WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Placing three runners in the top 12 and five in the first 16, the Whitman College women's cross country team ran a strong second at the annual season-opening Whitman Invitational Saturday morning at Fort Walla Walla Park.

Sophomores Sara McCune and Yasmeen Colis led the way for the Missionaries, placing fourth and seventh, respectively, with times of 15:40.92 and 15:58.84 for the 4,000-meter course. Lewis-Clark State, a nationally-ranked NAIA school, was first in the women's team scoring with 27 place points. Whitman was second with 46 points, beating two Northwest Conference rivals, Whitworth (66) and George Fox (91).

In the men's 6,000 meters, freshman Sam Hennessey finished 10th in 20:24.88 to pace Whitman. Juniors Sam Bell and Brian Woods were 15th and 20th, respectively, in times of 20:32.99 and 20:49.97. The Missionary men were fourth in the team scoring, trailing Lewis-Clark State (22), Whitworth (49) and George Fox (74) but beating Clackamas Community College (130).

"Both the women's and men's teams at Lewis-Clark State are nationally ranked, so to see the Whitman women finish a relatively close second was encouraging," Whitman coach Malcolm Dunn said. "Our women also beat Whitworth and George Fox pretty soundly, and we lost to those teams at the conference championships last year. Our first five runners all finished ahead of the third runner for both Whitworth and George Fox."

McCune, who had the day's best time among the NWC women, ran a "very smart race," Dunn said. "She didn't start too quickly, and then she worked off Lewis-Clark State's top two runners for most of the race. Sara lost third place to a Clackamas Community College runner at the very end, but she's starting her sophomore season in much shape than a year ago."

Colis was a "little disappointed" in her race, Dunn said, but "once she gets a few more races under her belt, she's going to be fine."

Michela Corcorran, another sophomore, ran third for Whitman, placing 12th overall in 16:18.14. "She was running today on tired legs, but she's going to get stronger as well over the next few weeks."

Sophomore Emily Rodriguez and senior captain Lisa Taylor rounded out Whitman's team score. Rodriguez finished 15th in 16:23.64, just ahead of Taylor and her 16:24.87 time. "It was great to see Emily break into our top five," Dunn said. "She was a good runner last year, but she worked so hard over the winter, spring and summer months. Both Emily and Lisa are much stronger runners than they were a year ago."

Dunn was just as pleased with his men's squad. "We're still a very young team on the men's side, so that was a good showing for us today," he said. "We're only going to get better as the season goes along."

Hennessey, who had the fourth-best time among the NWC men, had a "great race," Dunn said. "He started in a good spot and steadily ran his race. He's a strong runner, and it will benefit him when we go to the standard 8,000-meter races."

Bell, who missed his sophomore season while studying off campus, ran "right in the middle of a large pack of conference runners," Dunn said. "It was good to Ian in there competing."

Woods, a senior captain and Whitman's top runner at the conference meet in each of the past two seasons, was "only about 25 seconds behind our best runner today," Dunn said. "Brian is one of those runners who gets stronger and faster with each week of the season."

Sophomore Matthew Kelly and freshman Daniel Luecke ran fourth and fifth for Whitman to round out the team score. Kelly was 26th in 21:16.60, one spot in front of Luecke and his 21:17.25 clocking. "Both of those guys had a strong finish," Dunn said.

Tim Marrinan, another senior captain, and freshman Colin Livingston were not far behind. Marrinan was 30th in 21:22.88 and Livingston 33rd in 21:29.46. "Tim moved up throughout the race, and he's another runner who will get stronger," Dunn said. "Colin had an off day, but he will definitely finish higher as he gets a few more weeks of college running under his belt."

Nick Littman, a Whitman junior still bouncing back from a summer injury, finished 37th in 21:51.25. "It's going to be a few more weeks before Nick will be back running the way he can," Dunn said.

Next in line for the Missionaries were sophomore Curtis Reid, 43rd, 22:14.85; freshman John Callow, 44th, 22:19.18; and freshman Terrence Reid, 49th, 22:44.03. "Like Nick, Curtis and John need a few more weeks before they'll be really ready to run," Dunn said. "It'll be interesting also to see what more training will do for Terrence."

Others running for Whitman were junior Marty Skeels, 53rd, 23:22.92; senior Robert Marcotte, 57th, 24:24.26; freshman Arnaud Sillis, 61st, 27:15.79; and freshman Sam Nortz, 62nd, 29:14.61.

In the women's race, first-year runners Lydia Ngai and Chelsea Momany had the sixth- and seventh-best times for Whitman. Ngai was 28th overall in 16:48.21 while Momany was 29th in 16:51.49. "Both Lydia and Chelsea will benefit when he go to the standard 6,000 meters for the women's races," Dunn said. "They were only about 20 seconds out of our top five."

Sophomores Heather O'Moore (32nd, 17:01.94) and Amy Chapman (34th, 17:08.61), along with first-year runner Janna Rozar (37th, 17:12.62), filled out Whitman's top 10. "Heather and Amy should get stronger, and I think Janna has a good upside as well," Dunn said.

Also running for the Whitman women were two first-year runners Kayla Chory (41st, 17:38.07) and Natalie Fowler (49th, 18:38.43), and first-year senior Rachel Carroll (51st, 20:08.78).

Whitman returns to action next Saturday at the Lewis & Clark Invitational at McIver Park near Estacade, Ore.