There they stood at the starting line, Mount Desert Island High School cross country teammates Maggie Painter, Nora Hubbell and twins Isabel and Olivia Erickson, all looking relaxed and ready to race.
Only the picture didn’t come from their victory at the recent Festival of Champions in Belfast, where the Trojans scored a convincing win over 39 other schools from throughout Maine and beyond.
Nor did it come at last Friday’s Hancock County championship meet, where the four runners placed among the top six finishers as MDI defeated local rivals Ellsworth, Bucksport and George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill.
No, these pictures — now on t he team’s Facebook page — were taken much earlier, in 2004 at a local one-mile fun run.
They’ve been running together — and winning together — ever since, and now all four are high school sophomores poised to lead MDI on a long-distance run in search of postseason glory, beginning with Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference championship meet at Caribou High School.
“These girls have been running together since they were toddlers,” said MDI coach Desiree Sirois, “and every year they’ve gotten stronger and stronger.”
MDI has emerged as one of the top-ranked girls squads statewide regardless of class, a ranking borne out by their performance at the Festival of Champions where they defeated runnerup Camden Hills of Rockport by 65 points.
Painter led the Trojans with an 11th-place overall finish, and her classmates weren’t far behind, with Hubbell 18th, Olivia Erickson 19th and Isabel Erickson 25th before freshman Caroline Driscoll rounded out the scoring contingent in 31st place — just 1 minute, 9 seconds behind Painter.
Juniors Malia Demers (37th) and Rachel McMinnimy (80th) gave MDI a tight seven-runner pack time of 2:18, with all of the MDI competitors finishing in the upper echelon of the 437-runner field.
“We went into that meet wanting to do our best and see what happens, and then at the end we thought, ‘Wow, we did it,’” said Sirois. “We were really happy to win that as a small school going up against schools that were a lot larger, but the girls are just so humble.”
The youthful roster feeds as much on friendship as it does on competition, and the result is a less pressurized environment that has led to considerable success despite the lack of senior leadership.
“They have a really good work ethic and are very positive,” said Sirois, “and when you have that combination you never know what will happen.”
The team bonding efforts of both the girls and boys teams at MDI transcend the typical fare in most sports. There are pasta dinners on Fridays, pot luck meals after each race, the frequent “breakfasts of champions” in Sirois’ classroom, and movie nights.
“We have the philosophy that if you’re happy you run well and if you run well you will be happy,” said Sirois. “We really work on that aspect of always being positive.”
MDI should be challenged in the girls race by d efending Class B state champion John Bapst of Bangor and Caribou, while defending Class B state champion Caribou and Ellsworth — whose lead runner Dan Curts is pictured alongside the MDI youngsters in that 2004 fun-run photo — figure to be among the top contenders in the boys race.
Competition begins at noon with the girls junior varsity race, followed by the boys junior varsity at 12:40 p.m., the girls varsity at 1:20 p.m. and the boys varsity at 2 p.m.
Varsity champions will be crowned in large school (Class B) and small school (Class C) boys and girls divisions.
2-SPORT STAR WILCOX SIDELINED
One runner who won’t be competing in Saturday’s PVC cross country championships is Bangor Christian senior Bradley Wilcox.
Wilcox, who helped the Patriots win the conference small-school championship last year as well as the Eastern Maine Class C crown, is also a star on Bangor Christian’s two-time defending Class D state championship boys soccer team.
And just after the undefeated Patriots finished defeating Searsport 12-1 last Saturday, Wilcox fell along the sideline and struck his left leg on the corner of the team bench, causing a significant laceration.
Wilcox underwent arthroscopic surgery later that day, and is expected to be sidelined from soccer until the playoffs begin later this month, perhaps as late as Oct. 26 if as expected 12-0 Bangor Christian earns a first-round bye, according to his father, Bangor Christian boys soccer coach Aaron Wilcox.
Bradley Wilcox is the school’s career scoring leader in soccer with 98 goals, including 21 in just nine games this fall as earlier in the season he was sidelined by a case of whooping cough.
As for cross country, Wilcox hopes to return the Bangor Christian lineup in time for the Eastern Maine championship meet scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.