As a newcomer to the Maine cross country scene this fall, Darik Frye didn’t know what to expect.
Yes, the Hampden Academy senior had an outstanding junior campaign for the Broncos on the track last winter and spring, with his 800-meter time peaking at 1 minute, 57 seconds during the outdoor campaign.
But, he hadn’t competed in cross country since his sophomore year in Ludlow, Mass.
Frye has settled in nicely and is in outstanding shape three weeks into the season. He most recently blitzed his home course in a meet against Brewer and Bangor last Friday, completing the tough 2.84-mile layout in 15 minutes, 6.77 seconds, good for a Hampden school record, an effort which had HA coach Dick Balentine thinking happy thoughts.
“To do that in September, that’s excellent. Most of our fast times on this course were run in October when all the athletes were generally in better shape,” Balentine said Friday.
That’s not to say Frye didn’t make a bold statement that he’s going to be one of the runners to beat in regional and state competitions in Class B.
“It’s still early in the season and everything, [but] just the fact that I know that I can do it [is great],” he said. “I’m in good enough shape that I can compete up with those guys in the states.”
That confidence will be put to the test in a couple weeks at the Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions, where Frye will face his toughest competition yet in some of Maine’s other top runners. They include Luke Fontaine of Cony of Augusta, Will Geoghegan of Brunswick, Kelton Cullenberg of Mt. Blue of Farmington — who recently set a course record in a meet at Leavitt High in Turner — Taylor Dundas of Cheverus in Portland and Logan Price of Greely in Cumberland Center.
If there’s another statement Frye would like to make, it’s that he and his Eastern Maine brethren, such as Bangor’s Sam Nisbett, can run tough with the aforementioned runners.
“Usually, Eastern Maine doesn’t get enough credit. Usually it’s the southern Maine guys [that get credit], so it’s good to have people up here representing for the whole state and not just southern Maine, so it’ll be a great race,” he said.
Frye has never faced most of those runners, such as Fontaine, Cullenberg, Geoghegan and Dundas, as they’re all Class A competitors, but facing strong Class A competition early in the year, such as Bangor’s Nisbett, will only help.
“Class A, you’re always hearing about Class A and never Class B, so it lets everyone know that we’re here to win and not here to just run for fun,” Frye said.
He and Evan Piccirillo have turned in strong efforts for Hampden, and the Broncos should be right in the thick of things in Class B.
“These are kids that aren’t running to get in shape for another sport, running is their sport,” Balentine said. “They’re really determined racers and they really enjoy the sport.”
He added that the midseason Festival of Champions will be a great gauge for the Broncos.
“It will be a great meet just to see how we stack up against those perennial Class B powers,” he said.
Greg O’Donnell, Ethan Burke, Mike Wagner, Andrew Closson and Travis Bach have also been valuable assets to Hampden’s success so far this season.
John Bapst on a Crusade
John Bapst field hockey coach Gina Schuck is happy with the way her Crusaders have rolled out to a 7-0 start, which has them third in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal point standings.
But Schuck isn’t ready to be completely satisfied yet, with tough games looming against Class C contenders Mattanawcook of Lincoln, Stearns of Millinocket and two vs. Dexter.
“We have some of our toughest competition coming ahead of us. That’s where we’re going to get tested,” Schuck said after her club defeated Old Town 2-0 on Saturday morning.
John Bapst has a talented cast of seniors and upperclassmen, led by goalkeeper Megan Smith and forward Marianne Ferguson, both seniors; sisters Emily Tilton (sophomore) and Elise Tilton (freshman) and senior Tori Huckestein.
That group got a great chance to come together in the preseason, as Schuck took them on sort of a homecoming trip to play in a tournament in Binghamton, N.Y., where the coach grew up.
“This is a great group of kids, and that was a great bonding experience,” Schuck said. “More than anything, the level of play we faced was fantastic but the kids being together like that allowed them to get to know each other.”
Schuck expects great things this season and in years to come from the Tiltons.
“The two of them play on [Majestix Field Hockey Club] teams. Elise is a freshman and one of the top players in the state,” she said. “She’s a fabulous player to watch.”
The Crusaders spent the last two seasons in Class C and went 5-8-1 last year and lost to Stearns in the EM quarterfinals. Since most Class B field hockey schools play in the KVAC, with the exception of John Bapst, Old Town and Hermon, most of the Crusaders’ schedule is made up of Class C foes, which Schuck doesn’t mind.
“In the PVC, the C’s are strong, but I like being [Class] B because when you get to playoffs you’re not usually playing a team for the third time,” she said.