MIDDLE POINT – Saturday morning at 11, cross country fans will see something they haven’t seen since 2006 – a Lincolnview girls cross country team at the starting line for the Division III state championship at the National Trail Raceway near Columbus. It’s safe to say that almost nobody expected this.

“Our goal the whole season was just to make it to regionals, and we really didn’t know if we were going beyond that, but we all worked together, encouraged each other – and we made it,” said sophomore Victoria Snyder.

“We were at cross country camp, and we were hoping we could go to state, but it’s kinda one of those really big dreams, probably won’t happen,” said freshman Dylann Carey. “It’s just an awesome feeling.”

It took a remarkable performance at last Saturday’s Tiffin regional to get the Lady Lancers through.

“Our region is incredibly difficult on the girls side,” said coach Matt Langdon. “We were probably 12th going into the regional, and we ended up seventh (eight teams advanced from Tiffin). If you watched the race you saw in their eyes this fight. I could tell at the finish we just did something incredible. You gotta wait for the results to come up on your phone, but I just saw it in their eyes. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that look before from a team that was a pretty big underdog.”

“The course was just a mess,” said Alena Looser, the team’s only senior. “It was so muddy. It was raining all morning. Coach had talked to us all week about staying positive, about how the weather is gonna help us tremendously – other teams are gonna fall under the pressure because it was so crappy outside – and that’s what we ended up doing. I ran my season PR. I ran the best race I could have. It was such a great moment for all of us.”

Lincolnview was led at the regional by freshman Madison Langdon (41st in 20:38.60), sophomore Victoria Snyder (57th in 21:05.77), junior Madeline Snyder (60th in 21:07.05), junior Brayden Langdon (72nd in 21:17.54), and Looser (119th in 22:04.51). Carey came in 177th (23:13.87) and junior Rylee Byrne 187th (23:47.82).

“I just felt like it was the best version of our team that we’ve ever shown before,” said Byrne. “We beat teams that we shouldn’t have beaten, teams that have beaten us throughout the whole season – so we could get to state.”

“I was excited because I like it when the weather is really bad,” said Brayden Langdon. “There were puddles everywhere. Before the mile, my socks were soaked. I knew that we would run well, because for some reason our team tends to run better when the weather’s bad, so I knew we were gonna be fine.”

“I had a chance to qualify as an individual, and it was kind of a goal I had, but once the race started and we got into it, I decided to let that go,” said Madison Langdon. “I wanted to keep fighting for my team, and in the end, making it as a team is much better than going as an individual.”

After the finish, the team had to wait a few minutes for the official results, but the team’s ultimate optimist, Madeline Snyder, had no doubt. “I told ‘em right when we finished, ‘I know we made it. I have a great feeling that we made it.’ I am most of the time optimistic about everything.”

Although none of the seven girls has had state experience, Matt Langdon is confident.

“Part of our team approach this year is they find each other, so it doesn’t matter how many people are in the race,” said Langdon. “They’re smart enough (team GPA is an incredible 3.929), so they find each other and they find other kids in the race that they know they should be around; the other stuff you just kinda block out.

“In some ways the state meet has less pressure,” added Coach Langdon. “The big meet is the regional meet. What I’ve noticed at the state meet, everybody is talking to everybody. At the regional meet no one really talks to any other team because everybody is just trying to get out. Obviously, it’s the state meet, high-level competition, but it’s more excitement than fear or pressure. I think the girls will notice that on Saturday, that it just feels different.”

This will be the Lincolnview girls’ fourth trip to state, the others coming in 2004 (finished 13th), 2005 (9th), and 2006 (15th).