RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Simply put, they may have had their tickets punched last, but the Gallia Academy High School cross country clubs still got themselves a seat at the table.
That’s because both the Blue Devils and Blue Angels advanced as teams to the Division II regional meet, having clinched the final qualifying spots from Saturday’s Southeast District meet at the University of Rio Grande.
The Gallia Academy boys placed eighth out of 23 schools which posted team scores, while the Gallia Academy girls were seventh out of 18 groups.
Unlike past years, when there were two Division II races for both boys and girls, Saturday’s district meet featured one large race for the boys and one large race for the girls.
How large you ask?
There were 167 runners for the boys and 132 for the girls — and the maximum number of runners any team could have was seven.
For the boys meet, the top eight teams and those individuals which finished in the top 32 qualified for the regional meet at Pickerington North.
For the girls, it was the top seven squads — and individuals among the top 28.
By the Blue Devils grabbing that eighth and final team spot, they prevented River Valley from taking it.
The Blue Devils had a team score of 212, while the Raiders tallied a total of 220.
The key was Gallia Academy crossing its first three runners in 18th, 20th and 25th-place, while the Raiders’ Nathaniel Abbott was sixth overall — but the next five runners all finished from 42nd thru 72nd.
Meigs was 13th in the Division II boys with 374 points, as Sheridan won the team championship with a score of 76.
Unioto was the runner-up at 92, followed by Waverly (160), Marietta (175), Athens (176), Warren (178) and Fairland (193) for the next qualifying spots.
Kaleb Crisenbery (18th in 17:26), Caleb Greenlee (20th in 17:28) and Kyle Greenlee (25th in 17:33) paced Gallia Academy — with Devon Barnes (64th in 18:39) and Ezra Blain (95th in 19:24) being the other two counting times.
The Blue Devils’ other two runners — juniors Kobe Cochran (102nd in 19:40) and Ethan Rider (103rd in 19:41) — crossed the finish line back-to-back.
The junior Abbott of River Valley, who was sixth overall, completed the Rio Grande 5K course in 16 minutes and 59 seconds — thus advancing him to the regional meet for the second straight year.
Rounding out the Raiders were senior Chance Gillman (42nd in 18:13), senior Garrett Young (47th in 18:19), junior George Rickett (67th in 18:43), junior Kyle Coen (71st in 18:53), sophomore Rory Twyman (72nd in 18:54) and sophomore Caleb McKnight (131st in 20:50).
Joining Abbott as a qualifying individual was Meigs senior James Parsons, as Parsons placed 29th in 17 minutes and 46 seconds.
The Marauders’ next two runners were sophomore Cole Betzing (51st in 18:22) and senior Dillon Mahr (84th in 19:16), while Landon Davis (113th in 20:02), Nate Hoover (121st in 20:12), Colton Heater (123rd in 20:14) and Joseph Cotterill (125th in 20:23) rounded out the Maroon and Gold.
Luke Brown of Sheridan was the Division II boys individual race winner in 16 minutes and 25 seconds.
On the girls side, Gallia Academy (221) edged out Waverly (226) by a mere five points for the final team qualifying spot.
The top six qualifying squads were Fairfield Union (61), Athens (96), Sheridan (101), Unioto (112), Vinton County (161) and Chillicothe (181).
Meigs mustered a team score of 269 for an 11th-place effort.
The Blue Angels amounted three individual places among the top 24, paced by senior Mary Watts, who crossed the finish line in 15th-place in 20 minutes and 39 seconds.
The next two GAHS runners crossed the line back-to-back — senior Mesa Polcyn in 23rd (21:11) and freshman Brooke Johnson in 24th (21:12).
The final four Blue Angels included Abby Johnson (65th in 23:38), Cassidy Starnes (100th in 26:15), Abby Cremeans (111th in 27:11) and Caitlin Caldwell (113th in 27:15).
The Lady Marauders’ top two runners were junior Caitlyn Rest (31st in 21:57) and senior Gracie Hoffman (36th in 22:10), while sophomores Madison Cremeans (55th in 23:06) and Taylor Swartz (62nd in 23:31) were next.
Meigs’ final three competitors were Ariann Sizemore (91st in 25:35), Marissa Noble (92nd in 25:39) and Carmen Doherty (103rd in 26:35).
Fairfield Union swept the top two individual spots, including race winner Emma Hoellrich in 18 minutes and 58 seconds.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106