SALEM - With Emilie Gilbert placing ninth in a field of 175 runners, the Whitman College women's cross country team placed a strong seventh among 16 schools representing all three NCAA levels here at Saturday morning's Cha
rles Bowles Invitational.
Chico State, an NCAA Division II school, claimed three of the top five individual spots in the 5,000-meter race and was first in the team scoring with 43 place points.
Two Division I schools, Santa Clara and Portland, finished second and third, respectively, with 72 and 85 points.
Lewis & Clark, the only Division III school to outrun Whitman, was fourth with 125 points.
Two more Division II schools, Cal Baptist (174) and Seattle Pacific (175), finished just ahead of Whitman and its 193 point total.
"This is the first time we've run against Lewis & Clark this season," Whitman coach Scott Shields said. "Their top two runners are very fast, but depth is our strong point.
"We've got a month left before our conference championships, and we'll just continue to work at getting faster. We have at least four runners chasing our top four. That kind of depth is great to have."
Gilbert finished the course, which was 1,000 meters less than what the women typically run, in 18:19.42. She finished less than four seconds out of fifth place.
Gilbert's performance was a notable improvement over her first two trips to the Charles Bowles Invitational, when she placed 65th and 74th.
Her twin sister, Katri Gilbert, also posted a striking improvement in Saturday's race, finishing 36th in 18:40.58.
That compares to a year ago when she placed 193rd among 257 runners in the same event.
She finished 110th two years ago, when the race attracted 203 competitors.
"Emilie ran another great race today, and her sister Katri continues to be a very strong No. 2 for us," Shields said.
Two first-year runners, Caitlin Iglehart and Erin Campbell, ran third and fourth for Whitman in Saturday's race.
Iglehart was 42nd overall in 18:47.40 while Campbell was 59th in 19:00.71.
"Caitlin had the better race today," Shields said. "She ran hard out of the gate and beat most of the field to one part of the course that creates an early bottleneck.
"Erin wasn't nearly as happy with her race, but I told her that if this is her worst race of the season, I'll take it."
Senior Mollee Huisinga capped Whitman's team score, placing 67th in 19:10.66. Huisinga finished 171st in the same race last year.
"Mollee is very determined to hold onto the No. 5 spot on her team, but she has lots of competition," Shields said. "I don't think any team in the conference has the kind of depth that we do."
Kelly Jensen paced Whitman's second five in Saturday's race, running to a 74th-place showing in 19:17.67. Jensen placed 160th in last year's race.
Rounding out that second five were Skye Pauly (80th, 19:24.04), Jennifer Farley (81st, 19:24.42), Shannon McCarty (91st, 19:38.24) and first-year runner Meghan Malloy (119th, 20:09.55).
Also running for Whitman were Lori Mendelsohn (120th, 20:11.03), first-year racer Chelan Pauly (122nd, 20:14.86), Eliza Vistica (128th, 20:19.66) and Lauren Davis (133rd, 20:32.68).
Whitman, ranked No. 35 in last week's NCAA Division III poll, outran five other Northwest Conference schools in Saturday's race.