The Yale men’s and women’s cross country teams couldn’t have asked for better weather as they toed two different starting lines across two states this past Saturday. The cool breeze and clear skies early in the morning at the 15th Annual Br. John “Paddy” Doyle Iona College Meet of Champions in the historic Van Cortlandt Park in Riverdale, N.Y., were matched by the idyllic conditions at the Quinnipiac Invitation in Hamden.

The men ran 8k at both meets while the women ran at 6k at Van Cortlandt and the usual 5k distance at Quinnipiac. Due to construction, the course at Van Cortlandt was recently reconfigured, making past times hard to compare to this year’s.

The new course did not seem to pose much of a problem for the Bulldogs. The top runners on the men’s team traveled to the Bronx for the Iona Invitational where the Bulldogs placed fourth out of 23 teams with 144 points, well ahead of Ivy League Competitors Penn (seventh place, 206 points) and Harvard (14th, 419 points) and behind team champions Kent State (59 points).

“You hit the hills, and you really have to be on the ball; it’s steep … If you can keep your head on your shoulders and be strong on those hills, you can pick off a lot of people,” Conor Dooney ’12 said.

The distance, longer than most high school races, did not seem to bother Demetri Goutos ’13, who was the fifth finisher for the Bulldogs in his first collegiate race ever.

“I really didn’t know what to think going in, so I just tried to play it by ear, and I was happy with it,” Goutos said. “It was a lot longer, so it gave me more of a chance to relax at the beginning and plan out my moves.”

Top finisher for Yale, Dooney, coming back from an injury-plagued season last year, led the team with an 11th place finish in a time of 25:49.29, just 28.23 seconds behind overall top finisher Kent Finan, of the University of Cincinnati (25:21.06).

Other top finishers for Yale were Max Walden ’11 in 30th with a time of 26:17.12, Jeff Perrella ’11 in 33rd (26:20.34), Julian Sheinbaum ’12 in 36th (26:23.47) and Goutos, who finished in 45th (26:34.48). Rounding out the top seven were Matt Bogdan ’11 with a time of 26:39.25 and Kevin Brown ’10 with a time of 26:43.39.

Yale raced six men at the Quinnipiac Invitational, finishing fourth out of 11 teams with 121 points. Jake McKenzie ’12, first for the Bulldogs, came in 10th with a time of 26:37.8 on the 8k course. Sam Lynch ’12 also had a strong race, placing 18th in 27:02.3, followed by Alex Harris’10 (27:10.6).

In both races the Bulldogs ran tightly as a group, all finishing within a minute of each other – which is ideal in large races where strategy and moving as a pack can help keep from getting lost or dragged back by the competition.

“The first two miles we had six guys running together,” Matt Bogdan ’11 said. “We wanted to change our strategy this year — not separate too early, feed off each other’s energy.”

The women’s cross country team had similarly strong performances on Saturday. They placed sixth out of 21 schools at the Iona Invite, behind first and second place competitors Harvard (with 44 points) and Penn (with 62).

“There are a lot of schools at the meet that if we see them again it will be at Regionals or other invites,” captain Stephany Reaves ’10. “Our main competition and focus is on the other Ivies — Penn and Harvard both had very strong teams there.”

There was a strong showing from both newcomers and experienced runners on the 6k course with less than eight seconds separating the top five finishers. Elizabeth Marvin ’13 led the Bulldogs with a 27th place finish in 24:01.43. She was followed by Nihal Kayali ’13 (24:05.38), Reaves (24:05.92), Stephanie Pearl ’10 (24:08.58) and Anne Lovelace ’12 (24:09.59).

Reaves was very optimistic about these results, “This is exactly what we need for later in the season when we’re stronger.”

The other contingent of the women’s team finished fourth at the Quinnipiac Invitational with 129 points, falling behind a dominating home team who took the meet with 19 points. The top finishers for the Bulldogs were Jennifer Donnelly ’13 in 20th with a time of 19:28.1, Liya Assefa ’11 in 21st (19:30.5) and Phoebe Gaston ’13 in 26th (19:41.4).

“It’s a season opener very early on; we’re not pulling back yet. We’ve been training really hard this week, and we all went in feeling a little tired, not as fresh as you’d want to be before a big championship race,” Dooney said.

They should have plenty of time to recharge before the Oct. 2 dual meet against Harvard at Franklin Park in Boston where the Bulldogs will face off against their biggest rival in a traditional Ivy League battle.

“The next two weeks are really important; they are going to be tough,” Dooney said. “We lost last year, which wasn’t fun — we want to win this year.”

Reaves added, “It’s hugely important, mostly because of pride.”