SOLON—Prince of Peace’s Payton Schnier finished 12th Thursday at the Class 1A state-qualifying cross country meet in Solon to move on to the state race.

“It feels awesome; it’s been a long time coming,” Schnier said. “It’s a great relief.”

Schnier, a junior on the Irish team, is the first Irish runner to qualify for state since Jackie Kokjohn advanced on the girls side her senior year in 2013.

That doesn't mean it wasn't always a goal for Schnier.

“Ever since I watched my brothers running, I dreamed of going to state,” Schnier said. Four of Schnier’s older brothers ran at the state meet at some point in their high school careers. “Now that it’s a reality it’s an awesome feeling.”

Schnier ran a 17:30 for his top-15 finish. The top 15 individuals and top three teams all advanced.

“I was able to start out pretty fast, which I had planned on doing,” Schnier said about the race. “It narrowed off pretty quickly in the back woods, so it was helpful to get out quicker. Throughout the rest of the race I was able to stay with the pack, and that helped.”

Now that he knows he will be in Fort Dodge in a little over a week it's back to focusing on practice and peaking at the right time.

“We’re just going to continue to have practice this week up until state,” Schnier said. “Won’t be pushing too hard but just continuing to run and preparing for state.”

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