But the Western Reserve senior knew it was close.
He had crossed the finish line at last Saturday’s Division III regional cross country race in 17:06.85 — a new personal best.
“I knew it was right around that 25-to-28 range, and at that point I was just praying that I had made it,” Tucker said.
As it turned out, Tucker had grabbed the 28th and final qualifying spot for this Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. state championship race at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
He finished 1.78 seconds ahead of the 29th runner to earn his trip to state — one year removed from finishing 39th and 15 seconds out of the final spot at the same regional race.
“I was just stunned and amazed when it happened,” Tucker said. “It was pretty awesome. It means a lot, because I worked really hard after missing out last season.
“I was just really happy and surprised, and even relieved,” he added. “It was my No. 1 goal of the season.”
Just three weeks ago, Tucker was 10th at the Firelands Conference championships in a time of 17:34 on Oct. 14. He dropped that down to 17:09.18 for a fifth place finish at the Galion district on Oct. 21 — then came another three-second drop last weekend.
“I worked a lot harder to get my time down enough to get out,” Tucker said. “On Saturday, I’m just going to do my best and enjoy it. I’ll make sure I get good sleep and eat correctly Friday night — and go out and place as best as I can.”