Making another run at the state championship meet, the Hudson girls cross country team made it official after a successful regional meet.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Explorers have earned a team state berth in rugged Division I action.
Hudson finished third with 152 points at the Youngstown Division I regional Oct. 26 at Boardman High School.
Cleveland St. Joseph Academy won the 24-team competition with 130 points. It was a balanced regional with loads of individual talent as 18 different schools were represented in the top 20 finishes at Spartan Stadium.
Defending champion Medina was the runner-up at 138 points while the other qualifying teams are Shaker Heights (155), Brunswick (209), Mentor (248), Massillon Jackson (258) and Warren Howland (261).
The top eight schools advanced to the state meet, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The girls’ race is set to begin at 12:30 p.m.
"The NEO regional is always a deeply competitive meet with many, many talented teams and we have so much respect for the programs that toed the line with us," Explorers head coach Megan Petraska said. "To be third in a field like this is a great sign for the girls as we work toward running our best race in Hebron."
Medina’s Juliette Keller won the 189-member race with a time of 18 minutes, 12.53 seconds.
Last season, Hudson placed sixth in regionals to advance. Junior Emmaline Hannan led the Explorers with a 22nd-place clocking of 19:34.93.
Hannan had a great race as she improved on last year’s regional clocking of 20:00.11.
Running 28th overall, junior Brenna Beucler was next for Hudson in 19:40.38.
"The girls got out to a fast start and there was a large lead pack at the mile that Brenna and Emma were just a few seconds back from," Petraska said.
"Emma closed very well and Brenna followed her and both would have qualified for the state meet as individuals based on their top-32 finishes. We are so proud of both of them, not just for their great finishes, but also for their continued hard work and dedication to getting better."
Two more juniors Sydney Gallagher (19:55.69) and Jordyn Hopgood (19:57.11), finished 34th and 35th place, respectively, for the Explorers.
"Sydney has been steadily progressing and is hovering around her all-time PR [personal record] for the second week in a row," Petraska said. "She ran a very similar [regional] time to last week with Boardman's course being more challenging, this is a positive sign.
"She is so determined and a strong competitor and just having her on the team makes everyone better.
"The same goes for Jordyn [Hopgood], who had a huge breakthrough in practice two weeks ago and who is running so well and getting PR’s at the perfect time," she added. "Her race was huge for us and a big reason we got third. Every time we saw her, she had moved up in the race."
Rounding out the top five for the Explorers was junior Sarah Weldon (70th, 20:30.98).
"Sarah is another big reason we got third," Petraska said. "She has been rock solid all season for us. She was not feeling great during the race, but she fought hard and passed some runners from the teams we had our sights set on in the last stretch.
"Sarah has really worked hard to develop as a runner and we think her best race is still ahead of her."
Senior Nicole Jurado (119th, 21:13.61) and sophomore Story Jones (159th, 22:07.27) also ran for Hudson.
"Sydney, Jordan and Sarah all had themselves in great position, with Nicole and Story working together to run a smart first mile," Petraska said. "As the race unfolded, all of our girls moved up well.
"Nicole and Story were such a super duo for us and as the oldest and youngest runners on our team, respectively, they have become key contributors.
"Nicole's experience allows her to run her own race and put herself in a position to displace other teams’ runners. She [Jurado] has a very high cross country IQ in that she does a great job of keeping herself in races and in striking distance of the girls she knows she needs to pass.
"Story has progressed all season long and is getting the hang of asserting herself in big races and trusting her training. She has a fantastic turnover and her workouts have been so strong."
Although the Explorers have plenty of experience, it’s easy to forget that Hudson is still fairly young.
"We are excited to see what all of our girls can do next week in Hebron as making a return to the state meet was a goal," Petraska said. "With how competitive the sport is, every year, this becomes a taller task, but the girls really have risen to the challenge and embraced the struggle.
"Now, we are looking forward to all their hard work since June paying off next weekend on the state’s biggest stage."