ’11 said she watched from the sidelines as her fellow freshman forged ahead of Carlin in the last 100 meters.

“It was so exciting to watch her do something like that,” Parker said. “It definitely motivates me because she is setting the tone.”

Not only does this win distinguish Grace as an up-and-coming threat in the Ancient Eight, but it also scores her an abundance of qualifying times.

Grace will be in action at both the ECAC Championships and NCAA regional championships, since their standard qualifying times in the 800-meter are set at 2:11.44 and 2:09.80, respectively. And she could potentially compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team with her notable performance. Her 2:06 time places her under the “B” standard, a performance level that will be tapped to join the 30 women seeking to be part of the Olympic team if not enough runners qualify for the “A” standard of 2:01.50.

Grace now sits at the No. 2 spot on Yale’s all-time indoor list and is atop a number of other rankings — first in the conference, second in the region and sixth in the nation.

“It was kind of a perfect race,” she said. “Qualifying for those things was just icing on the cake.”

The men’s team also saw runners achieve personal bests this weekend with impressive performances by the duo of Bell and Gallagher in the 1,500-meter run at the invitational. Although American’s Steve Hallinan (3:44.28) took the top prize in the event, Bell and Gallagher’s times of 3:44.69 and 3:46.84, respectively, earned them second- and third-place finishes and an invitation to the NCAA East-Regional Championship at the end of May.

Bell and Gallagher are the first Eli men to gain a spot to the regional championship this season, and they landed on Yale’s all-time list at Nos. 2 and 5 respectively.

“I think this season, Jared and I haven’t struggled that much with injuries,” Gallagher said of the duo’s improvement. “Everything was lining up right, and we were due for a good one.”

The record-smashing runners, however, were not the only athletes to contribute to the teams’ efforts this weekend.

On the women’s side, Parker ran for a first-place finish in the 200-meter dash, and Eve King ’11 won the high jump. Lindsay Donaldson ’08 also banked points by earning second place in the 3,000-meter run, and the 4×400 and 4×100 relay teams both finished second as well.

Another noteworthy performance for the Eli men came from Victor Cheng ’08 in the 100-meter dash. His time of 10.59 seconds earned him a second-place finish and broke the Yale record. However, his time cannot be counted as the record because the wind speed surpassed that allowed by regulations.

The field events saw top finishes from Reynolds Holmes ’10 in the long jump and Jeffrey Lachman ’09 in the discus throw. Nathan Noll ’09 fell behind Lachman to earn second in the event.

The men’s relay team nearly earned an IC4A qualifying time for its win in the 4×400-meter relay.

Returning home to New Haven next weekend, both the men and women’s teams will attempt to use their home advantage to defeat Harvard in an Ivy League throwdown – their first and last Ivy match before Heps next month.