HEBRON - It's party time in Attica. Or maybe it's time for some rest, depending on who you talk to.
McDonald punched a 2-3 finish with teammates Bobby Johnson and Patrick Kunkel, but the near minute gap until its third runner came in was just too much to overcome as a tightly packed Seneca East team slipped past the defending state champion Blue Devils 101-107 for the Division III state cross country title.
Versailles' Samuel Prakel defended his individual state title, outkicking Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas' Cory Glines 15:16.62 to 15:20.66, but the team honor belonged to a group of Tigers.
"I can finally get some sleep at night," Seneca East's Jason Willman joked. "It feels great."
The team, which flew under the radar at the start of the season, started to make some noise when it won the district title with a record low 17 points.
Seneca East then upended some of the best teams in the state at the Division III regional meet in Tiffin, winning comfortably by 29 points over Minster.
The Tigers knew coming into the state meet that they would have to bring their best effort and that they were going to hurt by the end of the race.
Seneca East's fifth runner, and only senior, Karl Burgderfer experienced just that.
"I had a nice pain in my side (coming into the finishing stretch) and it hurt to finish but I knew I had to finish," Burgderfer stated.
Burgderfer who finished 93rd in last year's state meet, improved 29 places to end 64th (17:00.3).
It wasn't about his time or how he finished though.
"It means a lot; I just started (running cross country) last year. To go out my second year with a state championship means a lot," Burgderfer said. "This group of guys, the coaches and the experience, that's what I can take away from this. It (winning state) still hasn't hit me yet."
The race also marks a milestone for Seneca East High School.
"This is the first boys team title, not just in cross country but in any sport," Seneca East coach Doug Mason said. "This group of guys just did something that no other group of boys in Seneca East history has ever done. It's a lifetime dream for almost any high school kid to say that they're a state champion and these guys are."
Willman, who led last year's fifth-place team by running 13th (16:09.59), again led the way this year after being plagued nearly the entire season with injuries. He finished 17th in 16:14.19, but neither his time nor place mattered; it was all about his team.
"That's really all that really mattered to me, is that our team is on top of the podium. I didn't really care whether I got up there or not, I just wanted to make sure I did what I needed to do," Willman said.
Teammate Carson Pipher finished seven spots behind (24th, 16:17.85) Willman, while twin brother Wes ended 29th (16:22.29) and Jared Stockmaster took 34th (16:32.06).
Stockmaster knew that his race was critical coming into the state meet.
"Before the race I was really nervous, I even almost started to cry, but I knew where I had to be, I knew that I had to get (Jonathan) Albaugh," Stockmaster said.
Albaugh finished the race 11th (16:01.68).
One thing that was noticeable about the Tigers was the support that traveled several hours, including past alumni, such as 2009 state runner-up Brittany Stockmaster.
"It's hard to express, but when you see all your fans here who supported you all year long, plus former alumni who came up short and the made the trip down here, it's definitely special," Mason said. "They come to our practices. They yell at them, they cheer for them. That's what makes it such a great accomplishment; to share this with our whole family, fans and community."
One thing that Mason also addressed was having no front-runner but a solidly-built core of guys who pack well together.
"They learned to become that elite runner ..., and it's amazing that we didn't have anyone in the top 15. It goes to show you the strength of what this group is all about, it is their team and their pack time," Mason said.
Defeating a team that has been on the podium 10 times in the last 13 years (McDonald) was also something that caught Mason's eye.
"They're a perennial power and to beat them as a team and not as individuals makes it that much sweeter," Mason said. "We're just going to keep feeding this machine that we worked so hard to build."
Mason also gave a huge shout out to his assistant coaches, who have been with him since the first day of open runs on June 18.
"These two assistant coaches, Mike Farrell and Matt Schock, they crunch numbers every week after every race. They're updating us all the time and they're a fan of cross (country). They're always giving these guys goals for team scores and they're dang close every time," Mason said.
The Pipher twins have one more thing to do before officially closing out a memorable sophomore season.
"We're going to party," Carson Pipher said.
"We'll go through Republic and Attica, wake everybody up, let them know we're state champs and then we're gonna party," Wes Pipher said.
With a season as tumultuous as Seneca East has had, it only seems fitting.
In the Division I race, Columbian junior Brandon Gibson finished 49th in a personal-best 16:07.65. Getting to state was the goal, and the experience is something he won't soon forget.
"It's a whole lot faster, way more intense. It's just something that you got to get used to. I'm definitely going to get back here (state) next year," Gibson said.
Gibson led the race early on, surging to the front 400 meters in.
"I think I kind of went out too hard, but if I wouldn't have went out as hard as I did, I wouldn't have got what I ran (16:07.65)," Gibson said.
This is Gibson's first season running cross country, and with such a successful opening season, he already has goals for his senior year.
"I want the school record (15:34, which is held by Alan Boos)," Gibson said.
But for now, he'll take in his current accomplishments and look back on this past season.
"It's just been fun," he said.