Mount Desert Island’s run to the Class B cross country state championship could be defined as the ultimate in teamwork.
Just 13.97 seconds separated the Trojans’ top five runners during Saturday’s state meet at the Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland, and only three runners from other schools found their way inside that MDI pack.
Sophomore Nora Hubbell finished ninth in 20 minutes, 46.87 seconds, with sophomore twins Isabel and Olivia Erickson 11th and 12th, classmate Maggie Painter 14th and freshman Caroline Driscoll 16th in 21:00.84.
“I think no one wanted to fall behind, we didn’t want to let our teammates down,” said Olivia Erickson.
So while chief challenger Camden Hills of Rockport, which had edged MDI by a single point to win the Eastern Maine Class B regional title a week earlier, has two top-five runners in individual state champion Brittany Bowman and fifth-place Willow Parker, the Trojans placed all of their five scoring runners across the finish line before the Windjammers’ third finisher, enabling coach Desiree Sirois’ team to win the state meet by a comfortable 16 points (55-79).
“We were all very, very close at the end,” said Painter, “ and it was pretty much that way the whole race.”
That the Trojans ran as a pack near the front of the field is not unusual. At the Eastern Maine regional, MDI’s top five all finished within a 42-second span, and two weeks ago while winning the Penobscot Valley Conference title that spread was 1:02.
Further evidence of the team’s depth is that three different runners led the MDI pack in the three postseason races, with Driscoll leading the field at the regionals and Painter the team’s top finisher at the PVCs.
In addition, all seven varsity runners, including juniors Malia Demers and Rachel McMinnimy, have had at least one top-five team finish during the three postseason races.
“We’re really lucky to have so many people around the same time range,” said Painter. “We generally push each other, and if someone’s having a bad day there’s someone else to pick them up.”
The state championship — MDI’s first since 2006 — capped off a season that began with no specific goals, though the team was coming off a third-place finish at the 2010 state meet.
“We really had no idea,” said Hubbell. “In the end our goal was to do well at states, but really that was a far off goal. We were just hoping to have fun and see how the season progressed.”
That progression took a quantum leap in early October when MDI won the Festival of Champions in Belfast, the state’s largest in-season meet that features top teams from all three classes statewide as well as several out-of-state programs.
“That was a little bit of a surprise,” said Hubbell. “I think it was then we realized we might be able to do something.”
That also marked the start of a budding rivalry with a similarly youthful Camden Hills team that finished second to the Trojans at the Festival of Champions. When the teams met again at the Eastern B regional the Windjammers won by the slightest of margins (51-52), setting the stage for last Saturday’s showdown.
“I think that gave us motivation for this week,” said Olivia Erickson. “But we knew what we wanted to do. We just wanted to do our best and at the end of the day know we had given 110 percent and had nothing left.”
The Trojans have one more meet left this season, the New England Cross Country Championship to be held Nov. 12 at Ponaganset High School in North Scituate, R.I.
“We’re definitely looking forward to the New Englands,” said Olivia Erickson. “We’re going to go out and try to do our best.”