When reading Mt. Blue High School senior Melody Lam’s weekly training blogs on the running Web site Milespit, it’s pretty easy to see why the Cougars’ frontrunner is exuberant for this cross country season.
The Cougars from Farmington not only have one of the state’s top individuals back for another run at a top finish this fall, but the main reason Lam and coach Kelley Cullenberg are beaming with excitement is the lethal pack of gold-and-blue runners that will make Mt. Blue one of the favorites in Eastern Maine Class A.
“That’s a good sign, and we do have some additions that have shown a pretty decent amount of potential. That’s nice to see, too,” said Cullenberg.
Mt. Blue graduated one senior off a team that finished second in the KVAC and Eastern Maine championship meets.
In addition to Lam, the Cougars return sophomore Addie Cullenberg, juniors Shelby Aseltine, Gwen Beacham and Caitlin Douglass and senior Lindsey Keenan.
Even though that group gives Mt. Blue an excellent chance to grab glory, coach Cullenberg knows the season can turn at any time.
“You never know what to expect, you never know who is going to bring in somebody new, it keeps things really exciting actually,” she said.
Lam, who attended a running camp in Vermont, already was thinking about this fall before the summer even started.
“Honestly, she’s probably more excited about this season [than past seasons],” Cullenberg said.
Defending regional champion Brewer has one newcomer who will play a vital role to the Witches’ success this fall.
Senior Lily Sund, who emerged as a solid distance runner for Brewer last winter and spring, gives coach Glendon Rand a formidable No. 3 girl to complement junior Michelle Haluska and sophomore Sara Chavarie, both top-10 individual finishers in the Eastern Maine regionals last fall.
The Witches, who graduated a talented pack of seniors, also return senior Bekah Clark and Mikaela King, a sophomore.
Bangor appears poised for another competitive season as well, as the Rams only lost one runner from a solid team that finished fourth in the regionals a year ago.
Senior Kendall Lunn, who finished 12th individually in the regionals, will be in the hunt for a top-10 finish this fall while sophomore Mariah Reading looks to continue improving after a consistent freshman campaign.
Brunswick is another challenger, with two top-flight runners in Kathleen McMahon and Meghan McDonough.
The boys’ side appears just as intriguing, and if last weekend’s Scott Laliberte Invitational is any indication, an outstanding season of racing between some of the state’s top individuals and teams is on tap.
Cony of Augusta’s Luke Fontaine, Mt. Blue’s Kelton Cullenberg, Morse of Bath’s Jason Kaake, Sam Nisbett of Bangor and Brunswick teammates Will Geoghegan and Liam Cassidy appear to be the leaders of the EM Class A pack.
Fontaine outdueled Cullenberg, Kaake, Geoghegan and Cassidy to take individual honors at the 3.1-mile Laliberte race.
There are a number of favorites in the team race, among them Lewiston, Mt. Blue and Brunswick.
The defending regional champion Blue Devils not only return three top runners, but they have a new coach in former Brewer boss Jamerson Crowley, who piloted the Witches’ girls indoor track and field teams to Eastern Maine Indoor Track League championships the last two winters.
Crowley’s Blue Devils boast a talented 1-2-3 punch in Hussain Ibrahim, Faisal Abdillahi and Justin Leclair, and welcome Jaron Jones, who transferred from Mt. Blue.
Cullenberg returns to lead the Cougars while Brunswick, the 2008 runnerup, fields arguably the best 1-2 combination in the region in Geoghegan and Cassidy.
Bangor and Brewer should field competitive teams as well.
Both squads finished on the outside looking in at the regionals last year, and will be hoping to earn state-meet qualifying berths, and perhaps more this season.
Nisbett, who blossomed into one of the state’s top runners over the outdoor track season, returns to lead the Rams. He finished 10th among his Eastern Maine brethren in 2008.
Jonathon Belanger, a sophomore, had a fine freshman campaign and should be among the top 20 individuals at regionals.
Brewer is paced by a solid group of seniors in Evan Taylor, Steven Rice, Kyle Holyoke and Andrew Cote.
Regional site changed
The Foot Locker Cross Country Northeast Regional championships will have a new home this fall.
Meet director Phil Zodda announced recently that the meet will shift from historic Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, N.Y.
The meet will take place on Nov. 28.
Approximately half the parade ground at Van Cortlandt was fenced off last season to accommodate a renovation project financed by a local water filtration plant. The project’s second phase would fence off the other side of the parade ground, not leaving room for an ample start for the 5K competition.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS