The Murray Keatinge Cross Country Invitational, set for Oct. 3 at the University of Maine, will have a bit of an international flavor to it this year.
Of the six schools entered on the men’s side and seven on the women’s, three are from Canada, as Dalhousie (Nova Scotia), New Brunswick University, and Saint Francis Xavier (New Brunswick), will join host UMaine, Holy Cross, Robert Morris and Boston College (women only) in Orono next weekend.
Racing begins at 10 a.m.
The meet’s usual attendees, such as New Hampshire and reigning men’s champion Dartmouth, won’t return to Orono this fall for a variety of reasons.
“Everybody that has a decent team but not a great team is looking for the at-large bid from the NCAA,” Maine coach Mark Lech said. “In order to do that, you have to have beaten teams from other regions.”
For example, if the Wildcats want to earn a berth in the NCAA championships, they’d have to place within the top three or four at the East Regional championships and have beaten another team from outside their region, which includes New England and New York state.
Even without those perennial men’s contenders and two-time women’s champ Duke, both races should offer plenty of excitement in the team and individual races.
On the women’s side, Lech’s Black Bears and Boston College will face off for the second time in four weeks, as the Bears and Eagles competed in a multi-team meet at the University of Massachusetts last weekend. BC finished first and Maine was third.
Lech’s Bears will have their full squad intact next weekend, however, after No. 2 runner Jordan Daniel missed last weekend’s meet while doing an internship.
“Murray Keatinge will be the first weekend we’ll have both her and Vanessa Letourneau. It’ll be interesting to see what happens,” Lech said.
Then figure lead runner Corey Conner of Townsend, Mass., into that picture, and she’ll get another crack at BC’s Caroline King, the only runner to finish ahead of Conner in Amherst.
“She really wasn’t that far behind [King] so I think she knows what to expect now,” Lech said.
Also looking to lead the Bears are sophomores Jennie Lucy of Bangor and Hilary Maxim of Old Town, senior Brenna Walsh of Nova Scotia, Corey Conner’s sister Allison, a junior, and freshman Whitney Chamberlain of Scarborough.
Lech is hopeful he’ll have his other top runner, Riley Masters of Bangor, back for Murray Keatinge. He tweaked an ankle on the rugged UMass course and won’t compete Friday in a home dual meet against UNH.
“He’s day-to-day. The footing wasn’t that great on the UMass course,” Lech said.
The coach added that Masters has been doing some cross training, such as pool workouts, to maintain his level of fitness.
The Maine men will face plenty of quality competitors, especially from their friends across the border.
“The Canadian [teams] have some good runners. They have kids that have always done well in the past, even against the teams that come in here,” Lech said.
Lech will need sound performances out of other top runners in seniors Corey Bean of Cornville and Miles Bartlett of Casco and sophomore David Currier of Sidney.
“The guys are coming together,” Lech said. “Everybody’s got to be on for it to work.”
Off and running
A number of Maine high school cross country teams will head south Saturday for the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational.
Seven boys teams and six girls squads will compete in the Granite State.
Teams entered in the boys competition include the No. 2-ranked team in the state, Greely of Cumberland Center, No. 4 Cape Elizabeth and Ellsworth in the small school division.
Kennebunk, Marshwood of South Berwick, Sanford and Massabesic of Waterboro will run in the big school division.
On the girls’ side, Kennebunk’s Abbey Leonardi, one of the top runners in the Northeast, has a chance to compete against more of the region’s best harriers in the large-school division.
Sanford and Massabesic are also in the large-school race, while Ellsworth, Greely and Catherine McCauley from Portland will run with the small schools.
In other action around the state this weekend, the 60th annual Sectional Invitational will be held in Old Town, with the boys and girls JV race going off at 2 p.m., the girls varsity at 2:45 and boys varsity at 3:15.
In the KVAC, Brewer and Hampden Academy travel to Cony of Augusta for a 10-team meet that includes Oxford Hills of South Paris, Messalonskee of Oakland, Gardiner, Lewiston, Belfast, Edward Little of Auburn and Leavitt of Turner Center. Bangor is in a three-school affair in Skowhegan with Waterville.
Luchini, Peverada win half’s
Two former Maine high school standouts came up big in long-distance races recently.
Former Ellsworth star Louie Luchini, who is breaking into long-distance runs, was the top finisher among 388 competitors at the Bar Harbor Half Marathon last weekend, covering the 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 11 seconds.
Some other familiar names, Michael Bunker of Blowing Springs, Andy Beardsley of Surry and Jefferson Ashby of Fort Fairfield finished second, third and fourth, respectively. Rounding out the top five was Ted Horn of Marlborough, Mass.
Tammy Slusser of Pennsylvania won the women’s race.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, former Hampden Academy and University of Chicago runner Chris Peverada captured the Cleveland Clinic Half Marathon.
Peverada was timed in 1:09:49.