After getting a good taste of the state championship meet in 2018, the Hudson girls cross country team completed the first step of making that climb.
It was more like a leap for the Explorers.
Hudson cruised to a Division I district team title last Saturday at Trumbull County Fairgrounds in Cortland. The Explorers easily won the 12-team competition with 41 points ahead of runner-up Warren Howland (84 points).
"The girls ran a very smart race to finish as district champions," head coach Megan Petraska said. "They got out well and settled in for the first mile, used mile two to really move up and pass some girls, then held on to their positions through the finish."
Aurora (94), Boardman (106) and Twinsburg (115) also qualified for the regional competition, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday at Boardman High. Racing is set to begin at 11 a.m.
"Overall, we are really thrilled with the girls’ progress and winning a district championship is an awesome confidence booster," Petraska said.
"They continue to practice tenaciously and constantly push each other to be better, which we know we will need to do to stack up against some of the powerhouse programs we will face at the regional meet."
Out of 92 runners at the district, junior Brenna Beucler grabbed second-place in 19 minutes, 12.7 seconds. Howland freshman Megan Hipple won with a time of 18:56.
"Brenna ran a stellar race and hit a season-best time," Petraska said. "She maintained her composure the entire race and moved up steadily. We were especially pleased and impressed with her ability to dig deep and keep herself going while running the last part of the race completely solo."
The Explorers also had three other runners reach the top 10. The trio comprised of juniors.
Veteran Sarah Weldon finished sixth in 19:31.09 and Emmaline Hannan captured eighth in 19:32.42. Sydney Gallagher followed closely in 10th with a clocking of 19:42.53.
"Sarah ran a PR [personal record] and Emmaline was right behind her in eighth, running a season-best time, plus Sydney (Gallagher) ran a season-best and was just shy of her all-time PR," Petraska said.
"Sarah, Emma, and Sydney ran much of the race together and all three have really been working hard the past few weeks, so it is great to see their hard work paying off. Their pack running is really what helps us to be successful in races like this."
Jordyn Hopgood, another junior, would also have been an individual qualifier had Hudson not made the team cut. Hopgood placed 15th in 19:57.11.
"She was running a great race and closing hard over the last mile," Petraska said. "She really stepped up to be a solid number five for us and had a breakthrough week of workouts so we know there is more in her tank."
Petraska had high praise for other runners, as well.
"[Sophomore] Story Jones fought very hard to stay with the lead pack the entire race and was successful, finishing 20th in 20:09, not far off her PR," she said. "Story has incredible drive and determination and it shows on race day.
"[Senior] Nicole Jurado also has incredible determination and is really a role model for our younger girls as she is always so poised. She had a phenomenal second half of the race to finish 33rd [21:02.45]."