Some first, thirds, fourths and even a sixth will highlight area Division III boys and girls high school cross action on Saturday at three different locations, as teams and individuals take aim at Tiffin, Troy and Youngstown for regional competition.
As the last step toward the ultimate goal of reaching state at Hebron's National Trial Raceway, teams must finish in the top-four positions, while individuals not on a qualifying team must place in the top 16.
A first would be found in Region 12 at Troy, where the Antwerp girls will be making their first regional team appearance in school history. Led by freshman Bailee Sigman and senior Ellise Wetli, Antwerp placed third behind fourth-ranked Minster and LCC to advance out of Spencerville's District 3.
"I made changes during the season to try to help us when it got to when it mattered," explained Antwerp mentor Cord Ehrhart. "I think it showed Saturday that our girls are running very, very well when I'm going to say most of the area coaches didn't expect us to do this."
Along with Wetli, seniors Harlee Hudson, Tricia Smalley, Kelsea Burns and Jessie Marlin have seen its past district performances fall short of regionals.
"This is a big deal for our girls," said Ehrhart. "For the last five or six years, our girls have been right on the verge of qualifying for the regional meet. We have been fifth at the district meet three times in the last six seasons, and one time it was by three points."
The Antwerp girls will race against 12 teams out of the southwest districts of Dayton and West Chester, including five state-ranked teams - West Liberty Salem (2nd), Versailles (5th), Russia (10th), Fort Loramie (11th) and Botkins (17th).
The Antwerp girls' Region 12 quest will be the opening race of the Youngtown Regional at 11 a.m.
An example of thirds and sixths can be found in Region 9 at Youngstown, where the Archbold boys will be making their third regional jaunt in as many years following a third-place finish at Spencerville's District 3 race. Stryker placed fourth to punch its sixth straight regional ticket.
"It takes a while to build a program," said Archbold coach Mike Wachtmann. "I know few coaches that can build a program overnight. We're getting to the point where we feel like Archbold is on the map."
The Streaks will compete with state-ranked powerhouses McDonald (1st) and Maplewood (3rd), in addition to northwest district foes Columbus Grove (12th) and New London (11th).
"We've had a goal from the beginning of the season," stated Wachtmann, whose boys placed Bryce Tinsman, Adrian Ramirez and Ben Hurst in the top-16 a week ago. "The kids knew that we had to be a 17:30 team to be in the hunt (for state). Right now, if everyone stays the same, we need to be about a 17:25 team."
The area D-III boys are scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start at Troy.
At Tiffin, the Liberty Center boys and girls will be making their third consecutive regional appearance together, with this the LC girls' fourth in a row.
"This is our third year in a row that we've had that opportunity to go to the same site and compete together as a program, said LC boys and girls coach Tim Atkinson. "I just think that speaks volumes of our coaching staff, our parents and our kids."
The LC boys earned a runner-up spot at the Spencerville District 1 meet behind second-ranked Coldwater and in front of Pettisville and Fairview, which will all be at the Region 10 event. LC was paced by Joe Seedorf (7th), Jake Atkinson (8th), Cameron Weaks (12), Lynn Leatherman (18th) and Matt Huber (21st).
However, it will now be faced with state-ranked packs from Spencerville's District 2 and the Tiffin District, including St. Henry (4th), Seneca East (5th) and Minster (6th).
"We've had a strong front three," said Atkinson. "With Joe Seedorf, Jake Atkinson and Cameron Weaks, they've been interchangeable parts all season long. I thought they ran very well on Saturday."
Another third will be provided by Fairview district runner-up Kyle Thomas.
Having been to the regional level as an individual for the past two seasons, the junior will lead a Fairview squad also paced by freshman Austin Graham, sophomore Kaleb Eisel and junior Brad Nest.
"I'm very excited the team is back and being able to build on the GMC win," said Apache coach Kurt Foust. "As far as my team goes, we have a definite goal of getting Kyle in the top-16, and the others are really focused on PRs if the conditions are right. If not PRs, then just beating people we haven't beat before."
Pettisville advanced to Tiffin via solid district showings by Dominic Frey (10th), Tanner Rufenacht (11th), Jeremy Mann (23rd) and Aaron Bruner (24th).
Area qualifiers for the Region 10 D-III boys race, which starts at 1:20 p.m., are Tinora's Sam Lehman and Hilltop's Zach Smith and Brady Livensparger.
A showdown between second-ranked Liberty Center and number-one Coldwater will be the highlight of the D-III girls event at Tiffin. LC won a District 1 crown at Ottawa, while Coldwater claimed a District 2 title at the same location.
"The girls are real excited about the opportunity to compete against (Coldwater)," said Atkinson. "We've always told the kids you have to race against the best to become the best, and I think they're very excited about the opportunity to compete against such a talented team."
LC freshman Brittany Atkinson led the Tigers a week ago with a district championship time of 18:30.8, while Coldwater standout Sarah Kanney - also a freshman - won her own individual title at 18:29.6.
"If you look at the top-three runners in the state, it would have to be Brittany, Sarah Kanney and (Versailles senior) Tammy Berger," the LC coach stated. "This will be the first time Brittany has gone head-to-head against Sarah, so it will be quite a challenge."
Liberty Center will also be paced by Kelly Haubert, Chelsea Knapp, Paige Chamberlain and Jordan Sidel, while Fairview is led by freshman Malin Adams, junior Krysten King and senior Samantha Rhodes.
Individually in Region 10 girls action, Ayersville's Hannah McKibben will also be making her third straight regional appearance, while Pettisville senior Tanner Hostetler will be returning four her fourth. Other area individuals will be Lindsey Matthews of Wayne Trace, Kirsten Fruchey of Delta and the Kalida pair of Jessica Doepker and Jackie Gardner.
The D-III girls will take the starting line at 11:05 a.m. in the first race of the day at Tiffin.