The Division III regional championship meet wasn’t the Greenon Knights’ best race. But it might have been their greatest moment.
Senior front runner Max Pettit started out too fast. No. 2 runner and sophomore Calvin Wise started too slow. Freshman Gavin Patrick and sophomore Sean Glaze ran as expected. Through their first four runners, Greenon and Cedarville were tied with 78 points for the fourth and final team qualifying spot for state.
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“If somebody has a bad day you’re going home,” Greenon coach Eric Brickson said of the slim margin for error.
It came down to No. 5 runner Jackson Pettit. The freshman set a personal record by one second on a course coaches said was running 18 seconds slow because of heavy rain the night before. His finish gave the Knights a three-point win over the Indians and the boys program’s first trip to the state championship.
“Everybody had decent races, but he came through for us,” Brickson said of the group that also includes senior Connor Algren and sophomore Cason Estes. “It’s a super group of guys and I’m thrilled they made it to state.”
The state meet is Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The Knights’ biggest goal is to gain experience, get a feel for the atmosphere and enjoy the moment.
“The pressure for us is off. The goal was to get to state,” Brickson said. “We just need to go run as fast as we can and make it a good ending to a great season. I hope in future years we can go back and really compete.”
Max Pettit finished 30th overall at state last season. While he went alone in 2016, his teammates fed off his drive and desire to draw closer to him.
“They’re starting to live the culture and the daily grind of running and figuring out this is how it’s actually done,” Brickson said. “They saw themselves getting faster and now they’re all trying to be as fast as Max. Now I have several guys bringing down times. That’s inspiring the middle school runners. Max has been a big part of helping that culture get created.”
Cedarville’s boys qualified a pair of runners to the state meet with freshmen Trent Koning and Ethan Wallis.
In Division II, Shawnee’s boys qualified for state for the eighth straight season and the girls advanced for the fourth straight.
“What we lost on both sides last year — boys and girls — this is an incredible effort on both their parts to get back to state,” Shawnee coach Brian DeSantis said. “It’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Of all the years I’ve coached this is one of my prouder moments. I thought it was going to be a real challenge to get both teams out. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am.”
Northwestern sophomore Kassidy Carpenter qualified as an individual.
In Division III, West Liberty-Salem’s girls qualified for the second straight season. Senior Reghan Bieleski has gone all four seasons, including the first two as an individual.
“It’s a lot better having your team with you,” Bieleski said. “We’re trying to get top two and get on the podium. … Coach tells us to run for each other and don’t give up.”
“It’s special for Reghan having her team with her. She’s been an outstanding leader,” WL-S coach Ann Vogel said. “She wants to do the best she can for her team. She’s just been a dream to coach for four years. … Anything can happen at state. We’re going to give it our all and if that gets us on the podium that’s great.”
Catholic Central sophomore Addy Engel and Triad senior Holly Cole qualified as individuals.