The Mt. Blue boys might have been poised to challenge for a top-five placement in the state and a KVAC championship. That optimism is tempered somewhat by a possible season-ending injury to No. 1 runner Jonah Jones. Justin Tracy and Sully Jackson are sure to pick up the pace and try to fill the void. On the girls’ side, the Cougars have one of the region’s top runners in Addie Cullenberg and a solid pack led by Louisa Stancioff.
Edward Little graduated its top two runners from a year ago, but the Red Eddies have a chance to repeat their top-five showing in the state meet with Justin LeClair and Luc Bourget leading the way. Audrey Bennett leads the EL girls.
Lewiston stayed with EL stride-for-stride in a season-opening boys’ meet. Look for Kevin Lavertu and Mohamed Barre to lead the Blue Devils under first-year coach T.J. Niles. Nicole Court-Menendez is a fourth-year standout for the Lewiston girls. The emergence of Faith Shaw and Mana Abdi could help the Devils move up in the team sweepstakes.
Oxford Hills didn’t qualify for states on either side a year ago but returns virtually its entire team. Jesse Newcomb leads the boys, with Moriah Lee heading the girls’ pack.
Caribou snapped Greely’s streak of three straight boys’ titles last year. If the Rangers want to make it a brief hiatus, and they could after graduating only two of their top seven, they will have to go through Falmouth. Last year’s runners-up, the Yachtsmen return a strong senior class. Maranacook and Fryeburg could also challenge.
Gray-New Gloucester has its sights set on qualifying for states with a veteran squad led by Will Shafer, who finished 9th in the state as a freshman. Poland is counting on a solid junior class to complement seniors Jake MacDonald and Connor Pinkham. Leavitt has just enough runners to field a team, with junior Tim Enos hoping to stay with the top pack of individuals.
Another three-time champion went down on the girls’ side when John Bapst knocked off Cape Elizabeth. Maranacook will contend with two-time champion Abby Mace, who was state runner-up despite an injury-plagued 2010. Greely and Camden Hills should be a factor at Twin Brook as well.
Leavitt will chase its state qualifying hopes with a strong top duo of Lucy Knowlton and Maddie Wiegman. Poland has a promising group of newcomers including a strong freshman class that could make the transition from the Kendra Lobely era smoother. Gray-New Gloucester has a strong core of seniors to challenge the perennially strong Western Maine Conference.
There is a logjam in the pursuit of individual titles. Only two of the top 10 finishers last year were seniors. The highlight of the season will be trying to find out if Boothbay’s Chase Brown, Telstar’s Joseph Holt-Andrew or Jack Pierce of Merriconeag can challenge Madison’s Matt McClintock, the fastest runner in the state last year regardless of class.
The juniors who led North Yarmouth Academy to its first title in eight years last year are back. Merriconeag-Waldorf, Monmouth, Boothbay and Telstar should be in the mix. Monmouth suffered a loss when top returning senior Matt McInnis transferred out of state, but the Mustangs will still be tough with Matt Bryant, Tyler Horsford and a strong sophomore class. Telstar has the entire cast that finished sixth last year back, with Holt-Andrews, Ben Lewis and Adam Mahar leading the pack. Winthrop is looking for a solid second pack to support its strong lead pack led by Kameron Souza. Lisbon is loaded with seniors, and their development as a group will be a key to their chances of reaching states. St. Dom’s is hoping to grow its numbers.
Merriconeag of New Gloucester won its first state title in 2010 on the strength of a top five that included three freshmen and two sophomores. Waynflete, Freeport and NYA were the biggest challengers last year and should be this year. Monmouth could surprise with a solid core of veterans led by sophomore Tiffany Pease bolstered by a promising freshman class. Lisbon has a solid top four led by Meagan Thomas, but the question is whether they’ll have the numbers for a second pack to back that up. St. Dom’s should compete for an MVC crown again with Hanna Tyce and Callie Greco back to improve upon their top 20 conference finishes last year. Winthrop was lacking numbers in preseason but has Molly Kieltyka looking to return to states. Telstar hopes its numbers perk up
(c)2011 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
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