During the hot summer and crispy fall, high school runners plug long miles, ascend steep hills and complete grueling speed workouts with one goal in mind: Winning an individual or team cross country state championship.
Some of Maine’s finest schoolgirl athletes are one step away from fulfilling those aspirations, and will look to do so at Saturday’s state championship at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.
Racing begins with the Class C boys at 11 a.m., followed by the Class C girls 45 minutes later, the Class A boys at 12:30 p.m., the Class A girls at 1:15, the Class B boys at 2 and the girls wrap up the day at 2:45.
Several local teams in the girls meet will look to make big splashes.
Class A: This is shaping up to be one of the more anticipated team races of the afternoon, with four teams all having a shot.
Western Maine winner Scarborough and Eastern Maine champ Brewer have been ranked as high as second and third, respectively, in the coaches’ polls this fall, and both clubs are hungry for their first state titles this decade.
Coach Glendon Rand’s Witches haven’t been the cream of the Class A crop since 1997, and they have the pack power to give the Red Storm a challenge.
Brewer is led up front by sophomore Michelle Haluska (fourth in regionals), freshman Sara Chavarie and senior Kaitlin Noyes, who also annexed top-10 finishes last weekend.
Brooke Madden, Caitlyn Wilson, Ashley Geiser and Katie Snow round out the Witches’ top five.
The spread between their Nos. 1 and 5 runners was 1 minute, 8 seconds a week ago, and they’ll likely have to better that figure to have a shot at overtaking Scarborough.
Coach Ron Kelly’s Red Storm are powered up front by Whitney Chamberlain, Abby Chick and Melissa Dellatore.
These teams mirror each other very well so this could be a good battle.
Other contenders include Mt. Blue of Farmington, the Eastern Maine runner-up, and West runner-up Massabesic of Waterboro.
Both squads are led by two of the lead runners in Maine in Melody Lam, a junior for the Cougars, and Hannah Pierce, a junior for the Mustangs.
Bangor, led by Katie Porter, is coming off a fourth-place regional-meet finish while Blakelee Jordan leads Hampden Academy.
Class B: Cape Elizabeth is the odds-on favorite after winning its regional by 68 points.
Mount Desert Island and John Bapst of Bangor will both be among a slew of teams competing for runner-up honors.
Coach Kate Goupee’s EM champion Trojans are led by senior Heather Spurling, who ran to second place last weekend.
Kim Spencer and Sarah Dickens power coach Joe Capehart’s Crusaders.
These teams have been dead-even all season, with the Trojans winning the last two — both postseason meets — by two points.
Ellsworth’s Brianne Dunn expects to be among the top individuals while Maranacook of Readfield’s Abby Mace is favored to capture the title.
Class C: Waynflete of Portland, led by WM individual champ Adel Espy, is heavily favored to defend its state championship.
Orono, Mattanawcook of Lincoln, Lisbon and Monmouth should battle it out for the next four places.
While Espy is expected to run away from the rest of the field, Fort Kent senior Grace Boutot, the East winner, will look to crack the top three.