When Brandon Gibson sprinted past the finish line Saturday, one of the first things he did was lie down on a picnic table bench.
He'd earned the rest.
The Columbian senior captured the Division I regional crown in the day's final race at Hedges-Boyer Park, sprinting over the 5K course in 15:37.46 to highlight a day in which only a handful of locals qualified for state.
"You've got to push it all the time, there is no relaxing," Gibson said of his approach to running. "You don't have time to think about calming down, it's all go.
"You could tell it was going to be fast from the beginning. Everybody was hyped up and it was just time to race. I'm glad it's done," he said.
Classmate Tyler Lewis agreed on most counts.
He claimed 11th in 16:06.04 to earn his first trip to state, collapsing in exhaustion after crossing the finish line.
"I feel like after the first mile, it became more smooth," he said. "The first mile, it was like [an all out sprint], everybody went out hard; there was a lot of people [packed together]. But then as time went on, people started separating back and I was able to find my pace."
Lewis hoped to stick with Gibson, as he did throughout the season, but that plan fell through after the sprint over the first third of the race.
"Once I saw him leading at the first mile, I was like 'he's really going' so I found someone else to stick with," Lewis said.
Sticking with Gibson proved too difficult for anyone. Runner-up Tevin Brown of Toledo St. John had him in his sights, but finished nearly eight seconds behind in 15:45.31 - not that Gibson felt safe until he crossed the line.
"I was just hoping I wasn't about to get passed. That was my main worry. That Tevin kid, he's extremely fast and I'm just so happy I won," Gibson said. "Seeing that finish line is the best thing there is."
Again, Lewis agreed.
He said he spent the final few hundred meters running scared and could only think of finishing, not the possibility of reaching state, when he hit the final straightaway.
"I wasn't thinking [about getting to state], I was thinking 'there's the finish, I can collapse and die. I'm done.' Still not focusing on that I'm going to state," he said. "I'm a little bit more happy now that I'm going to state, but I'm still focusing on the pain stopping in my stomach."
While the two Tornadoes advanced as individuals, the Tornadoes as a whole were not so lucky.
Columbian ended 10th with 237 points. The top four teams and top 16 individuals qualified for the state meet, set for Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Still, Columbian boys coach John Kihorany said TC's effort pleased him.
"As a team, we ran pretty darn close within 10, 15 seconds of their season-best times. It's just a long season, it's a long grind and to make it this far is an accomplishment itself," he said. "The Cleveland teams are very tough and I don't think we can be dissatisfied with how we ran today.
"Of course, you want to go to state, everybody wants to go to state; it's just the cards weren't in our favor today and sometimes that's the way it plays out," he said.
And, of course, Kihorany was extremely pleased with how Gibson and Lewis performed.
"There are no words that can describe how happy someone is right now after seeing something like that unfold. It's one heck of an effort, one heck of a race," Kihorany said. "To get two individuals out of possibly one of the deepest regions in the state of Ohio is a very, very impressive accomplishment in my eyes."
Only one other area boy advanced to state from the regional, and it came with a bit of history.
Carey freshman Trevor Cook became the school's first state qualifier by taking 11th in the Division III race in 16:40.89.
Unlike Gibson in the Division I race, Cook's plan involved a more subdued start before picking off other runners along the course.
"The plan was just to keep them in front of me a little bit, where I could see them," he said. "I knew what I could do and what I've been running for this whole season and I just knew where I needed to be and what I could do to accomplish what I'd planned on."
And now it's on to state, which coach Dean Kessler said will be a reward for his talented freshman as well as a great learning experience.
"We talked earlier in the week," Kessler said. "I said, 'Trevor, you've got no preconceived notions about anything. You just need, as a freshman, you need to get down there and get rid of the butterflies. You need to go down there and see what it's all about. You don't want to be the senior that finally gets there for the first time ... .'"
"He ran a very smart race," he said. "He ran his race, and he ran 'em down when he needed to."
Carey's boys finished ninth with 243 points.
Hopewell-Loudon took sixth - two spots and 18 points away from a state berth - with 181 points. Old Fort ended 16th (390).
Chet Swartzmiller paced H-L by running 26th (17:10.74) and Alex Wood claimed 45th (17:35.41).
Old Fort's Brad Bannister (18:08) and Tito Lopez (18:08.07) crossed the line 83rd and 84th.
Lakota's Luke Baker and St. Wendelin's Nick DeHaven competed as individuals. Baker came in 78th (18:02.09) and DeHaven ended 94th (18:24.82).
Upper Sandusky's Dominic Solis and Garrett Miller raced in the Division II regional. Solis clocked in 26th (17:02.81) and Miller finished 49th (17:29.41).