SEATTLE - Enjoying what coach Scott Shields called a "wonderful day," the Whitman College women's cross country team ran to a second-place finish among 17 schools in the 6,000-meter open race at the Sundodger Invitational at Seattle's Lincoln Park.
Led by twin sisters Emilie and Katri Gilbert, who placed sixth and 12th individually, Whitman took second with 110 place points for its top five finishers.
The University of British Columbia won the team scoring with 47 points. Rounding out the top five were Western Washington University 141, San Francisco State 144, and Linfield 178.
Whitman and Linfield were two of six Northwest Conference schools with teams in the race. The others were Whitworth 8th, 222; Puget Sound 12th, 315; Pacific Lutheran 14th, 339; and George Fox 16th, 363.
"We're thrilled with how the women's team ran today," Shields said. "We placed well both as a team and as individuals, and for the most part, our runners felt strong at the end. That's always a good sign."
A year ago, competing in the same race, Whitman was seventh among 17 schools with Emilie Gilbert clocking the best individual performance (23rd).
Gilbert, now a junior, was the top NWC finisher in Saturday's open race, taking sixth in 22:20.79. Sister Katri posted the second-best NWC time, finishing in 22:34.19 for 12th place.
"Both Emilie and Katri ran strong, smart races," Shields said. "This is a fast course, but they didn't go out too fast. What they both did was pass a lot of runners in the last 800 meters.
"This is early in the season, but Emilie looks like she's ready to excel. Katri has been a bit of surprise so far, but she won't be a surprise any more. She's a very good No. 2 for us right now."
First-year runners Erin Campbell and Caitlin Iglehart also ran well for Whitman, placing 27th (22:56.23) and 30th (22:59.67), respectively. Senior Mollee Huisinga rounded out the Missionary team scoring, placing 52nd in 23:36.40.
"Erin and Caitlin might be first-year runners, but they also kept their heads and ran smart races," Shields said. "This was their first big college meet and they handled it well. If they continue to run and compete this well, we're going to be in great shape."
Shields was just as pleased to see Huisinga, one of his seniors, run a strong race and fill Whitman's fifth spot.
"That fifth spot is important for the team score. Mollee has become more serious about her training the past few years, and it really shows. We have tremendous depth with Mollee and several others in our second five."
There were a total of 187 runners in the race, which was won by UBC's Maria Bernard in 21:41.00. Trinity Western's Alison Jackson was second in 21:59.48.
Whitman runners who didn't race today will compete next Saturday at the Erik Anderson Invitational in Spokane. Another race follows on Oct. 1, in Salem, Ore.