While other runners faded down the stretch, Wauwatosa East sophomore Henry Wellenstein took off.
Wellenstein used a strong final 100 meters to finish in ninth place and in the process earned a trip to the WIAA state meet at the Milwaukee King cross-country sectional Oct. 22 at Lincoln Park Golf Course in Milwaukee.
With a time of 16:54.10, Wellenstein edged Miles Stimac of Port Washington by 1.8 seconds to grab the fifth and final individual qualifying spot.
"Henry controlled his nerves by remaining calm and held back in the first mile as many runners went out fast," Wauwatosa East boys coach Mackenzie Laska said. "Henry steadily moved up into position. By the 2-mile mark, he was three spots away from a qualifying spot, and over the final kilometer of the race, he secured his position."
The Red Raiders' boys team took third place with 98 team points, edging Milwaukee King by one point. Homestead (65) and Germantown (77) took first and second place to earn the two team berths at state.
Senior Faisal Bartlett came in 14th in 16:58.34, senior Jack Sveum took 19th in 17:06.48, junior Ian Tyre was 21st in 17:07.40 and junior Jacob Odrzywolski rounded out the scoring lineup with a 35th-place finish in 17:28.12.
"We outperformed expectations once again," Laska said. "Even though it was 21 points shy of the second-place spot that would have advanced the team to state, I don’t believe there was anything else I could have asked these boys to do. They raced smart and left everything they had on the course."
Also running for the Red Raiders' boys team were senior Eli Werner (49th in 17:50.92) and senior Jacob Collison (68th in 20:39.71).
Wellenstein will compete at the WIAA state meet on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.
"I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I am incredibly proud of what this group of boys has accomplished this season," Laska said. "They were underdogs all year and kept stepping up with improvement in their fitness, race tactics and toughness week after week.
"We now look to rally behind Henry with positive energy and expect to get a big crowd up the Wisconsin Rapids to push him to a PR at the Ridges."
Wauwatosa East's girls cross-country team took sixth place at sectionals, finishing behind Whitefish Bay, Menomonee Falls, Port Washington, Germantown and Homestead.
"The senior group has been a solid core for the team for four years, and making the state meet was a goal this season," Wauwatosa East girls coach Glen Gardiner said. "We came up just short at the end. Overall, the team had a very successful season. Having won our first invitational since 2011 and being ranked in the state for two weeks are some great takeaways from the season.
"We are disappointed with the outcome on Saturday, but we can be proud of the great season at the varsity and JV level, and the team has a lot of potential coming back for next year."
Senior Kacy Fisher led the Red Raiders with a 27th-place finish in 20:52.30. Senior Andrea Mabie came in 28th in 20:55.30, sophomore Elsa Klein took 33rd in 21:00.99, sophomore Abby Wood claimed 38th in 21:10.40 and senior Janet Fee took 41st in 21:19.90.
Senior Jordyn Summerfield (43rd in 21:22.0) and freshman Molly McCaffery (46th in 21:29.60) also competed for the girls team.