TIFFIN — Northview's Janelle Noe slipped on the muddy ground during the first moments of the Division I regional cross country championship race on Saturday at Boyer Hedges Park.
The Wildcats' top runner found herself literally stuck in the mud.
But only for a moment.
Instincts and a drive to win kicked in, and Noe bounced up on her feet and began to navigate through the muddy 5,000-meter course en route to crossing the finish line first.
Noe not only won the race with a winning time of 18 minutes, 32.38 seconds, the standout senior also led the Wildcats to their second regional team championship in four years.
"This is really exciting, and it's like a really big surprise to me," Noe said. "I'm just really happy that our team can accomplish this and be regional champions.
"I fell within the first 400 meters. I tripped, but I had to get back up and started going. It was rough in the mud, and it was really slippery. I kept rolling my ankles, but I just had to finish the race."
Northview claimed the team title with 73 points, and Brunswick finished as regional runner-up with 122 points.
Northview seniors Robin Foster and Abigail Masters placed seventh and ninth, respectively, to give the Wildcats three finishers among the top 10 runners. Foster crossed the finish line in 19:09.37, and Masters was timed at 19:12.82. Mallory Small finished 25th (19:54.88) and Rachel Audet 39th (20:07.63) to help Northview's cause.
Northview coach Jodie Smith considered the Wildcats' effort perhaps their best as a team this season.
"I was real impressed with what they did today," Smith said. "They ran fantastic on a very rough, muddy course. They pulled together as a team, and they all did what they needed to do.
"We had three seniors in the top 10, so how much better can that get."
Bay and North Royalton placed third and fourth with 123 and 165 points, respectively, to qualify for the state championships. Magnificat placed fifth with 169 points, followed by Clay 173, Strongsville 183, Avon 209, Notre Dame Academy 211, Brecksville 224, Anthony Wayne 255, Perrysburg 282, Steele 309, Bowling Green 329, Ashland 342, and Whitmer 388.
The top four teams and individuals among the top 16 at regionals qualify for state.
Clay junior Erin Gyurke is returning to the state competiton after placing second with a time of 18:42.38 and will run with teammates Haley Hess and Hannah Hess, who placed 11th (19:16.06) and 14th (19:21.88), respectively.
Perrysburg junior Taylor Monheim is also a state qualifier after finishing fifth with a time of 18:58.57. Notre Dame Academy freshman Stephanie Sherman qualified by finishing eighth with a time of 19:12.20.
In Division II, Wauseon sophomore Taylor Vernot pulled away from a lead pack with about a mile remaining en route to winning the race with a time of 18:55.88.
"I felt really good during the race," said Vernot, who ran third at regionals as a freshman. "I felt strong, and I knew I had to keep pushing myself to get a good time and a good place."
St. Vincent-St. Mary's top five runners placed in the top 10 to lead the way to the team title with 27 points. Woodridge finished a distant second with 92 points, followed by CVCA with 103, Crestwood 107, Napoleon 171, Wauseon 173, Bellevue 174, Van Wert 237, Defiance 276, Lima Shawnee 289, Padua Franciscan 292, Port Clinton 293, Columbian 334, Keystone 420, Holy Name 421, and Buckeye 437.
In Division III, Toledo Christian's Delainey Phelps earned individual regional runner-up honors after placing second with a time of 18:41.06.
Phelps, a senior, kept Coldwater's Sarah Kanney within eyesight for the entire race. However, she couldn't quite close the distance down the stretch, and Kanney led Coldwater to the D-III team title by finishing first with a time of 18:33.06.
Nonetheless, Phelps was pleased about her own effort.
"This is pretty sweet," Phelps said, reflecting on her best regional showing. "This is huge and really important to me."
Coldwater won the team title with 52 points, followed by defending state champion Liberty Center with 61, Liberty-Benton 117, Spencerville 170, Fort Recovery 176, Toledo Christian 178, Crestview 225, Edgerton 228, Kalida 238, Plymourth 248, Calvert 269, Hopewell-Loudon 280, St. Mary CC 288, Elmwood 303, Gibsonburg 338, and Fairview 371.
LC's Brittany Atkinson, the defending state champion individual winner, finished behind Phelps for third place with a time of 18:53.57. LC teammates Kelly Haubert placed fifth with a time of 19:20.45, while Paige Chamberlain and Olivia Kundo ran 15th (20:28.65) and 16th (20:29.11), respectively. Rachel Pinson finished 31st (21:08.47).
"It's kind of disappointing where I ran today because I didn't end up where I wanted to be," Atkinson said. "I just know I'll have to go back to practice and work myself extra hard to make myself ready for state."
Liberty-Benton's Madi Greiner finished sixth with a time of 19:43.69 to lead her team back to state. Taylor Thomas ran 25th with a time 21:02.11, followed by Kate Baumlein (26th, 21:02.80), Mackenzie Briggs (49th, 21:38.26) and Megan Saums (61st, 21:51.49).
Genoa freshman Carly Gose earned a trip to state after finishing 13th with a time of 20:17.39.
Contact Donald Emmons at firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or onTwitter @DemmonsBlade