ALBION - Scotus Central Catholic cross country came way with two district championships on Thursday evening in Albion thanks to two runners finishing third and an overall effort that saw five from the girls team cross the line in the top 14 and four from the boys squad place 19th or better.
Sophomore Olivia Fehring and the girls put the momentum in motion first with five runners in the top 14, led by Fehringer's third-place medal in a time of 19:49.
Kelsey Faust in fifth, Liza Zaruba in eighth and Brea Lassek in 12th added up to a Scotus girls score of 21, beating out second-place hosts Boone Central/Newman Grove by 12 points.
Though only those four were scored, Liz Adamy in 14th also received a medal and Abai Aydt in 25th made it a solid six finishes for a Scotus girls team that extended its streak of appearances at the state meet to 10 in a row.
Elliott Thomazin crossed the line in third for the boys team followed by Michael Gasper in sixth, Ben Juarez in 18th and Tyler Vaught in 19th rounding out a score of 46.
That was good enough to edge Boone Central/Newman Grove by a single point. Carter Thorson in 25th and Nathan Schumacher in 26th also completed strong efforts for the boys that will see them making it back to state after missing out last year.
Lakeview qualified Brenden Henggeler with an eighth-place finish in the boys race, missed out on another by one spot when Cody Schaad took 16th and had a top girls finish by Makenna Klug in 22nd.
"I couldn't be more proud of them," Thomazin, one of only two Shamrock boys with state experience, said afterward. "I know everyone has been putting in a lot of work this past season. We've all been pushing each other, making sure we're not slacking when it comes to practice and we're finally reaping the rewards of that."
Thomazin was 28th last year at state running with Gasper who finished 54th.
Though SCC had that duo at Kearney, it was the first time in seven seasons the Shamrocks had not qualified as a group.
They entered 2018 with several unknowns. Though Thomazin and Gasper gave Scotus a pair of top contenders, many other runners graduated from a senior-laden team leaving holes to fill for runners who had to step up and seize their opportunities.
Thursday, they did exactly that.
"I knew we had the potential to be something great, but I don't know if we'd be able to work for it. The guys have proven to me time and time again that this is something that's important to them. They really want it," Thomazin said.
"I think we're peaking. We're all kind of at the top of the mountain right now and we're ready to reach the peak and really just enjoy these final moments of the season."
The Scotus girls didn't have nearly as much rebuilding to endure.
A fourth-place team finish at state last year was scored by a top four which all returned for another year.
The Shamrock girls had also only been beaten once this season in a runner-up finish at their home meet in mid-September.
Boone Central/Newman Grove clipped Scotus that afternoon, and had the top finisher on Thursday in Jordan Stopak, but couldn't hold off the Shamrocks a second time.
"It's always my goal to stay with the Boone girl," Fehringer said. "As we were running it, I thought it was a little fast for me, kind of backed off a little bit and ran my own race.
"It's always our goal to get first place. We've been doing a great job this year of doing that. It's always the goal, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We just want to run individually the best race we can."
Henggeler's qualification to state with a top-15 showing makes it two trips to Kearney for the Lakeview junior.
He has state experience as a freshman when the Vikings qualified as a team. Now he'll be making the trip west having earned his spot on his own.
Overall though, it was a somewhat bittersweet moment.
"I feel so good. I feel happy right now that I made it. But if my whole team would have made it, it would have been better," he said. "I'm really depressed that (Schaad) didn't make it. I know he wanted to make it, too.
"To see him not make it is like you had your heart broken."
Coach James Brock echoed those sentiments. As he spoke about the afternoon, Brock fought back the emotions of seeing a senior come up just short.
"Cody's kind of the heartbeat of the team all year," he said. "He kind of led everything and helped with a lot of things. I really wanted him to qualify, but he just isn't quite as fast as Brenden, and that's the way it's been all year.
Schaad was 11 seconds behind the runner in front of him.
"You could see it happening during the race. He was just tensed up early on and couldn't run his natural pace, it seemed like," Brock said. "But I'm really happy for Brenden. He worked his tail off all summer long."
The Shamrocks and Henggeler will now prepare for state at the Kearney Country Club on Oct. 19. Class C girls run at 2 p.m. while the boys take their turn an hour later.
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.