CAMBRIDGE — Failure can be a strong motivation. It definitely was for Portage’s Tyler Jones.

After finishing one place short of qualifying for the state meet at sectionals one season ago, Jones did everything in his power to make sure the same thing wouldn’t happen again. The Portage junior was rewarded for his efforts, as he punched his ticket to his first state cross country meet, finishing in third place in the boys race at the Division 2 Deerfield Sectional held at Cam-Rock Park on Saturday morning.

“The hard work paid off,” Jones said after crossing the finish line of the 5,000-meter race in 16 minutes, 29 seconds. “It was definitely worth it in the end.”

Running at the Deerfield Sectional last year, on the same Cam-Rock Park course, Jones finished ninth in 16:46. That time was almost good enough to make him a state qualifier, but instead his season ended one week earlier than hoped.

That feeling of missing out as a sophomore drove him to do better.

“That definitely motivated me to get to this point,” Jones said. “It was almost important that it (happened that way), because I wouldn’t have worked as hard, had I not just missed it by one place last year. I wouldn’t have put in the effort that I did this year.”

Portage head coach Joe Pease said Jones became a different runner in the last 12 months.

“I think back to all the athletes that have gone through our cross country program, and he’s one of the most driven athletes,” Pease said. “It didn’t start that way, but this last year, he worked pretty hard to get where he’s at right now.”

The Portage boys were hoping to finish in the top two as a team, but instead had to settle for fourth place with 111 points, one point behind third-place Lodi. Jefferson won the boys sectional title with 66 points, while East Troy was second with 69 points.

After Jones, Portage senior Jeromy Kruse was the next Portage runner to finish, taking 19th place in 17:27. He was followed by junior Max Monfort, who was 26th in 17:56. Monfort had been not far behind Jones for most of the season, but he ran out of gas late in the year after dealing with illness prior to last week’s Badger North Conference Meet in Baraboo.

“We’re pretty blessed with the kids that we have. The thing that was tough for us was Max was sick a couple weeks ago and really hasn’t snapped out of it,” Pease said. “He felt bad about the whole thing. There’s nothing you can do.”

Even had the Warriors been at full strength, it would have been hard to catch Jefferson or East Troy. Jefferson put four runners in the top 14, while East Troy put its top five in the top 23.

Portage’s final two runners of its scoring five were junior Trent Briggs, who finished 29th in 18:00, and junior Eli Considine, who was 34th in 18:10.

Jones won’t be the only Portage-area runner competing at the state meet next Saturday. He will be joined by Lodi senior Tanner Maier, who earned himself a sectional championship by winning the boys race in 16:18.

Earning a trip to the state meet was a great way to end Maier’s first and only season with the Lodi cross country program. Maier decided to give the sport a try after a successful track season in the spring, and quickly established himself at not only Lodi’s top runner, but one of the top runners in the area.

Maier said he has been surprised by his success.

“I just thought I was going to be the third runner for Lodi throughout the season, so I wasn’t really sure (what to expect),” Maier said.

Maier led pretty much from start to finish. He did receive a late challenge from East Troy junior Nathan Fox, but Maier outsprinted Fox to the finish line, before collapsing on the ground in exhaustion.

Maier said the plan wasn’t to grab the early lead.

“I wanted to get out fast, but I didn’t want to get out as fast as I did,” Maier said. “I wanted to stay back with the top five runners and then take it in the last mile, but it just kind of worked out where I just went away (with the lead).”

Like Portage, Lodi was hoping to challenge for the top two spots, but instead had to settle for third place. The second Blue Devils runner to finish in the boys race was senior Jacob Harland, who was 10th in 17:02.

No local runners were able to advance to state on the girls side. The Lodi girls finished in sixth place with 177 points. They were led by freshman Lauryn Milne, who was 15th in 20:25, and junior Isabelle Clary, who was 25th in 20:47.

The Portage girls were ninth with 221 points. The top finisher for the Portage girls was junior Hunter Warzecha, who was 40th in 21:33. She was followed by the trio of senior Kayla Kinzler (44th, 21:52) and freshmen Hanna Garetson (45th, 21:52) and Aubrey Rietmann (46th, 21:55).

