The Grinnell College women's cross country team is back on top in the Midwest Conference.

The Pioneers, who had won four league titles in a row before surrendering the crown last year, emerged victorious at the 2009 MWC Championships Saturday at Rock Cut State Park in Loves Park, Ill. It was Grinnell's 16th league title in the program's history.

The Pioneers scored 62 points, nine better than runner-up Carroll University and 11 better than third-place Monmouth College.

Grinnell's top runner was Leah Russell '11 (left), who finished sixth over the 6-kilometer course in 24 minutes, 48.46 seconds. She was followed closely by teammates Hannah Colter '12 (right) and Maja Gamble '11, who were seventh and eighth in 24:55.37 and 24:59.95, respectively. Rounding out Grinnell's scorers were Rachel Whitfield '10 and Sasha Dunbar' 13, who were 20th and 21st in 26:04.12 and 26:06.29, respectively. Russell, Colter, Gamble and Whitfield were all-conference performers.

"The course was slow, muddy and slippery, but we weren't after times," said Grinnell coach Evelyn Freeman, who was named conference coach of the year. "We were looking for places. It was a total team effort. Not only did we have four in the top 20, which made those runners all-conference, but we had six in the top 22. We're super-pleased with the effort. We knew we had to come together and be our best, and the team is very excited with the outcome."

Grinnell hosts an NCAA Regional Meet on Nov. 14 at Oakland Acres Golf Club.

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