Once the dust settled down of the course at the B-3 district cross country championship in Beatrice, the Columbus High cross country boys' team didn't know if it was going to be running next Friday at the State meet.
With tough competition like Aurora, Lincoln Pius X and York, it wasn't going to be easy, but that made the third-place finish the much sweeter for the Discoverers when they found out they qualified for the state competition.
"We didn't know," said head coach Dave Licari. "We just told the boys it was going to be really tight, that was all we knew. So then we're waiting for them to read the score. After they do the (top) 15 individuals they read the teams and they start out with number eight, and then they go down to seven, six, five, four. You're waiting to hear four because if you haven't heard your name yet you know you're in, so when they said four, and then they said three - us, the team was just really pumped."
Licari said he thought his boys’ team had a chance to qualify since the beginning of the season
"From the start of the year, we thought we had a chance even though we only had two of our runners back from last year's qualifying team," he said. "We thought it would be tough today, and actually we were closer to second than we were to fourth. Of course, during the race when you're running around, I'm just focused on our guys, so I'm not really looking at where everyone else is finishing ..."
Lucas Miller posted the fastest time for the Discoverers, finishing in ninth place with a 17:24.63.
"Lucas (Miller) has been running number three or four in most of our meets this year and then he runs No. 1 today for us. He easily ran his best race of the season," Licari said.
Joe McFarland finished in 10th with a 17:26.67 and Douglas Davidchik posted a 17:34.88 to earn 13th place.
Roman Ramirez impressed coaches with his 19th-place finish, completing the course in 17:54.14.
"Roman (Ramirez), who has been running No. 5 or six most of the time this season, runs number four today," Licari said. "That was just huge."
Abel Leon placed 26th by running an 18:15.6 and Antonio Jimenez finished in 33rd with a time of 18:35.31.
"Douglas and Joe, they ran solidly like they've been all year," Licari said. Able struggled a little bit compared to what he's been running, and Antonio is coming off an injury, so I can't say we expected a lot out of him, but that's why it's good to have depth. You just don't know for sure who might have a bad day, who might be hurt, whatever so you got to hopefully have enough depth so that someone else can pick you up, and that's exactly what happened."
The girls’ team was unable to qualify for state, finishing in seventh place.
Alex Freshour was the fastest runner for the CHS girls' team, placing 30th with a 22:32.28. She was followed by teammate Sammie Pike, who finished in 31st with a 22:34.20.
Jenna Warner finished in 33rd with a 22:36.29, while Gracie Luebbe completed the course in 22:48.48 for 36th. Emily Hall posted a 22:53.06 for 37th place and Beatriz Garcia ran a 22:53.18 for 38th.
"The girls didn't qualify as a team, but I was still really pumped because five out of the six girls ran a season-best time, so you're just really happy about that," Licari said. "They performed exactly like you wanted them to."
Before the race, the Discoverers didn't seem nervous, according to Licari.
"Our kids just kind of do their thing," he said. "One of our guys was working on homework. He was sitting in our campsite, and somebody said something to him. He just said 'Well, if I don't do this. I'm going to be just too wound up thinking about the race'. So that was his way today of kind of not thinking about it. Guess you can tell a little bit that they can tell that the race is a little bit bigger than our other races, but nothing super bad. They just knew what the race meant."
Licari said the whole team celebrated the boys qualifying for state.
"It wasn't just the boys there, but we had a lot of our JV runners went down, and everyone was really excited, so that's great for them," he said. "All of the kids put in a lot of hard work, so it's nice to see some of that payoff."
With the state meet coming up, Licari said he feels that his team is peaking at the right moment.
"I think we're peaking at the right time," he said. "We tried a couple different things this year as far as our last two or three weeks of the season here workouts, so hopefully I think sometimes in the past I've worked us a little too hard the last week before district, so we tried a little bit just some different things this year and hopefully it will continue into next week. It's hard to say what we'll do next week."
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com