SENECA - St. Bede sophomores Kayla MacDavitt and Amy Stanke trudged away from the cross country trail together at Saturday's Class 1A Seneca cross country regional at Seneca FFA Lab.

They stopped, and at the request of some trailing St. Bede parents, took a picture of their mud-covered uniforms.

It looked like the pair had just got done playing football on a sloppy surface.

Instead, they just got done qualifying for sectionals in conditions that would have been troubling for just about any sport.

And it had to come at regionals.

"At the beginning, you're like, ‘I wish it was so much nicer because it would be so much easier to run,'" MacDavitt said. "But you have to do it now or never."

MacDavitt led the Lady Bruins with a 13th-place finish in 23 minutes, 28.3 seconds, and St. Bede totaled 107 team points to sneak into the fifth and final qualifying spot and send the whole squad on to Saturday's Class 1A Aurora Christian Sectional.

"You can't really perform your best because it was so slippery out there," Amy Stanke said. "I almost fell on my face."

Good thing St. Bede kept its footing.

Amy's sister, Lucy, crossed the finish line second for the Academy, placing 15th in a time of 23:52.1. Lucy Stanke was very happy to be moving on to sectionals with her teammate.

The only hiccup came from freshman Julia Jackson having to miss the race due to breathing problems.

"I think we did really well. I feel bad that Julia had to drop out, but I think we did pretty well," Lucy Stanke said. "I've been having trouble breathing and I had trouble (Saturday)."

Coming in third for St. Bede was freshman Hannah Read, who placed 22nd in 24:26.6, while senior Jenna Ebener placed 36th in 27:18.6 and Amy Stanke took 37th in 28:14.0.

"The girls ran really well. We just have to get Julia (Jackson) healthy," St. Bede head coach Dennis Summers said. "I think the girls are going to do well. They're young. I lose Lucy (Stanke) and Jenna (Ebener). I think it's the first time in a long time that we sent a whole team. I think it's a big boost for our confidence with the whole team going, and it will carry on for next year."

Moving on with the Lady Bruins are the Marquette Lady Crusaders, who came in third as a team with 73 points.

Junior MaryEllen Spika led the way by finishing fifth overall individually in a time of 22:02.3.

She was happy to prevail against a very confusing course because of the elements.

"Before when we walked the course, we strategically planned out where we're going to go, around which puddle. What part we can go through and what part we can't," Spika said. "As soon as that gun goes off it's all erased and you just go. Look at me, I'm soaked. You just run the best you can."

Marquette definitely ran its hardest in Seneca.

After Spika, senior Catherine Rinearson came in 12th in 23:18.5, while sophomore Katie Bugelholl and Christina Schulz placed 17th and 18th in 23:55.4 and 24:08.1, respectively.

Sophomore Sarah Bugelholl and freshman Maggie Wenzel also finished strong in 30th and 31st places, respectively.

"The girls team last year was the first girls team to advance to sectionals and there's a lot of pressure on us because nobody wanted to be the first team from the first team to not advance," Spika said. "I told the girls that before (the race) and everybody kind of looked at me, and I think that's where it sunk in that we really needed points here."

Putnam County may have come up short on the points side as a team, but two Lady Panthers managed to move on to Aurora.

Sophomore Brianna Downey came in 23rd in 24:31.7, and sophomore Abby Nieslawski placed 26th in 25:20.6 to each advance to sectionals.

"I knew it was going to be a messy race," Putnam County head coach Chuck McConnell said. "Overall, I was happy with the girls' performances. They gutted it out. It's very easy with weather like this to say, ‘Forget about it.' They didn't do that."

Jim Cogdal can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 139, or at sports@newstrib.com.

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