ELLSWORTH, Maine — Neither Dan Curts nor Aleta Looker was at 100 percent physically Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the two Ellsworth High School juniors from winning individual titles at the Penobscot Valley Conference cross-country championships.
Curts won the boys conference crown for the third straight year with a winning time of 16 minutes, 15.2 seconds on his home course of 3 miles, while Looker broke her own girls’ course record by 23 seconds with a time of 19:06.4.
Curts and third-place Robert Looker led Ellsworth to the PVC large-school boys team championship, while reigning Class B state champion Mount Desert Island placed five runners among the top nine finishers overall to win the girls’ large-school crown.
Orono swept the PVC small-school team championships, with Tyler White’s second-place finish pacing the Red Riots’ boys squad while Lily Koffman’s third-place effort sparked the girls team to victory.
In the day’s first race, Curts quickly took off from the rest of the boys varsity field and cruised to victory despite feeling lethargic in recent days.
“It was a cold day and I’m a little under the weather right now, so I just went out hard and tried to feel out how I was going to feel today,” said Curts. “On the second lap I just wasn’t feeling good so I kind of relaxed and coasted in.”
Robert Looker, sixth-place Brayden Beardsley, 10th-place Frank King and Kody Holmes (30th as he works his way back from an ankle injury) rounded out the Ellsworth scoring contingent that totaled 33 points, followed by second-place MDI’s 66.
Defending champion Caribou (72), John Bapst of Bangor (75) and Presque Isle (130) rounded out the top five boys teams in the large-school competition.
“Our team is very deep when everyone’s healthy, but we’re trying to get people back into shape right now,” said Curts.
Orono’s second through fifth runners finished in a 16-second pack between 17th and 21st place overall to complement White’s 16:22.8 clocking. That depth enabled the Red Riots to finish with 23 points to win the small-school boys division, followed by 2011 champion Bangor Christian (67), Bucksport (97), Lee Academy (105) and George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (110).
“It went well,” said White, a senior. The course is really tough, I think it’s one of the toughest ones that we get thrown at us. We trained really hard, our coaches put us in a perfect position to go out and kill the course, and the competition was great.”
Robert Looker (16:31.0), Ron Lund of Caribou (16:59.0) and Dylan Merchant of Bangor Christian (17:15.5) rounded out the top five finishers in the boys meet.
While Curts cruised to victory on the boys side, Aleta Looker fended off a challenge by MDI’s Maggie Painter in the final quarter-mile of the girls three-mile race despite a back injury suffered at the recent Festival of Champions in Belfast that nearly prompted her to skip the PVCs.
“Before the race I was really worried because I wasn’t actually going to run because I’ve been having back issues,” said Looker. “But I figured I might as well do it for my team because we also had another girl who wasn’t running because she had her wisdom teeth out. I figured I just had to do it, to run my best and see how it goes.”
Looker and Painter immediately ran to the front of the girls’ field, then raced together until the final downhill stretch just before the finish on the Ellsworth High School football field.
“Maggie was helping me pace and we worked together, which was really helpful throughout the race,” said Looker, who won the PVC individual title for the second straight year. “I felt like I had a lot left coming to the last hill so I pushed on the downhill and it went well.”
Painter also broke the old course record by finishing second in 19:07.8, leading five MDI runners who placed among the top 10 finishers overall. Sophomore Waylon Henggeler (19:36.7) was fourth, with Olivia Erickson fifth in 19:54.7, Isabel Erickson seventh in 20:06.6 and Caroline Driscoll ninth in 20:55.2.
That gave the Trojans 24 points in the girls’ large-school competition to easily outdistance John Bapst and Caribou, each with 58 points.
Koffman’s clocking of 19:30.1 helped the Orono girls easily win their second straight title. Jordan Richards, Emilie Seavey, Libby Spencer and Anna Ellis all finished in the top 10 among the small-school finishers as the Red Riots totaled 16 points to best George Stevens (53) and Lee (71).