WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Brian Woods and Michela Corcorran placed 16th in their respective races to pace the Whitman College cross country teams in Saturday's Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships at Willamette Mission State Park in Brooks, Ore.

Despite a bad start, the young Whitman women's team moved up two spots from a year ago, finishing fourth with 131 place points for its top five runners. The Missionaries finished just 10 points behind third-place Lewis & Clark, a team they had beaten three times during the regular season.

Competing in a men's field that was noticeably stronger than a year ago, the Whitman men's team finished sixth for a second straight year. The Missionary men totaled 153 points, trailing fifth-place George Fox by 27 points.

Willamette dominated both of Saturday's races, rolling to its seventh straight men's title and sixth consecutive women's crown.

Willamette swept the top three individual places in the men's 8,000 meters, led by Tristan Knutson-Lombardo's winning time of 25:00.34. With six runners in the top 10, the Bearcats won the team scoring with 21 points. Linfield was second with 70 points, followed by Whitworth 83, Puget Sound 85, George Fox 126, Whitman 153, Lewis & Clark 183, Pacific Lutheran 251, and Pacific 272.

Willamette's Sarah Zerzan won the women's 6,000 meters in 20:36.01, taking top honors for a second straight year. Teammate Maddie Coffman was second in 21:05.80. The Bearcat women were first in the team scoring with 39 points. Puget Sound was second with 58 points. After Lewis & Clark and Whitman, next in line were Whitworth and Pacific Luthera (tied for fifth with 140 points each), Linfield 143, George Fox 184, and Pacific 222.

Woods, a Whitman senior, moved up four spots from last year's championship race, finishing 16th in 26:01.00. That was a 28-second improvement from his time on the same course earlier this year. "Brian ran a good, strong race," Whitman coach Malcolm Dunn said. "He missed all-conference honors by just a few places."

Corcorran, a Missionary sophomore, also moved up four spots from a year ago to place 16th in 22:39.30. Her time was almost 16 seconds slower than her performance on the same course last month. "As a team, we ended up in a bad spot on the starting line, which disadvantaged us enormously," Dunn said. "We didn't get out very aggressively, and everyone in our group was in the back third of the field after 400 meters. The course is so tight in many stretches that it took real effort to get where we normally would have been."

By the end of the race, Dunn said, "many of our runners finished five to 10 spots further back than where they've been running all season. It's a testament to our team that we were able to salvage fourth place after we got off to such a bad start."

Yasmeen Colis, also a sophomore, finished right behind Corcorran in 17th place with a time of 22:42.57. Sara McCune, a third Missionary sophomore, was 21st in 23:02.96, despite tweaking a knee at one point in the race. "Michela had a great race for us," Dunn said. "She ran with Yasmeen and McCune the whole way and then was able to finish strong."

Sophomore Amy Chapman continued her late-season surge, placing 40th for Whitman in 23:37.13, beating her time on the same course earlier this year by about 49 seconds. Chelsea Momany, a first-year runner, rounded out Whitman's team score, placing 43rd in 23:42.97, dropping her time by about 23 seconds.

Others racing for Whitman were senior Lisa Taylor (48th, 23:48.90), sophomore Emily Rodriguez (52nd, 24:10.34), sophomore Heather O'Moore (53rd, 24:13.06), first-year Lydia Ngai (63rd, 25:17.35), and first-year Janna Rozar (64th, 25:21.33).

Tim Marrinan, a senior, ran second for Whitman in the men's race, finishing 34th overall in 26:53.00. Marrinan placed 41st at last year's championships. "Tim probably started too quickly, but he had a good race," Dunn said.

Rounding out Whitman's top five were sophomore Matthew Kelly (37th, 27:07.55), junior Nick Littman (42nd, 27:20.88), and junior Ian Bell (43rd, 27:25.50). "Nick continued his season-long improvement," Dunn said. "He's getting back to where he was at the end of last season."

Senior Eli Asch ran a strong sixth for Whitman, placing 46th in 27:33.66. That ranks as his best finish and best time in four trips to the conference meet. "Our race of the day goes to Eli," Dunn said. "He really showed his senior spirit today."

Others running for Whitman were freshman Daniel Luecke (52nd, 28:00.37), freshman John Callow (54th, 28:15.72), sophomore Terrence Reid (56th, 28:24.01), and freshman Sam Hennessey (62nd, 28:55.27). Reid, a sophomore in his first season of cross country, was a last-minute replacement for sophomore Curtis Reid, who developed a tender Achilles tendon prior to the race.

"It was too bad for Curtis, but the Achilles is something you want to be very careful with," Dunn said. "Terrence deserves a lot of credit for stepping in at the last minute and running his best race of the season. That was good to see."

"Our three freshmen didn't have the best of days," Dunn said. "They've been sick this week. It's hard enough running 8,000 meters without being sick as well."

Next on tap for the Whitman cross country teams is the NCAA Div. III West Regionals, slated for Saturday, Nov. 10, at McIver State Park near Estacada, Ore.