GRAND PRAIRIE — The past two years, Jesuit runners watched four state-qualifying teams parade to the podium at the regional cross country meet while their season ended just behind in fifth place.
On Monday, the Rangers reversed their fortune at the Class 6A Region II meet, and qualified for their first state meet as a group.
Jesuit placed third in the team standings, paced by a runner-up individual performance from junior Connor O’Neill, and will compete at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock on Nov. 7.
“We’ve knocked on the door the previous two years,” said Jesuit head coach Doug Robinson. “They bonded together. They were determined.”
O’Neill, who ran at state last year as an individual qualifier, set an honest pace for much of Monday’s race, which was contested on a reworked loop course because of muddy conditions at Lynn Creek Park.
His time of 14 minutes, 44.54 seconds wound up three seconds behind the gold medalist, Daniel Golden of The Woodlands, whose team also won the regional title.
The team’s qualification “means more to me than it does individually,” said O’Neill, who won the District 9-6A title last week. “I train with these guys every day. I knew something special was going to happen.”
Jesuit had three other runners in the top 50, including twin brothers Connor Garvey (23rd) and John Garvey (29th), along with Miles Burrow (44th place).