Seneca East put four runners in the top 15, and a fifth at 21st to secure 50 points and a regional win, 29 points ahead of runner-up Minster (79).
"We walked these guys through the gym yesterday and looked up at all of our school banners and I just said that 'you don't understand how hard it is to win these regionals, of all the sports. When you win a regional title, you're accomplishing something,'" Seneca East coach Doug Mason said.
What could be considered even more impressive was the fact that Seneca East won the most stacked regional in Division III, featuring five of the top nine teams in the state.
Last year, Seneca East finished third at the Tiffin Regional, which Mason credits to having the teams' long runs there every Sunday. This year, he finds it comforting.
"It was something we started last year," Mason said. "Our seniors last year said they wanted to get out of regionals and they made it a tradition. There's a comfort here; coming here today, because they run it every Sunday."
Having a course the team calls home wasn't the only accolade Mason mentioned when talking of the Tiger's success in running; he also talks about the local community.
"We had great community support today," he said. "We're just glad to treat them to what we do."
He also exclaims that his runners, as good as they are, are just as great of people as runners.
"I know everyone here says, 'Gosh I know Seneca East are such good runners,' but guys right here, they're as good of people as they are good runners," Mason said. They're just great kids. Teachers love them in class, they're quality kids."
Most teams can only dream of getting to state, especially in a region hosting so many of the top Division III programs, but Seneca East has a different angle on the race.
"We knew going in, we had high expectations," Mason said. "This is a great accomplishment but they know there's one more week to go."
The Tigers finished fifth last year at state with three freshman and a sophomore. They are ready to ho back, bringing more experience and success with them on this trip.
"We just know we have a shot, and you don't get that too often in your lifetime," Mason said. "We're going to have to run the race of our lives. Northeast Ohio has had such a hold on the state title for the past 15 years, maybe even longer, and we want to try and wrestle it away. They've been there, they've done that; It's nothing new for them" Mason said.
The last time an Midland Athletic League athlete won a state title in cross country was 2002, when St. Wendelin's Josh Souder ran 15:57 to outdistance Braden Martinez from Stryker by two seconds.
During the race, Wes Pipher went out hard from the gun, sharing the lead with Columbus Grove's Jake Graham. Graham went on to win the race in 16:18 while Pipher faded to third in 16:37.49. Pipher, only a sophomore, was thoroughly pleased with a third place regional finish.
"I felt really good up until the end," he said. "Most of the course is really torn up already and everybody has to run through it twice, but it's probably one of my best races up til now."
Teammate and twin brother Carson Pipher also cracked the top 10, finishing 9th in 16:47.19. Despite his individual performance, his team toeing the line next Saturday was what was on his mind.
"I feel we have one of the better chances to win, we'll be in that fight. We're going to have to run the same way we did today, just run together and work hard and take each person, one at a time," Carson Pipher said.
Jared Stockmaster (12th, 16:48.50), Jason Willman (13th, 16:48.90) and Karl Burgderfer (21st, 17:02.69) rounded out the team's top five.
Marcus Meyer's was the next area finisher to cross the line, ending 28th (17:19.52).
Hopewell-Loudon's boys finished eighth as a team with 231 points.
In the Division I race, a runner was jumping for joy, even though he wasn't actually jumping for joy.
Columbian's Brandon Gibson picked off three runners in the final 30 meters to finish seventh in 16:19.94 and qualify for the state in his first season running cross country.
"I was dying coming up this last hill and before we even got to the hill, but I just seen the time was 16:14 (with about 30 meters left in the race) so I just started sprinting and gave it everything I had to get there," Gibson said.
Gibson knew that after making it out of districts, getting to state was going to be a tall order.
"(I told myself before the race) I can't let 16 people in front of me. No one is going to hurt as much as I can," he said.
Gibson got a late start in running, having only completed one season of track and is currently finishing up his first season of cross country. But it's hasn't stopped him from loving to run.