WALLA WALLA — Malcolm Dunn, the men’s cross country coach at Whitman College, predicted that his freshman class could surprise some opponents this fall, and on Saturday freshman Alfredo Villasenor made his coach look like a soothsayer.
Running a time of 19:59.79, Villasenor finished 10th in the men’s 6,000 meters at the annual Whitman Invitational at Fort Walla Walla Park.
In a race dominated by Lewis-Clark State and the University of Great Falls, Villasenor outran all but one runner from Whitworth University, one of Whitman’s Northwest Conference rivals. Nicholas Gallagher ran to an eighth-place showing for the Pirates.
Two juniors, Sam Hennessey and Dan Luecke, were second in line for Whitman, finishing 17th and 18th, respectively, in times of 20:16.41 and 20:17.36.
Hugh Parker, another member of the touted freshman class, was 22nd overall in a time of 20:29.21, while senior captain Matthew Kelly rounded out Whitman’s team score in 26th place in 20:40.90.
Saturday’s competition was the first of the season for Whitman, and Kelly ran more of a workout than an actual race, Dunn said. Curtis Reid, Whitman’s other senior captain, did not run at all, which in all likelihood undercut the Missionary team score a bit more.
"If you look at the scoring it’s really deceptive," Dunn said. "I think if things had gone just right we really could have been right up with Whitworth, which is pretty exciting."
The Whitworth men, the defending NWC champs, are ranked No. 22 nationally to start the NCAA Division III season.
"We were expecting our men’s team to be stronger than last year, and they looked even stronger than we expected," Dunn said.
Lewis-Clark State dominated Saturday’s race, placing its first five runners in the top nine spots. Dan Marks won the race in 19:07.38., beating his nearest challenger by 20 seconds.