Whitman finishes 25th at national cross country event in Cleveland

Yasmeen Colis and Sara McCune lead the Missionaries effort at the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships.

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CLEVELAND — Seniors Yasmeen Colis and Sara McCune led the Whitman College women’s team to a 25th-place finish at the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships here Saturday morning.


Colis finished the 6,000-meter course in 23:34.5, placing 97th among 279 finishers. McCune was 111th in 23:41.7.


Rounding out Whitman’s top five (team score) were junior Kristen Ballinger (133rd, 23:52.2), senior Michela Corcorran (170th, 24:12.8) and senior Heather O’Moore (216th, 24:46.4).


Others running for Whitman were senior Emily Rodriguez (231st, 25:03.3) and first-year Missionary Emilie Gilbert (234rd, 25:07.3).


"This field of runners was very, very strong," Whitman coach Malcolm Dunn said.


"This was one of the tightest and deepest fields I’ve ever seen at a national championship event. It came down to a matter of just a few seconds for every place and every team point."


Colis ran a "very good and a very smart race" to pace the Missionaries, Dunn said. "Yasmeen got herself into a good position early in the race and then held onto that position over the second half of the course."


Both McCune and Ballinger also ran "good, solid races," Dunn added. "Kristen struggled a little on the hills during the second half of the course, but she did a good job holding onto her form."


Dunn gave his Missionary "race of the day" honors to Corcorran, who shook off ongoing flu symptoms to finish fourth among the Whitman runners.


"Michela was really sick with the flu on Thursday, our travel day, and again on Friday. We weren’t sure she would be able to run today, but she had a great race considering how she was feeling. I’m tremendously proud of her."


O’Moore, who finished fifth for the Missionaries, had trouble getting into a good position early in the race, Dunn said. "That was partly because of the foot problem she’s been dealing with, but Heather gutted it out and passed a number of runners on the final stretch."


Rodriguez and Gilbert "finished within a couple of seconds of one another and also ran well," Dunn said.


The Whitman women’s team was ranked No. 25 going into Saturday’s race. "We matched our national ranking, and I think we ran well to do that, especially given some of the health issues we’ve had," Dunn said.


By placing second a week earlier at the NCAA West Region meet, the Whitman women qualified as a team for the championships for the first time since Whitman completed its transition to the NCAA in the late 1990s.


Wisconsin-Eau Claire won Saturday’s national championship with 171 place points for its top five.


"This was a very, very challenging championship course," Dunn said. "It was quite soft, even spongy in spots, and very muddy in other spots. It was a rolling course with a few big climbs and good descents. There was a lot of movement on the course."


Wendy Pavlus, a junior at St. Lawrence, took top individual honors on Saturday, placing first in 21:28.0.

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