TIFFIN — The St. Francis de Sales cross country team arrived at the Division I regional championships as one of the favorites to compete for the team title.
Defending regional champion Cleveland St. Ignatius presented a major roadblock for the Knights on Saturday and went on to repeat as the top D-I team in the region at Hedges Boyer Park.
However, the Knights, paced by sophomore David St. John and senior Kyle Lach, ran well enough to finish as runner-ups with 131 points and are heading to the state championship for the third year in a row.
"They did a great job of keeping their goal of [qualifying] for the state meet," St. Francis coach Jim Neary said. "That's something every team looks forward to, and we're excited to have the opportunity to race next weekend."
St. Ignatius, which produced three of the top four runners, repeated as regional champs by finishing with 42 points. Brunswick and Medina also qualified for state after running third and fourth to finish with 135 and 155 points, respectively. Avon placed fifth with159 points, followed by Strongsville 167, Northview 169, St. Edward 207, Avon Lake 245, Central Catholic 251, Perrysburg 259, St. John's Jesuit 288, Findlay 304, Lakewood 347, Fremont Ross 352, Ashland 388.
St. John ran 17th overall for St. Francis and posted a time of 16:32.12. Lach placed 22nd with a time of 16:43.03. Dan Siebenaller placed 24th (16:44.89), Jason White 39th (17:00.60), and Dan Lenart 51st (17:10.52), respectively.
Leary credited St. John for serving as the catalyst to push the Knights' pace early in the race.
"I thought he did a nice job of just believing in himself and getting up near the top of the race early and all the guys followed and did a good job as a team," he said. "We were fortunate to be connected and get ourselves in the second spot."
St. John said running the wet and muddy course required him to be cautious throughout the race. "I thought the course was pretty tough," St. John said. "There was mud, and you had to be very careful out there."
Northview's Kyle Brooks will also run at state after qualifying as an individual. The Wildcat senior completed the course in a time of 16:12.08 to earn sixth place overall. The top four teams and individual runners placing in the top 16 at regionals qualify for state.
Findlay senior Matt Waaland placed 10th with a time of 16:21.33, and Fremont Ross' Louis Guardiola finished 11th with a time of 16:25.69.
Central Catholic will be represented at state by two individuals after George McCartney and Charlie Gibbons crossed the finish line among the top 16. McCartney, a sophomore, placed 13th with a time of 16:25.73. Gibbons, a senior, ran 16th after completing the course in a time of 16:29.23.
In Division III, Toledo Christian senior Daniel Burkett qualified for state after finishing seventh with a time of 16:42.54.
Columbus Grove's Jake Graham won the race by finishing the course in a winning time of 16:18.03. Graham led Columbus Grove to a fourth-place finish in the team standings with 106 points.
Seneca East claimed the regional title with 50 points, followed by Minster with 79.
In Division II, Woodridge claimed the team title with 89 points, followed by CVCA with 96.
Van Wert senior Jared Fleming outran the field and crossed the finish line first with a time of 15:57.31 and was the lone individual to complete the course under 16 minutes.
Defiance senior Abel Flores finished runner-up with a time of 16:01.08.