BELFAST, Maine — Caribou High senior Jesse Stephens’ seventh-place finish in Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class B cross country championship meet powered the Caribou Vikings to their first crown since 1999.
“We’ve been looking at this for a while. Coach told us we’re not going home without that plaque. It was either don’t go home or get that plaque,” Stephens said.
That ultimatum must have motivated Caribou just a little more, as Steve Melbourne, Finn Bondeson, Tim Freme and Christian Sleeper finished 9-12-14-15 as the Vikes dethroned defending three-time champ Ellsworth 57-89 at the Troy Howard Middle School’s 5-kilometer course.
Mount Desert Island finished third with 128 points while Medomak Valley of Waldoboro was fourth, Belfast fifth, Leavitt of Turner sixth, Erskine of South China seventh and Winslow eighth to round out the state-meet qualifiers.
Lewiston won in Class A and Foxcroft Academy in Class C.
In Class B, the Vikings may not have the Sam Sheehan-caliber frontrunner they’ve had in the past, but they’ve established themselves as one of Maine’s tightest-packed teams.
The spread between top runner Stephens and No. 5 man Sleeper was just 34 seconds.
“The hope was that we could get the five of them between fifth and 15th and I think we were roughly there,” Caribou coach Roy Alden said.
Roughly? How about exactly.
“We had an amazing pack time, and I’m just happy It happened,” Melbourne said.
This was special for seniors Stephens, Melbourne and No. 7 man Zac Foster, who have endured painful second-place finishes throughout their high school careers.
“We kind of got the image of us together holding that plaque coming across the finish line,” said Stephens. “All [our top 5] at the finish line were pretty much collapsing together.”
Sounds like these guys do everything as a team.
“They worked hard. Unbelievable, unbelievable,” Alden said.
Erskine Academy’s Sam Seekins won the individual crown in 16 minutes, 39.49 seconds with Ben Chapman of Ellsworth second and John Bapst of Bangor’s Gabe Stewart third.
In Class C, Graham Pearsall set the tone for coach George Rolleston’s Ponies, and the rest of the pack followed suit.
Pearsall won in 17:29.71, but Kaleb Mann, Chris Bridges, Seth Oldfield and Amos Almy finished 4-5-8-15 as the Ponies won their third straight title, 33-77 over Bangor Christian.
Orono, Lee Academy, Calais, George Stevens of Blue Hill and Schenck of East Millinocket also qualified for states.
Foxcroft was aggressive right from the get-go, which made Rolleston nervous.
“I was just hoping they could sustain [the pace],” he said. “They were still looking good at the two-mile. We ended up with three in the top 20 overall and I think that’s a first for us.”
Stearns of Millinocket’s Michael Rioux finished second overall while Ryan Cavanaugh of Calais was third and Schenck’s Brandon Theriault fourth.
In Class A, the Lewiston Blue Devils rolled to their second consecutive Eastern Maine title.
The reigning Class A state champs tucked four runners in the top 11, with Robbie Leeman, Matt Driscoll, Hussain Ibrahim and Faisal Abdillahi’s 5-6-7-11 effort fueling a 51-92 triumph over Brunswick.
Hampden Academy was the only team east of the Kennebec River to qualify for the state meet, finishing seventh with 154 points.
Brunswick’s Will Geoghegan posted the day’s fastest time at 16:13.51.
Evan Piccirillo’s 16th-place finish paced Hampden while Sam Nisbett of Bangor ran to a strong 10th-place finish.