BETTSVILLE - Once again, a perfect score eluded Seneca East. But as before, it didn't matter.
The Tigers took the first four individual spots and a teammate claimed seventh Saturday as they cruised past Colonel Crawford 17-80 for one of three Division III boys district titles up for grabs at H.P. Eells Park.
"A couple of those individual runners, ... they just kind of were able to sneak in there and split us apart," Seneca East coach Doug Mason said.
"I'm happy where we're at," he said. "This is just an exciting part of the year, when you're running for a championship - league championships, district championships, regional championships and obviously the big prize at the end year. There's a lot to work for, and it's fun when you watch your kids do well.
"These are goals that we've had since last winter, and we're checkin' 'em off as we go through 'em," he said.
The most recent checkoff came in rather easy fashion.
Seneca East's first six runners spent much of the race bunched together with a few from other schools, while the seventh Tiger trailed close behind.
That's nothing new for the Tigers, who have been doing that with regularity, especially since junior Jason Willman returned to the lineup after nursing an injury from track.
Last week was good example of that as the Tigers set a Midland Athletic League mark for fewest points scored in a league meet (18) by putting five runners in the top six.
"Towards the end [of the season], that's how most of the meets have been, so it was just another weekend," Willman said.
"We just can't let it get to our heads, and make sure we keep working hard and it will take care of itself," he said.
Things thinned out as the race grew longer, but the only question left by the midway point was whether or not the Tigers would take the first five individual spots for a perfect score of 15.
It didn't happen.
Willman pulled away from teammate Carson Pipher to win in 16:17.86, with Pipher crossing the line second (16:19.7).
Wes Pipher captured third (16:20.14) for Seneca East and Karl Burgderfer ran fourth (16:42.77).
Norwalk St. Paul's Jake Fisher (16:43.5) and Toledo Christian's Daniel Burket (16:46.04) followed, but Seneca East's Jared Stockmaster wrapped up the title by easily taking seventh (16:48.73) as the final runner to break the 17-minute barrier.
Michael Szabo (14th, 17:20.78) and Bryce Watson (20th, 17:41.77) rounded out a championship team whose five scorers finished within 30.87 seconds of one another.
"If you just listen to the spectators, they're like, 'wow, it's almost like they're running practice together, working together.' That's what makes them a special group, having that pack time be so small an amount of time is key for us as we continue to move on here," Mason said. "It's going to be critical for us to keep that pack time down as much as possible as we keep advancing along.
"That last mile, you could tell Jason wanted to dial it up a notch and bounce back from last week (league runner-up to Wes Pipher), and he wanted to see what his body had in him. He's been battling an injury all season long, so I think he's trying to get his body there where it needs to be for that state meet in a couple weeks."
Meanwhile, Carey held off Woodmore 112-120 for third in the same race, earning one of the four regional berths available in each contest.
The regional meet is Saturday at Hedges-Boyer Park in Tiffin.
Coach Dean Kessler said his team's third at the district meet was the highest finish of any Carey boys team in his 15-year tenure, but one that's far from the Blue Devils potential.
"They had their eye on second, which I'll give them a lot of credit for. They were doing their best. I think third or fourth is the best a Carey [boys] team has ever done," he said.
"I don't think we had any boys in the top five, maybe one, that had a personal record today, so they're capable of running a whole lot faster than what they did," Kessler said.
Ben Kromer's 16th (17:28.89) led the Carey charge, with Brayden Leist earning an 18th (17:30.23).
Zach Logsdon added a 22nd (17:48.52), Michael Patton ran 25th (17:53.46) and Evan Hyatt clocked in 31st (18:22.2). Adam Hyatt (36th, 18:55.04) and Tomas Arredondo (37th, 18:55.19) also ran for the Blue Devils.
Buckeye Central ended 10th (267) in the same race. Wyatt Kisor ended 49th (19:41.68) for the Bucks and Sam Robertson came in 53rd (19:50.44).
The other two races also brought regional qualifiers - the first four team and first 16 runners in each race.