“The girls have been working hard this whole year. I’ve been very impressed with the four or five freshmen that we have,” Pease said. “They had a great year. For them, just putting together a meet where everybody does well at the same time has been the hardest thing.”

DIVISION 2 DEERFIELD SECTIONAL

GIRLS

Team scores: Lake Mills 46, Jefferson 61, East Troy 70, Watertown Luther Prep 152, Lakeside Lutheran 155, Lodi 177, Deerfield/Cambridge 205, Columbus 212, Portage 221, Whitewater 239, Big Foot 264, Clinton 282, Catholic Memorial 291, Racine St. Catherine’s 407.

Top 10 individuals: 1, Erin Sorg, DD, 18:42; 2, Alexandria Demco, BF, 19:02; 3, Allisan Barrett, Whi, 19:08; 4, Mariah Linse, Jef, 19:20; 5, Makenzie Hottinger, Jef, 19:21; 6, Lauren Winslow, LM, 19:22; 7, Kayli Buchli, LM, 19:23; 8, Madison Desing, ET, 19:23; 9, Christina Nolting, ET, 19:30; 10, Jade Pitta, LM, 19:35.

Individual state qualifiers: 1, Erin Sorg, DD, 18:42; 2, Alexandria Demco, BF, 19:02; 3, Allisan Barrett, Whi, 19:08; 8, Madison Desing, ET, 19:23; 9, Christina Nolting, ET, 19:30.

Lodi: 15, Lauryn Milne 20:25; 25, Isabelle Clary 20:47; 29, Hannah Busser 20:59; 55, Claire Schoenemann 22:22; 58, Mandy Giese 22:26; 61, Maddie Lee 22:39; 71, Thea Collins 23:06. Portage: 40, Hunter Warzecha 21:33; 44, Kayla Kinzler 21:52; 45, Hanna Garetson 21:52; 46, Aubrey Rietmann 21:55; 51, Anika Shortreed 22:13; 56, Jamie Shaver 22:25; 68, Riley O’Leary 22:54.

BOYS

Team scores: Jefferson 66, East Troy 69, Lodi 110, Portage 111, Whitewater 131, Watertown Luther Prep 143, Catholic Memorial 144, Deerfield/Cambridge 157, Lakeside Lutheran 173, Lake Mills 315, Clinton 323, Big Foot 401, Delavan Darien 409, Racine St. Catherine’s 428, Columbus 435, St. John’s Military Academy 435.

Top 10 individuals: 1, Tanner Maier, Lod, 16:18; 2, Nathan Fox, ET, 16:22; 3, Tyler Jones, Por, 16:29; 4, Ryan Nelson, Jef, 16:30; 5, Tyler Punzel, LL, 16:38; 6, Spencer Currie, DC, 16:42; 7, Sean Waldvogel, CM, 16:45; 8, Camden Sulzle, WLP, 16:58; 9, Michael Rosin, ET, 16:59; 10, Jacob Harland, Lod, 17:02.

Individual state qualifiers: 1, Tanner Maier, Lod, 16:18; 3, Tyler Jones, Por, 16:29; 5, Tyler Punzel, LL, 16:38; 6, Spencer Currie, DC, 16:42; 7, Sean Waldvogel, CM, 16:45.

Lodi: 1, Tanner Maier 16:18; 10, Jacob Harland 17:02; 21, Aaron Wickham 17:32; 35, Brandon Grover 18:13; 43, Garrett Moll 18:21; 51, Branden Errthum 18:40; 62, Matthew Lins 19:14. Portage: 3, Tyler Jones 16:29; 19, Jeromy Kruse 17:27; 26, Max Monfort 17:56; 29, Trent Briggs 18:00; 34, Eli Considine 18:10; 57, Connor Allsage 18:56; 61, Nathan Poches 19:02.

At Cam-Rock Park, Cambridge, 5,000 meters