WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Whitman College women’s cross country team, which has won its last two invitational meets, has started crawling up the NCAA Div. III national rankings.

The Whitman women's team, a young squad led by three sophomores, is ranked third in the West Region and No. 32 nationally, according to polls released this week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Whitman was listed in a tie for 35th in the national preseason poll.

Amherst College, the runner-up at last year's NCAA Div. III national championships, continues to lead the women's national poll. Willamette University, the defending Northwest Conference champion, is ranked No. 11 with the University of Puget Sound at No. 20.

In the women's West Region poll, it's Willamette on top with Puget Sound second and Whitman third.

The Whitman men's team is not listed in the national ranks, but the Missionaries are No. 9 in the latest west region poll.

The Missionary women's squad opened the season by placing second to NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State at the annual Whitman Invitational in early September. Whitman then scored decisive team victories against several schools at both the Lewis & Clark Invitational and Wes Cook Bear Fete Invitational.

Sophomores Sara McCune, Yasmeen Colis and Michela Corcorran have paced Whitman in each of the three races. Sophomore Emily Rodriguez, senior Lisa Taylor and first-year runner Chelsea Momany have also been part of the team scoring for the Missionaries.

The Whitman men's team made its best showing in a field of nine schools at the Lewis & Clark Invitational, placing third and missing second by just four team points. Senior Brian Woods, freshman Sam Hennessy, sophomore Matthew Kelly and junior Ian Bell have running as the top four Missionaries. Freshman Daniel Luecke and senior Tim Marrinan have been filling the fifth spot in the Whitman team scoring.

The next competition for the Whitman teams is the Pacific Lutheran Invitational, slated for Saturday, Oct. 6, in Tacoma, Wash., on the PLU golf course.