Hopewell-Loudon and Old Fort both advanced out of the day's second race, with the latter edging Calvert 133-135 for the fourth and final berth.
Sandusky St. Mary beat Hopewell-Loudon 40-58 for the team title, and Elmwood took third with 70.
"I knew that [the St. Mary Panthers] were a team that we were going to have to contend with and they were going to be some good competition, and they ran very well today. But my boys did, too," H-L coach Marie Coleman said. "We had six guys in the 17s, we did well on our places and I had three guys that were individual qualifiers. We had a good race today."
Chet Swartzmiller's third (17:06.38) sparked the runner-up Chieftains. Robert Kniss added an eighth (17:22.53) and Marcus Ardner claimed 11th (17:28).
Dylan Napier ran a career-best 17:44.04 to finish 17th for H-L and Ryan Depinet finished 23rd (17:54.91). Patric Gase (25th, 17:56.6) and Bernie Somers (37th, 18:44.52) also competed for H-L.
While Old Fort's boys took fourth, senior Marcus Meyers ran the best of any area runner in the race, capturing second in 16:50.51 for the Stockaders.
Team depth also helped, coach Tony Miller said, especially since Brad Bannister, usually the squad's No. 2 runner, is still hobbled by a two-week-old sprained ankle.
"He'd have probably been in the top 10 [without the injury], ... so we eliminated a good 20 places if he'd have been healthy," Miller said. "But that's what you've got teammates for. Elliott [Phillimore] and Donald [Young] both stepped up real well, and so did A.J. [Phillimore]. Now it's just a matter of getting him back and moving on."
"To have one guy hobbling and the other four step up so well gives us a boost," he said.
Young added a 20th (17:46.98), Elliott Phillimore came in 30th (18:15.13), Bannister took 38th (18:47.47) and A.J. Phillimore finished 47th (19:41.78).
Marc Harris (62nd, 21:29.13) and Matt Kelbley (69th, 23:45.76) complete the team headed to the regional.
Despite not moving on as a team, Calvert did have an individual qualifier, with Austin Schultz finishing 15th (17:36.51).
"It's always disappointing when you get that close and don't make it, but, ... I'm happy with how well we did," Calvert coach Stewart Behm said. "We knew Old Fort was going to be the team to beat for fourth place, and a week ago they beat us by 20-some points at the league meet, so to come within two points, I think the boys did a very nice job today."
Twins Ren (17:49.54) and Shane Boehler (18:04.41) ran 21st and 28th for Calvert. John Brodman added a 36th (18:42.63) and Joe Boehler took 46th (19:30.81).
St. Wendelin didn't field a full team, but senior Jorden Nye advanced as an individual by taking fourth (17:13.63).
Mohawk grabbed the only area district berth in the third race, taking fourth over Lakota by a 112-151 margin. Qualifiers from that race head to the regional in Youngstown.
The key to getting there was having the Warriors each turn in a great effort all on the same day, coach Brock Cleveland said.
"We've been talking all year about everybody racing their best on the same day and finally we got that today. They ran awesome," Cleveland said. "I can't say enough about their effort; they looked awesome. I'll gladly make the trip to Youngstown for them."
"They just put it together on the same day, so it was awesome," he said. "We've been talking about it all year, racing well together. We'd have two or three boys run well and the rest of the team not so much, but today, they were hungry, they wanted to make it to regionals. They put the work in, they achieved that goal."
Alex Hoerig's 15th in a career-best 17:34.83 keyed the Warriors.
Mitch Brown backed him with an 18th (17:53.17), Jarred Shellhouse came in 22nd (18:08.22), Mike Lasky dropped about minute off his regular time to claim 30th in 18:29.03 and Chris Koehler came in 32nd (18:32.36).
Warriors Kevin Kozel (53rd, 19:42.73) and Alex Dundore (65th, 20:25.14) also competed.
Zac Baker (18:19.57) and Luke Baker (18:20.15) sparked Lakota's effort.
New Riegel did not field a full team. Caleb Welly ran 39th (18:58.64) and Brad Zoeller ended 71st (21:02.63).