Last weekend, a good number of Maine’s high school runners were either gearing up for this coming weekend’s indoor track and field openers or trying to chip away at Christmas shopping.
Kelton Cullenberg and seven other Maine harriers, however, still had one more cross country meet on their schedule. They represented the Augusta-based Lakers’ Track Club at the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic championships in Mechanicsville, Va.
The Lakers scratched one item off their holiday wish list, running to a national championship in the Intermediate boys (ages 15-16) division, compiling 53 points to best 20 other teams.
Cullenberg, a junior at Mt. Blue in Farmington, led the way with a second-place effort, cruising over the 5K course in 16 minutes, 8 seconds, just five seconds behind individual champ Dustin Fay of Southern California.
That finish was somewhat of a surprise.
“At like the 2-mile mark I was kind of confused when there weren’t a whole bunch of people in front of me,” said Cullenberg.
Cullenberg’s teammates had some fine races, also.
Liam Cassidy of Brunswick finished seventh overall in 16:25, with Will Geoghegan of Brunswick 10th (16:30), Logan Price of Greely in Cumberland Center 19th (16:38), York’s Alex Moser 21st (16:39), Cony of Augusta’s Luke Fontaine 35th (16:58), Cheverus of Portland’s Jack Terwilliger 38th (16:59) and Briar Beede of Cony 167th (18:42).
Success at this level isn’t new to the Lakers, as they were second in last year’s national championship in Kansas.
“We definitely knew we had a shot at winning, that was definitely our goal,” Cullenberg said. “We did better as a team at the regional meet than last year so we figured we had a good shot at it.”
Cullenberg compared the course to championship layouts in Belfast and Augusta.
“I wouldn’t say it was [difficult] but I wouldn’t say it was really easy,” he said. “Probably right in between those two.”
Cullenberg wasn’t the only Mt. Blue runner to partake in last weekend’s festivities.
His sister, Addie, a freshman, competed in the Youth girls division while Melody Lam ran in the Intermediate girls race for the Lakers.
Getting to Mechanicsville was an adventure in itself for Cullenberg and his teammates, as they waited out 4-5 hours of delays and barely got to see the course the night before the race.
Cullenberg enjoyed not only the atmosphere of the event, but interacting with different runners from around the country and teaming up with some of Maine’s other top athletes.
“I’d say race tactics; not just race tactics but like training and stuff, it’s nice to have a bunch of people that are my ability in running to run with,” he said.
His running season now in the books, Cullenberg is amped up for the high school skiing season, as he is a Nordic skier.
EMITL opens Friday
The high school indoor track and field season is finally set to kick off this weekend, with a full slate of meets in Orono and Brunswick.
The Eastern Maine Indoor Track League opens its season Friday at the University of Maine, with Bangor, Foxcroft Academy, Hampden Academy, Hermon, Mount Desert Island, Waterville, Messalonskee of Oakland and Belfast squaring off at 4 p.m.
This meet features some of the state’s top sprinters in MDI’s Danielle Hutchins, Brittney Chapman of Bangor and Matt Toothaker of Hampden, along with hurdle standouts Dominik Alexis of Waterville and Dee Wilbur of Bangor.
On Saturday, two meets are on tap, with the “A” meet featuring Brewer, John Bapst of Bangor, Mattanawcook of Lincoln, Sumner of East Sullivan, Orono and Cony of Augusta and the “B” meet showcasing Bucksport, Central of Corinth, Ellsworth, Old Town, George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and Skowhegan.
Athletes to watch in the “A” meet include Kira Giroux and Ben Sinclair of Brewer, John Bapst’s Chris Fogler, Holli Kennison and Ariel Meaker of Orono and Cony’s Luke Fontaine.
Also Saturday, the Bowdoin College Relays will be held at Farley field house in Brunswick, starting at 11 a.m.