Before this cross country season started, the Caribou boys and John Bapst girls were expected to be the top teams in Eastern Maine Class B, with subsequent shots at contending for state-championship honors.
The Vikings and the Crusaders will be in contention at Belfast on Saturday, with the Class B boys racing at 11 a.m. followed by the girls at 11:45.
Class C teams will run at 12:30 and the Class A schools will start at 2, with the boys competing prior to the girls in each class.
Coach Roy Alden’s Caribou boys squad proved it could run with the big boys by placing fourth at the Festival of Champions and appears ready to compete again with the likes of Falmouth and Greely of Cumberland Center.
“Hopefully everybody buys into the race plan that we put together for the team and stays relaxed and races really well,” said Alden, whose Vikings’ pack times have been consistently near 45 seconds during the last few weeks.
Caribou’s top five runners are Christian Sleeper, D.J. Flynn, Ryan Washington, Jesse Sandstrom and Caleb Chapman, and Sleeper will look to rebound from a tough individual effort at the regional championships.
If there’s one advantage Caribou and its Eastern Maine brethren may have, it’s the fact that this will be the third time they have seen the Troy Howard Middle School course.
“With this particular team, this course is great, we’ll take it anywhere,” Alden said.
Hampden, second in the Class B regional behind Caribou, is led by Evan Piccirillo, Ethan Burke and Andrew Closson, while Ellsworth features an individual favorite in freshman Dan Curts.
The John Bapst is seeking lits first state championship since 2004 while trying to end Cape Elizabeth’s dynasty, as the Capers have won the last three titles.
Like the Caribou boys, the Crusaders are led by sisters Adrienne and Mary Carmack and Amanda Lalime, who had top-10 individual performances at the regionals.
In order for coach Joe Capehart’s club to have a shot at the Capers, No. 4 and 5 runners Maggie Bryan and Laura Donovan may need to race closer to the top three, but Bryan and her teammates are confident.
“States is our last big challenge, so we’re just looking towards states,” Bryan said after the regional.
Mount Desert Island, with four freshmen and one sophomore in its top five, should contend for a top-5 team finish, while Old Town’s Dacie Manion will contend for individual honors, while trying to end the two-year run of Maranacook junior Abby Mace.
“She wears a brightly colored jersey so hopefully I can keep her in my sight the whole race,” said Manion, who also thrives on running on the Belfast course.
“I guess I just have a special place in my heart for Belfast,” Manion said.
Eastern Maine’s other top individuals include Hampden’s Kylee Parker, Alecia Palmer of Presque Isle and Ellsworth’s Aleta Looker.
Washburn freshman Carsyn Koch will be among the individual favorites in Class C while Waynflete of Portland is the favored girls team. North Yarmouth Academy looks strong on the boys’ side.
Orono’s Alex Bulteel and Matt Guiod of Mattanawcook Academy will challenge for the individual boys crown.
Cheverus of Portland is gunning for its second straight Class A girls state title. The state’s top-ranked team is led by one of New England’s top individuals in Emily Durgin. Kennebunk’s Abbey Leonardi will have a second shot at Cassie Hintz’s Belfast course record, which she narrowly missed at the Festival of Champions.
The Brewer girls, fourth at the regionals, are making their fifth straight appearance in the state championships. Scarborough is favored in the Class A boys’ meet.