PICKERINGTON — Rosemary Stephens and Evan McPherson navigated their way through the mud on Saturday, eventually finding their way to the state tournament.

Stephens and McPherson gave the Federal Hocking Lancers a pair of state qualifiers after Saturday’s Division III, Region 11 cross country meet, held at Pickerington North High School.

The 5K course was muddy, but it didn’t stop Stephens or McPherson.

Stephens, a senior, makes the state cross country meet for the second year in a row, while McPherson is a first-time state qualifier for the Lancers.

The top five teams and the top 20 individuals in the Division III race advanced to the state tournament.

Stephens qualified with time to spare, finishing 10th out of 139 runners. She posted a time of 21:10.2, running 6:48.4 per mile.

Stephens was 39 seconds ahead of the final state qualifier.

She’ll be joined in the Division III state tournament by Eastern’s Erica Durst. The junior’s time of 21:44.0 gave her a 19th place finish.

Mount Gilead senior Michaela McGill was the regional champion with a time of 20:00.2.

McPherson had to survive a sprint to the finish in his race. He was 19th with a time of 18:10.4.

McPherson finished just ahead of the final qualifier, Fort Frye sophomore Phinn Spindler (18:11.6). The 21st-place finisher was Whiteoak freshman Landen Eyre (18:17.6).

The Region 11 champion is Eastern junior Brayden Obrien. He raced through the conditions with a time of 17:00.4 to win by 11 seconds.

Obrien’s teammate, Eastern freshman Connor Nolan, wasn’t far behind. Nolan gives the Eagles two state qualifiers after finishing fourth at 17:29.6.

Federal Hocking senior Brayden Tabler also competed on Saturday, finishing 35th with a time of 18:43.6.

In the Division III girls’ race, the Lancers didn’t have enough runners to post a team score. However, freshman Piper Biesinger (86th, 24:14.9), sophomore Emma Lucas (92nd, 24:27.2) and sophomore Magnolia Ballew (139th, 35:55.9) also competed.

Nelsonville-York freshman Alayna Okulich also competed in the Division III, Region 11 race. She was 106th in the field with a time of 25:07.2.

The Division II, Region 7 girls’ and boys’ races were also held in Pickerington. The top seven teams and the top 28 individuals advanced to state competition.

Athens’ girls finished 12th with 316 points. The seventh and final team qualifying for state competition was Sheridan, which scored 223 points.

Minerva won the regional title with 43 points.

Athens senior Sarah Deering finished 33rd to just miss out on a qualifying slot. She had a time of 21:49.8. The 28th and final qualifying spot went to Jonathan Alder junior Eliza Streit (21:27.6).

The rest of the Bulldogs racing on Saturday included junior Ashlyn Webb (73rd, 22:58.2), sophomore Emma Ulbrich (77th, 23:05.3), senior Raney Riddlebarger (96th, 23:36.3), sophomore Shelby Davenport (113th, 24:18.6), junior Ava Pettey (125th, 24:49.1) and sophomore Ruby Kriser (127th, 24:57.3).

Alexander junior Leah Esselburn was 52nd with a time of 22:31.3.

In the Division II, Region 7 boys’ race, Vinton County freshman Jackson Walker was 87th with a time of 19:20.2.

Alexander sophomore Tyler Wallace was 90th with a time of 19:25.0.

The state cross country championships will be held on Saturday at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park.

The Division III girls race will start at 9 a.m., with the boys Division III race following at 10 a.m.

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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