WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Buoyed by high hopes, the Whitman College cross country teams head to southern California later this week to compete in the NCAA Division III West Region Championships.

Pomona-Pitzer is hosting the regional races this Saturday on the Pomona campus course in Claremont, Calif.

    Kristen Ballinger
       Yasmeen Colis

The women’s 6,000 meters starts at 9 a.m. The men’s 8,000 meters follows at 9:45 a.m. 

The Whitman women's team, ranked No. 2 in the region and No. 23 nationally, is a veteran group that plans to race five seniors, one junior and one first-year runner.

Junior Kristen Ballinger, who qualified for nationals last year as an individual, leads a Missionary contingent that also includes seniors Yasmeen Colis, Sara McCune, Michela Corcorran, Heather O'Moore and Emily Rodriguez, and first-year runner Emilie Gilbert.

Sophomore Sara Levy will make the trip as an alternate and run on Saturday if one of her teammates is unable to race for any reason.

A young Whitman men's team, ranked No. 7 in the region, that features freshmen Cory Rand, Fredo Villasenor and Hugh Parker, along with seniors Matthew Kelly and Curtis Reid, and juniors Sam Hennessey and Daniel Luecke. Junior John Callow is the men's alternate.

Saturday's event is one of eight regional qualifying meets for the NCAA Division III National Championships, which are set for Saturday, Nov. 21, at Highland Golf Course in Cleveland, Ohio.

The top two teams in each region automatically qualify for nationals. On Sunday, an NCAA selection committee will choose 16 additional at-large teams based on regional meet performance, late season performance and other criteria. Seven individuals per region (not on a qualifying team) also earn berths to nationals.

        Curtis Reid
     Matthew Kelly

Ballinger, who transferred to Whitman last fall, placed eighth at regionals that November and earned an individual ticket to nationals. The Missionary women's team placed fourth and did not receive an at-large berth at nationals.

Colis, McCune and Corcorran have run at regionals in each of the past three years, earning all-region honors (top 35) each time.

All three enjoyed their best finishes two years ago when Colis was 15th, McCune 16th and Corcorran 17th.

O'Moore and Rodriguez have run in two previous regional meets. Their best finishes were 61st for O'Moore and 64th for Rodriguez.

For the Whitman men's team, Kelly will be making his fourth appearance at regionals. His best finish came a year ago when he earned all-region honors by placing 28th.

Reid and Luecke have run twice before at regionals. They made their best showings last year when Reid was 71st and Luecke 78th. Hennessey ran for the first time last fall, placing 67th. 

While just a freshman this fall, Rand had Whitman's top performance at the recent Northwest Conference Championships, placing 11th overall. Rounding out the Missionary top five in that race were Parker 25th, Hennessey 27th, Villasenor 28th, and Reid 32nd.

Saturday's West Region course will start on Pomona’s soccer field and wind through the campus athletic areas before finishing on the track. Runners from about 20 West Region institutions in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado will compete. Most of those schools are members of either the NWC or Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu