EUREKA — We must learn to walk before we can run.
That said, Deer Creek-Mackinaw High School's fast-improving boys cross country team walked away with the first regional title in its history on Saturday by scoring 52 points in the Class 1A Eureka Regional.
"That was a goal way back before the season even started," said Coach Sam Ingram, who watched five Chiefs crack the top 14.
Headlining the girls race was Emma Argo, who led runner-up Eureka to a sectional berth in 17 minutes, 24 seconds to take 14 seconds off the course record.
A year ago, the Dee-Mack boys were second to Elmwood, which was sent to Aledo this year. Challenging the No. 6-state ranked Chiefs this time was No. 8 Monticello, which finished five points behind in second.
"Monticello's a great team so to come away with that means a lot to us," said Ingram, whose squad advanced to next Saturday's Elmwood Sectional along with No. 15 El Paso-Gridley (115), No. 20 Tremont (117), Olympia (128), No. 17 Eureka (164) and Decatur St. Teresa (187).
Monticello's Alex Helmuth won the 2.9-mile race in 14 minutes, 58 seconds ahead of teammate Garrett Dixon (15:07).
Tremont sophomore Leland Sumer led area entrants in fourth (15:42). A year ago, his team missed qualifying for state by six points.
"I went as an individual, but I'm going to try to get the team to go," Sumer said. "That would be more rewarding than just me as an individual going."
Central Catholic's Will Dionesotes was the first of five individual qualifiers not on advancing teams, finishing fifth in 15:49. His finish was especially notable because he lost two weeks of training to Achilles' tendinitis.
"I got treatment for it so I'm coming back," said Dionesotes, who is gunning for a top-10 sectional showing. "I feel pretty confident after this race."
Gary Cates led Dee-Mack in sixth (15:49). Also scoring for the Chiefs were Colby Johnson (ninth, 16:02), John Blumeyer (11th, 16:18), John Carnicle (12th, 16:19) and Neal Scheuermann (14th, 16:22).
"This summer, we all tried going out and running a little bit more," Cates said. "We have a really tight pack this year."
Eighth-place Tri-Valley (208) missed advancing by 21 points, but did qualify Drew Guimond (16th, 16:22) and Matthew Kovich (17th, 16:25). Other qualifiers were Heyworth's Devon Butler (24th, 16:40) and Clinton's Ty Brennan (32nd, 16:50).
For the girls, Argo finished 51 seconds ahead of St. Teresa runner-up Veronica Hein.
"It was definitely something I was looking at," said Argo of the course record set by Mahomet-Seymour's Lauren Whitehouse in 2015. "I have found I run best when I'm afraid people are going to catch me."
No. 5-ranked Monticello couldn't be caught as it topped the host Hornets, 58-83. Other qualifiers were No. 13 Olympia (91), No. 25 Tremont (130), No. 24 EPG (131), No. 11 St. Teresa (151) and Tri-Valley (195), which landed the final berth by three points over Maroa-Forsyth.
"Monticello is tough," said Eureka coach Olivia Morris. "We haven't seen them all year. I think we competed well with them."
Tremont sophomore Lizzy Freidinger was third (18:44) and Tri-Valley freshman Natalie Garneau fifth (18:49). Clinton sophomore Payne Turney, seventh in last year's state meet, led the five individual qualifiers in sixth (18:51).
Dee-Mack advanced Mikayla Moore (eighth, 19:00) and Heyworth qualified Stephanie Brown (19th, 19:46).