The members of the Yale women’s cross country team laced up their spikes on Saturday for the first meet of the season in Fairfield, Conn., at the Fairfield Invitational.

In the Invitational, the top five members on each team score points according to what place they finished in, with the objective of having the lowest score. The sixth and seventh members can also count to take places away from finishing members of the other teams.

Stephanie Pearl ’10 was the top finisher for the Bulldogs. Her strong third place finish in 18:57 minutes helped the Bulldogs to a second place finish overall with 34 points — only six behind the strong team from UConn, which finished with 28. The two teams battled throughout the hilly 3.1 mile course, with the Yale women matching UConn with four finishes in the top 10 but just barely failing to edge them out.

“Having UConn at the race … is a pretty good indicator for the rest of the season,” Pearl said.

Competition at the Invite, the first of the season for the Elis, came against six other teams from the region: UConn, New Haven, UMass-Amherst, Bridgeport and Siena. Although they expect to see stronger competition later in the season, Yale’s strongest threats on Saturday came from UConn and UMass, but the race came down to a battle for points between the Bulldogs and the Huskies, with the UMass Minutewomen coming in third with 62 points.

“We are quite satisfied with our result today as it is our first meet,” said Mark Young, the director of cross country, according to the Athletics Department. “We have much improving to do, but what we saw today gives us good reason to think that that can happen.”

There was also a strong showing from the new members of Yale’s team, with rookie Elizabeth Marvin ’13 finishing fourth with a time of 19:08. Rounding out the top five finishers for Yale were Anne Lovelace ’12 in sixth with a time of 19:19, captain Stephany Reaves ’10 right behind in seventh with a time of 19:20, and Jennifer Downing ’12 in 15th with a time of 19:35. Nihal Kayali ’13 and Victoria Flannery ’13 filled the sixth and seventh spots with times of 19:38 and 20:12, respectively.

As veteran Pearl put it, this first race of the season was especially meaningful for freshmen who donned the Yale uniform for the first time but was also bittersweet for senior members racing their “last-first” cross country race.

Up next is the Iona Invitation at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on Saturday. This historically challenging 6k course will test the depth of the team because a normal course is only 5k, giving the strong underclassmen a chance to show their talent.

“It’s one of the harder ones we run … and the back hills are really steep,” Pearl said.

With the possibility that the Ivy Championships might be held at the park later in the season, this will be an excellent opportunity to gain familiarity with the course.

“I’m really excited about the season and what we can do,” Pearl added.