The stars of Tacoma Lincoln (WA) High and Bozeman (MT) High, respectively, dominated the NXR Northwest Regional on Saturday at Eagle Island State Park in Idaho, earning automatic bids to NXN on December 2 in Portland.
Both could carry that success at a very high level at NXN.
Flo50 No. 7 Mwaura crossed the line in 15:06.0, which was 10 seconds ahead of second-place Duncan Hamilton of Bozeman (15:16.87). And Mwaura's return to NXN will mark his second straight appearance following an 18th-place outing in 2016.
Hamilton's finish began a flurry of pressure for others to secure spots ahead of the fifth-place cut-off.
While the team competition materialized preceding the meet, with Washington state champions Central Valley and Kamiakin earning automatic bids to NXN, the more pressing issue at hand was qualifying as an individual.
And the next three runners all came within three seconds of each other following Hamilton's finish. Bonneville (ID) High's Stetson Moss was third in 15:17.28, Eastlake's Nate Pendleton (WA) was fourth 15:19.13, and Bishop Kelly's (ID) Nicholas Russell was fifth in 15:19.30.
There's still a chance potentially for College Place's Kenneth Rooks, who finished sixth in 15:24.34, to earn a qualifier if in fact Bozeman gets an at-large bid after all the regions take place. With a great resume and a first-place finish at last year's NXN, Bozeman, which finished fourth with 193 points, still has an outside shot of earning a bid to the national meet.
The story, though, was the shocking win of Central Valley (WA), which finished second (86-87) to Lewis and Clark at the Class 4A championship in Washington just a week earlier.
And yet, the team shook off that performance almost immediately, crossing the line in 13th, 26th, 30th, 47th, and 79th. Flo50 No. 21 Kamiakin, which won the Class 3A title in Washington, was second overall and finished its scorers in 11th, 20th, 31st, 57th, and 85th.
Crater was third, while Bozeman was fourth. Lewis and Clark, meanwhile, was fifth and outside the at-large candidates.
What a race for Camila Noe.
But it was deceiving in some ways, because Halladay's win that day was only two seconds off of Noe's third-place outing -- Sadie Sargent was second.
Over a month later, following Noe's big win at states over Billing's Tiahna Vladic, the Bozeman senior wasn't playing around.
She finished in a winning time of 17:13.47, beating Flo50 No. 6 Halladay by 17 seconds (17:30.26) and helping lock down Bozeman's second straight team appearance to NXN.
Super freshman Sydney Thorvaldson of Rawlins (WY), ranked No. 10 in the Flo50, was third overall in 17:36.08, punching her first ticket to NXN, while Mackenzie Marler of Cheyenne East and Aubrey Frentheway of Cheyenne Central were fourth and fifth, respectively -- both runners, by the way, were first and second, respectively, in their Class 4A championship in Wyoming, too.
Fortunately, sixth-place Yukino Parle (WA) also booked her ticket to NXN, considering Noe's team secured a spot with an automatic qualifier.
Just missing the cut for her third straight appearance to NXN was Vladic, who was eighth in 17:53.82. Vladic was 21st at NXN in 2016.
Bozeman, ranked No. 7 in the Flo50 national rankings, scored 76 points to score a dominating win and automatic qualifier to NXN, where they finished eighth a year ago. Jesuit, ranked No. 9, was second overall with 120 points, while Summit was third and Issaquah was fourth with 146 points.
Bozeman went first, 21st, 29th, 34th, and 48th overall.
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