Cross country coaches in Saturday's Class 6A regional at Cessna Activities Center projected where their runners had to be to reach the state meet, but no one could have seen the major shakeup in the girls race.
The Goddard girls surprised everyone to capture the school's first regional title. To top off the day, the boys team also qualified for next week's state meet. The East boys won the team title, with senior Will Marsh winning the race.
"It was a perfect day," Goddard coach Brian Wetta said. "The girls got out fast from the start and that's what it took to win the title."
The girls race opened up as Derby was without top runner Emily Hornbeck. That ensured an easy path for Goddard junior Megan Ballinger to win the race in 15 minutes, 33 seconds. Teammate Jaclyn Means came in second place and Caitlyn Hollinger added a third top-10 finish.
"We thought we could get it, but it has never happened to us," Ballinger said. "The girls team have never won a regional before, so this was a first. I'm so happy we could be a part of it."
Goddard finished with 63 points, which was 14 less than both East and Derby. Priscilla King gave the Lions a good fourth score, but where they improved the most was fifth runner Meredith Skidmore.
"She stepped up today and ran like a senior," Wetta said. "She put together a solid race and it helped that team score. Our fourth and fifth runners ran the races of their life."
East had the boys race's top two finishers in Marsh and Aaron Heil, who passed Campus' Bryan Keirns at the end. Campus finished second, while Goddard came in third, led by Zach Hambrick's 12th-place finish.
"We're pretty confident in our training," Marsh said. "We still know that nothing is going to be given to us, but we like our chances up at state."
Individual qualifiers included Southeast's Sarah Masood, Campus' Aubrey Winkler and South's Jasmine Mayorga. Southeast's Sterlin Broomfield and Jeff Masood and Derby's Brandon Lewis qualified on the boys side.
For Mayorga, her state appearance comes in her first year of running as a sophomore.
"I was just running, I didn't really know what I was doing," Mayorga said. "I was really tired, but this is big. This is my first year running and I made it to state. I don't know what I'm doing really, so I'm nervous."
Mayorga says she has been able to stay fit through other sports, including kick boxing, gymnastics and soccer. But she is also a cheerleader, so her nights before race days are always spent cheering at football games.
"It's amazing how well she can do sometimes," South coach Belinda Tummons said. "I think it's just because she has a lot of experience in competitions in other sports, so she's a competitor."