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Notre Dame boys knock off defending state champion Potosi
FARMINGTON -- When Notre Dame senior Matt Reinagel crossed the finish line of the Class 3 District 1 meet in 17th place Saturday, he couldn't help but wonder if his season was over.
He finished directly behind a trio of Festus runners and just ahead of two runners from three-time defending state champion Potosi. He had fallen short of the team's goal -- five in 15 -- in a meet that had little margin for error.
"I was pretty worried," Reinagel said. "I thought we'd lost at first because I didn't have the race I thought I would have. There were two Potosi guys behind me, and I knew they had the front guys. I knew it was going to be close. I was kind of worried until we started going through the finishes, and then I was OK."
Reinagel could not be sure exactly how well the Bulldogs had run as a team until he saw the results: Wynn McClellan in third, Logan Davis in sixth, Dillon Klaffer in seventh and Ryan Johnson in ninth.
The Bulldogs' total of 39 points was enough for a six-point win against Potosi and a nine-point advantage over Festus. The top two teams and top 15 individuals qualified for the state meet Saturday in Jefferson City.
"Potosi is the standard as far as programs," Notre Dame coach Bill Davis said. "To beat them is an honor. I'm kind of slapping myself, 'Did we really beat them?' It's an honor to beat them and Festus."
The Bulldogs, state champions in Class 2 in 2005 and third-place finishers in Class 3 the last two years behind Potosi and West Plains, never before had beaten the Trojans in a meet.
"It feels great," Klaffer said. "Today, we looked amazing. We haven't run as a team like we did today. We just finished boom-boom-boom."
Klaffer was a key cog, after not always holding down the No. 3 spot in Notre Dame's lineup this year.
"I said coming in, 'If Dillon runs like Dillon is capable of, no one is going to deny us,'" Davis said. "Dillon ran up where he needed to be today."
Klaffer finished in 16 minutes, 48 seconds, 1 second behind the coach's son and 3 seconds off Johnson.
McClellan, a junior, stuck his nose in with Potosi's lead duo during the first mile. While defending state champion Jacob Swearingen ran away from the pack early en route to a 15:33, McClellan ran briefly with Nick Niggeman before settling back into third place.
"I got a little caught up in it," McClellan said. "I ran gutsy."
He admitted the 4:54 opening mile -- "That's only like 10 seconds off my best mile," he said -- took a toll.
"I was feeling some pain, but I gutted out the last two miles," McClellan said. "I think the pain was more just watching Nick Niggeman pull away on me. It made me worry I was falling back."
McClellan's 16:17 left him 16 second ahead of the fourth-place finisher, Festus' Cole Allison.
"Wynn McClellan is getting so much better here recently," Davis said. "He's not the fastest kid on the team in terms of sheer foot speed, but he just works so hard and his attitude toward that work is so good."
The coach emphasized team often to his runners and others he addressed during the day Saturday.
"Our fifth guy is just as important as our first," he said. "Logan came up and told me, 'I know what I have to do,' and he did it. Ryan Johnson is a great worker with a great attitude who has just come from nowhere. Matt is always upbeat and responds to what you say to him. A lot of teams don't have five guys who can run 17 [minutes]."
Davis preached patience and place over time, setting the goal for the five scorers to place in the top 15 -- something he gestured by hand to his runners from 40 yards out just before the start after conducting two pre-race huddles -- by climbing through the pack during the race. He wanted five in the top 27 at one mile, and had parents and supporters at every half-mile to let the runners know their progress.
"I told them not to worry about time," he said. "Five-in-15 will get us where we want to go. I don't like them to explode out at the start. I like them to be patient and not feel pressured."
Davis will employ the same method at state, where the Bulldogs again will have to fend off Potosi and also battle perennial power West Plains.
"We'll have to run better next week," he proclaimed as the team milled around for post-ceremony pictures.
Is that even possible?
"We can be a lot better mentally," Klaffer said. "Physically, it's all guts now. We just have to prepare mentally for state."
The Bulldogs will have some confidence after coming through a tough field for their first district title since 2005, when they went on to win that Class 2 state crown.
"Maybe it's a sign," McClellan said. "It'd be great, but West Plains is going to be tough."
"We'll have to pack it up together again," Klaffer said. "Now that we know we can beat Potosi, maybe we can pack it together and beat West Plains."
Notre Dame senior Tori Pfau placed 10th in 20:41 to qualify for the state meet. Notre Dame finished sixth as a team.
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Team scores -- Notre Dame 39, Potosi 45, Festus 48, Farmington 104, De Soto 159, North County 160, St. Mary's 173, Hillsboro 188.
Notre Dame -- 3, Wynn McClellan, 16:17; 6, Logan Davis, 16:47; 7, Dillon Klaffer, 16:48; 9, Ryan Johnson, 16:51; 17, Matt Reinagel, 17:11; 24, Ethan Holcomb, 17:52; Cody Moore, 18:15.
Team scores -- Festus 31, Ste. Genevieve 37, De Soto 108, Farmington 129, North County 131, Notre Dame 136, Hillsboro 191, St. Louis Notre Dame 195.
Notre Dame -- 10, Tori Pfau, 20:41; 22, Tara Grojean, 21:57; 31, Megan Morris, 22:46; 38, Elizabeth Kiblinger, 23:18; 43, Katie Obermark, 24:08; 44, Jill Schnurbusch, 24:23; 45, Ashley Schmittzehe, 24:30.