The Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional proved on Sunday that while there are always favorites, there are never any guarantees.
And the boys of Wisconsin had an extraordinary day from start to finish at Yankton Trails Park, with Homestead (WI) High senior Drew Bosley earning a coveted regional title in a PB of 14:53.6 -- his first time under 15 minutes -- while two of his state colleagues qualified for NXN and one team from the state, Middleton, became the first in its history to do so.
The girls race wasn't as shocking, but just as impressive as small school Minnesota champ Tierney Wolfgram earned a big win over state counterparts to qualify for her first NXN.
Wayzata's and Edina's girls, meanwhile, punched their tickets to the big dance yet again.
Edina, which had overcome injury and lineup turnover and absence -- the Hornets' seventh runner, who is Mormon, could not run on Sunday -- was beyond thrilled to qualify for its third straight NXN Bid.
Everyone in the boys field knew they had to get out quick on the fast and flat Yankton Trails Park course in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but no one was quite expecting how fast the first mile would take out in the opening moments on Sunday.
Drew Bosley said he found himself in 20th to 25th place after 400 meters, while West Central (SD) senior Derick Peters, one of the favorites, was around 25th to 30th after a mile.
That was all thanks to Wesley Schiek, a senior form Osh Kosh North (WI), who decided that he needed to set the tone and disrupt whatever plan most had coming into the championship race. He went through the mile around 4:39.
But Schiek's plan ultimately did a bit of good, waking not only Bosley and Peters up, but the majority of candidates who felt they had a chance to qualify for NXN.
Bosley, Peters, and Wayzata's Khalid Hussein ultimately made their moves after a slight hill into the second mile, while Schiek was holding on.
Bosley finished with a win, qualifying for NXN for the second straight year, while Peters, who was 31st in the race last year, was second overall in 14:55.42.
Hussein, also making a surge after the first mile, finished in third in 14:56.53, while Schiek was fourth in 14:59.80 and Matthew Meinke, from Neenah (WI) was fifth in 15:01.43.
With Wayzata qualifying, though, it also inserted Roseville (MN) High's Acer Iverson toward an NXN bid after a sixth-place finish in 15:04.10.
Wayzata, as anticipated, dominated in the boys race, scoring 114 points behind finishers at third, 24th, 56th, 65th, and 74th.
The surprise of regionals, though, was Middleton's boys, who grabbed that second automatic qualifier and scored 134 points behind lead-running from Caleb Easton, who finished in 15:27.
The spread for the squad was just 34 seconds, with a total team time of 1:18.25 and an average of 15:41. The squad finished 20th, 21st, 47th, 68th, and 105th.
The Dowling Catholic boys were third overall, while Edina's boys were fourth.
Following one of her career best performances, Edina (MN) senior Emily Kompelien was reflecting upon a race -- and an important moment -- during an interview after the NXR Heartland Region on Sunday.
But all that soul-searching -- on an individual accomplishment, mind you -- made no difference when teammate Katherine Berube interrupted the conversation with glee and wrapped Kompelien in a bear hug.
Berube, a senior who had dropped nine minutes from her 2016 best to her 18:11.13 on Sunday -- a tremendous effort which netted her a 31st place finish -- was sobbing uncontrollably.
She had dreamed of this moment for a long time.
This Edina team had finally put the pieces together at the end of the year to grab the second automatic qualifier to NXN after scoring 119 points and an 18:08 average.
Kompelien had run a PB of 17:15.265 and finished sixth, while her teammates went 31st, 34th, 42nd, and 57th.
Wayzata's girls had finished first, as expected, finishing with an impressive 65 point performance -- and one that indicates the team should do really well at NXN -- and the team was led by Emma Atkinson and Caroline Sassan, who went fifth and seventh.
The Trojans followed in 18th, 23rd and 40th, wrangling a team average of 17:48 and a spread of 66 seconds.
Minneapolis Washburn was third, while St. James Academy (KS) was fourth.
The individual race was incredibly competition, with Math & Science Academy (MN) freshman Tierney Wolfgram flourishing from start to finish in a career best 16:48.67, winning her first region championship and grabbing her first bid to NXN.
Minneapolis Washburn junior Emily Covert continued her torrid junior season, posting a second-place effort in 16:55.71, while Farmington (MN) freshman Anna Fenske was third in 17:05.14, earning a return trip to NXN.
It wasn't surprising that Winona Cotter (MN) 7th grader Lauren Ping earned a ticket to NXN with a fourth-place finish in 17:07.72 -- she's been running well all year -- but her sister, Grace, a nationally ranked talent, decided to skip the meet out of caution for a recent nagging leg issue that she was recently getting over.
Farmington's Lauren Peterson was the final automatic qualifier individually by virtue of a few finishers on auto team qualifiers. The Farmington junior, who qualified for NXN in 2016, was eighth overall in 17:26.18.