SOUTH BEND, Indiana—John Whelan (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Washington State University was the first Cougar across the line with an eighth place finish to lead the squad to a seventh place team finish at the Joe Piane Invitational hosted by the University of Notre Dame Friday.
Whelan covered the 5-mile course in a time of 23:56, as Sean Tobin of Mississippi took the win in a time of 23:32.
Following Whelan were Michael Williams in 16th (24:04), then Sam Levora in 36th (24:20). Rounding out WSU’s five scorers were Nathan Wadwhani in 48th (24:29), and Paul Ryan in 81st (24:47).
Tobin’s victory helped lead Mississippi, the nation’s 20th-ranked squad, to the team title with a low score of 83 points, followed by UTEP (#18) with 99, and Eastern Kentucky (#9) with 168 points.
Following Eastern Kentucky were Providence with 182, Illinois with 183, Southern Utah at 187, and the Cougars with 189.
According to WSU coach Wayne Phipps, sixth man Chandler Teigen, who normally runs closer to Levora and Wadwhani, fell during the race, thus accounting for the 51 second 1-5 split.
"We put ourselves in a very good position at the halfway point of the race, in third place, and then we struggled a bit towards the end," Phipps said. "We accomplished a lot by beating several key teams but we expected to finish a little higher overall. We were only a few points out of fourth and I feel that third was definitely in our grasp.”
The rest of the WSU team competes Saturday at the Washington Invitational at Jefferson Park GC in Seattle.
Meanwhile, in Missoula, Montana, Gonzaga’s Jordan Thurston won her third straight meet of the season at the Montana Invitational, running the 6k course in 21:10.
In the double-dual format, the Bulldogs lost to both Montana and Montana State by identical 27-28 margins.
In the men’s 8k race, Gonzaga’s Troy Fraley, who is being redshirted and competing unattached, took the overall victory, running 24:56, to win by 30 seconds over the Zags’ Max Kaderabek.
The Zags took care of Montana by a perfect 15-50, and got the sweep, taking Montana State by a 23-35 count.
NOTE: The sports information offices of Gonzaga, Washington State and Notre Dame contributed to this report.