BETTSVILLE - The outcome of several races had been debated for the past few weeks after Calvert's Olivia Smith went down with a foot injury.
Saturday, the Senecas learned the answer.
Smith celebrated her return to the lineup by capturing fourth in 20:10.58 as Calvert held off Hopewell-Loudon 100-103 for third in one of the Division III district races at H.P. Eells Park.
"That was the big question mark today, and I guess she answered that question," Calvert coach Stewart Behm said. "It's always a 'what if' when you've got somebody who hasn't run for six weeks, who's been doing nothing but riding a bicycle and swimming in the water [for injury rehabilitation], you wonder how good of shape they're actually in.
"For her to come back in her first race in six weeks and run a 20 today shows that she put the hard work that she needed to," he said.
She wasn't the only Seneca to do that.
Morgan Smith (no relation) added a 13th (20:35.05) for Calvert, Sydney Berlekamp ran 20th (21:03.61), Marissa Horn took 32nd (21:50.03) and Corinne Harris finished 37th (22:10.28).
Kate Brickner (41st, 22:23.05) and Emma Brodman (53rd, 23:15.96) completed Calvert's regional-bound squad.
Behm said they all ran well, and while Olivia Smith's return definitely helped in the physical scoring, he said her presence may have done even more for the team's mental approach.
"I'm pretty sure even if she hadn't run today, we'd have still done pretty well," he said.
"We might have made it out without her today, but it would have been a big 'what if?' To have her back, you could tell the team was a little bit more at ease today," Behm said. "You could tell they were a little bit more relaxed, and I think a couple of those underclassmen who had felt the pressure of being the go-to people, ... I think that took a lot of the pressure off of them to feel that 'I have to do that much better because Olivia's not here.'"
Meanwhile, H-L advanced on the strength of Shelby Raudebaugh's 12th (20:34.46) and Erin Reinhart-Anez's 16th (20:40.39), who each finished well enough to earn regional berths had the Chieftains not made it as a team.
The top four teams and top 16 runners qualified for Saturday's regional at Tiffin's Hedges-Boyer Park.
As with the league meet a week earlier, which the Chieftains won, H-L coach Paul Jones said he expected a battle for the regional berths.
"Just like last week, I anticipated there being four or five teams up there slugging it out, and that's kind of what it boiled down to," he said. "I expected it to be close.
"Looking at the times, I think they all ran pretty well. It was just a very fast, competitive race. The idea is to move on, we did that," Jones said. "True, we'd have liked to finish up a few more spots but it didn't work out that way today."
Kailey Coleman added an 18th (20:53.63) for H-L, Leah Reinhart ran 24th (21:09.38) and Morgan Brant took 39th (22:19.5).
Chieftains Kate Brickner (40th, 22:22.77) and Haley Schreiner (46th, 22:46.26) also competed.
Four other area runners advanced to the regional.
Mohawk senior Julia Daniel topped local efforts by taking second in 19:56.81, guiding the Warriors to eighth (208) in the team standings.
"My mindset was I wanted to run my best race possible this week so I could go into next week a little more confident and a little more ready to race," Daniel said. "I know next week's going to be tough.
"I just wanted to have a good race this week to set me up for next week," she said.
St. Wendelin's Jocelyn Reinhart captured seventh (20:15.56) and teammate Victoria Volpe claimed 15th (20:40) to help the Mohawks end fifth (138).
Seneca East got a ninth from Anna Willman (20:23.56), with the team finishing 11th (249).
Plymouth edged Sandusky St. Mary 90-92 for the team crown. New Riegel ended ninth (228).
Kayla Risner backed Daniel by taking 35th (21:56.14) for Mohawk, while Katharina Fell ended 52nd (23:15.33) for Seneca East.
Ashley Mathias ran 25th (21:21.88) for New Riegel and Abby Cassidy came in 30th (21:46.88).
No area teams advanced out of the other district race, though two individuals did so.
Lakota's Cariss Reese clocked in fourth (20:15.14) and Old Fort's Kayla Garza grabbed 14th (20:46.93).
Toledo Christian, led by Delainey Phelps torching the course for a win in 17:57.77, beat Elmwood 71-102 for the team crown. Ashland Crestview took third (115), and Gibsonburg held off Carey 133-144 for the fourth and final district berth.
"It doesn't take very much for 11 points. They did their best today," Carey coach Dean Kessler said. "We had some PR's today. That's all you can do, bring your best game on a certain day and hope it's good enough. It wasn't today for them, but they sure tried their hearts out."
Alivia Stephan's 18th (21:03.81) paced Carey. Jaclyn Troiano added a 21st (21:12.49), Sarah Walter ran 29th (21:31.68), Amber Spurlock ended 41st (22:06.17) and Kristina Nusbaum finished 44th (22:13.24).
Old Fort finished eighth (209) and Lakota took 11th (238).
Jackie Becker backed Garza with a 23rd (21:20.29) for Old Fort, and Lakota's Morgan Mowry wound up 54th (22:47.19).
Buckeye Central did not field a full team. Lizabeth Figueroa claimed 50th (22:41.55) for the Buckettes and Amy Rietschlin ended 69th (24:13.43).