FREMONT - It wasn't perfect, but it was the closest anyone's ever come, and that was about the only thing close about it.
Sophomore Wes Pipher out-kicked junior teammate Jason Willman over the final stretch to narrowly capture the individual crown and only Old Fort's Marcus Meyers' third kept Seneca East from a perfect score of 15 Saturday as the Tigers sailed past runner-up Hopewell-Loudon 18-73 at the Midland Athletic League Championships.
"My assistant coaches did some research on lowest score ever in the boys meet and it was 19 points and we scored 18. The Meyer kid kind of broke up our perfect score," Seneca East coach Doug Mason said with a laugh, "but he's a good runner, he's having a great season, and we obviously had a great day."
The Tigers had to look amongst themselves for the greatest challenge, and that played out right until the end, with Pipher outracing Willman to win in 16:24.67. Willman finished in 16:24.91.
"I feel great being able to beat him," Pipher said, adding he knows Willman will look to return the favor at the district meet. 'He's got that competitiveness. He got beat, so he'll come back next week and just push me even harder, like I'll push him."
It's just the latest example of a team-wide competitive streak, Mason said.
"If you came to our practices and watched how competitive it is, what you saw there at the end, that's the way practice is every day amongst our team," he said. "That's one of the reasons why we're a good team, our practices. They're competitive kids. They get abused and get beat by one another, and it's just from day to day, and that's why we do have a very good team."
It showed Saturday.
Sophomore Carson Pipher (16:35.24), sophomore Jared Stockmaster (16:43.83) and senior Karl Burgderfer (16:56.07) clocked in fourth through sixth, with sophomore Bryce Watson's 10th (17:31.48) and sophomore Michael Szabo's 18th (18:00.26) rounding out the Seneca East varsity.
It marked the second week in a row where the team's top five finished in the top six individually, and Saturday's effort had that group all within a 32-second window.
"You don't see that much in cross country meets, that kind of team domination, and it's one of the reasons why we're ranked third in the state and we feel we have a chance at a state trophy," Mason said.
"That's what we're going to have to have, we're going to have to have a pack time like we did today [if we want a state title]," he said.
The honors didn't end there for the Tigers.
The meet's top eight runners gained first-team honors, with the second eight getting second-team and those finishing 17th through 24th landing on the honorable mention list.
All seven varsity Tigers picked up awards, along with two other teammates - Robby Schaffer (18:11.37) and Brady McWilliams (18:11.75) ran 23rd and 24th.
"That's pretty good for us, so not only did our top guys have a good day, those guys had a great day," Mason said.
"They work just as hard and they get better because they practice every day with that group of kids," he said. "It really goes with the depth and the quality of kids and how hard they work. To get nine guys all-conference says a lot about them."
Meanwhile, Chet Swartzmiller captured seventh (17:22.62) and Robert Kniss came in 13th (17:44.57) to fuel Hopewell-Loudon's runner-up finish.
Patric Gase added a 16th (17:53.1) for the Chieftains, Marcus Ardner came in 19th (18:02.92) and Ryan Depinet took 22nd (18:08.42).
"They ran well. Their places were good," H-L coach Marie Coleman said. "All but my No. 12 guy ran faster today than they did at the St. Joe Invite [on the same course] a week and a half ago, so we're moving in the right direction.
"It's always important to get that little motivation, the feeling that you're heading in the right direction," she said.
Carey held off Old Fort 93-98 for third, followed by Calvert (132), Mohawk (151), Lakota (164), North Baltimore (235) and Fremont St. Joe (256).
Ben Kromer's 11th (17:36.75) and Brayden Leist's 14th (17:52.68) paced Carey. Zach Logsdon added a 17th (17:56.54) to also gain league honors for the Blue Devils.
Meyers crossed the line third in 16:33.34 to top Old Fort. Brad Bannister added a ninth (17:30.57) and Donald Young came in 20th (18:04.41).
Austin Schultz of Calvert claimed 12th (17:41.96) and Ren Boehler took 21st (18:07.64).
Mohawk's Alex Hoerig ran 15th (17:52.87) and Jarred Shellhouse ended 29th (18:28.47).
Zac Baker gave Lakota a 32nd (18:32.03) and Luke Baker ended 34th (18:41.23).
St. Wendelin and New Riegel did not field full teams.
Jorden Nye ran eighth (17:24.04) for St. Wendelin, and New Riegel's Caleb Welly came in 39th (19:08.82).