PICKERINGTON, Ohio — As a team, and unfortunately once again, the Eastern Lady Eagles were left on the outside looking in.
As an individual, junior Jessica Cook was just inside the necessary number needed to qualify for the state.
That’s how close, for better or for worse, Eastern’s day went on Saturday — as part of the annual Division III regional cross country meet at Pickerington North High School.
The six-time Division III district champion Lady Eagles, in attempting to qualify to the state meet for the second time in three years, fell short of that goal by a single spot — as Eastern’s team score was a 176.
This year, the top five teams — and individuals which finish among the top 20 — advance to the state meet, as Eastern finished sixth.
Last year, when the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced, Eastern once again was the first one out — thanks to the fifth-score tiebreaker with Fairfield Christian.
Mount Gilead gained the fifth and final team spot with a 161 score, as Tuscarawas Valley won the team championship with an 86.
Columbus Northmor (111), Columbus Academy (119) and Fredericktown (137) also earned state berths.
River Valley also advanced to the regional meet as a squad, and was 17th out of the 17 girls schools with 446 points.
For Eastern’s Cook, she placed 18th out of 131 runners, completing the 5K course in 20 minutes and 45 seconds.
This will be Cook’s third state meet, including her second consecutive as an individual, as she finished fifth in the regional last season by exactly a minute faster.
In addition to Cook, the other Eagle runners on Saturday were sophomore Ally Durst (30th in 21:38), senior Laura Pullins (36th in 21:56), senior Taylor Parker (59th in 22:36), sophomore Rhiannon Morris (86th in 23:20), junior Kaitlyn Hawk (89th in 23:25) and freshman Lexa Hayes (115th in 25:17).
The Lady Raiders were paced by junior Kenzie Baker, who finished 58th in 22:35.
The remaining Raiders all placed from 106th to 129th — and included senior Leanne Hively (106th in 24:32), freshman Kaylee Gillman (116th in 25:33), sophomore Beth Gillman (121st in 26:10), sophomore Josie Jones (124th in 26:53) and junior Yolanda Andre (129th in 27:53).
The Division III girls individual race winner was senior Kyleigh Edwards of Fairfield Christian in 18:46.
On the boys side, Southern junior Larry Dunn was the only Ohio Valley Publishing area runner, as he placed 38th overall in 17 minutes and 47 seconds.
There were 135 runners in the boys Division III race, which was won by Mount Gilead senior Austin Hallabrin in 16:19.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106