BELFAST, Maine — The sixth annual Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions at Troy Howard Middle School on Saturday featured a little bit of everything:
A mucky course; one of the state’s best programs sweeping the team championships; a surprising individual winner on the boys side; freshmen sweeping the first three slots among the girls; and two girls teams making bold statements.
The Scarborough boys and girls swept the team titles in different fashions while York’s Alex Moser and Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk won individual boys and girls crowns, respectively, with different plans.
The Red Storm boys relied on the 30th-place finish of fifth runner Brad Nakanishi to nip Greely of Cumberland Center 92 points to 99 while the Scarborough girls stormed away from the field to annex their crown with 131 points to runner-up Mount Desert Island’s 188.
Moser, a junior for the Wildcats, surprised himself and perhaps the rest of the field of Maine’s finest schoolboy runners, overtaking Will Geoghegan of Brunswick down the homestretch to win in 16 minutes, 28.6 seconds on the 5-kilometer course.
“Honestly, I never used a strategy, I just pushed as hard as I could,” said Moser, who was well behind sixth-place finisher Matt Driscoll of Lewiston, who held a sizeable lead, through two miles.
Mosher made up the ground in the stretch portion, taking the lead with just under a half-mile to go, but Geoghegan and Cony of Augusta’s Luke Fontaine, whom Moser has never raced against, were still right there.
“I finished really strong … I knew if I could push hard enough I would be able to get it,” Moser said.
“It was so sick. I knew when I get this feeling I know I can go.”
Geoghegan clocked a 16:31.3 for second and Fontaine 16:34.0 for third.
Defending meet champ Lewiston took third with 136 points, Falmouth was fourth (196) and York fifth (259). Mt. Blue of Farmington finished sixth with 287 points.
Belfast’s Tim Rossner won the unseeded section while Falmouth’s Tim Follo took the freshman race.
Kennebunk freshman Leonardi went on to obliterate the rest of the girls’ field in 18:43.2, blazing out from the gun, coasting through the first mile in 5:36 and cruising home from there.
“I just tried to get a good start,” she said, “but the mud affected the time.”
The Belfast course had absorbed several inches of rain over the last week and a half, but it was well-prepared for the 1,000-plus runner field.
There were a few muddy portions along the open stretches while the wooded sections were fairly dry.
Runner-up Fiona Hendry of Cheverus in Portland, also a freshman, finished in 19:30.9 and Maranacook of Readfield’s Abby Mace took third in 19:32.0.
In the team ranks, the Mount Desert Island girls made a surefire statement that the Eastern Maine Class B three-time defending regional champs are eager to contend for another title.
“I think people kind of forgot about us for a while, but they’ll remember [now],” said No. 5 runner Kymry Brooks, a senior.
The scary thing is, it appears the Trojans are just starting to hit their peak.
“I think so,” said No. 6 runner Frances Blank. “I think now that we’re picking up more [other teams] are starting to remember.”
MDI was led by Heather Spurling, who ran to a gutsy 10th place despite hurting her ankle two miles into the race.
“She’s basically an inspiration to all of us, I don’t know many people who can finish a race with an orange-sized ankle,” Brooks said.
Mt. Blue went on to finish third on the girls side with 206 points, followed by Falmouth (218), Brunswick (257), John Bapst of Bangor (271), Brewer (272), Caribou (279), Ellsworth (282) and York (315).
The Cougars also made a pretty strong statement, perhaps sending a message to fellow Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and EM Class A heavyweights Brewer and Brunswick.
”I’m really excited that we did better than we expected to do because no one gave us credit for our hard work,” said Mt. Blue junior frontrunner Melody Lam, who finished sixth overall.
“It’s really overwhelming, I’m really excited.”
The meet was a great measuring stick for the Cougars, who will see the Witches and Dragons the next four weeks.
“It was really good to know where we stand. It’s good to know where we are as far as rankings and stuff,” Lam said.
Mary Jo Sheehan led Caribou with a seventh-place finish, while Kim Spencer finished 14th for Bapst and Michelle Haluska 25th to lead Brewer.
The Red Storm girls tucked four scoring runners in the top 22 to take the team title.
Greely’s Megan Stroud went on to win the unseeded race and Brunswick’s Kathleen McMahon won the freshman race.
Chelsea Oldfield of Foxcroft Academy and Sara Chavarie of Brewer finished second and sixth, respectively, in that race.
Forty-eight boys teams and 47 girls squads compiled team scores.