BELFAST, Maine — The Ellsworth boys cross country team has been building steadily this fall, all the while waiting patiently for some injured runners to recover in time for the major postseason races.
The Eagles seemingly got a clean bill of health on the muddiest of courses Saturday, dominating the field to win the Eastern Maine Class B championship amid warm, wet and sloppy conditions at the Troy Howard Middle School.
Led by race-winner Dan Curts, Ellsworth placed five runners in the top 10 while scoring just 27 points, 100 points ahead of defending champion Caribou, the runner-up.
Robert Looker finished third and Brayden Beardsley fourth for the Eagles, with Frank King ninth and Cooper Holmes 10th to complete the team scoring.
“Everyone knew all of our guys could run top 20, even top 10 if they ran well,” said Curts, who finished the 3.1-mile route in 16 minutes, 49.68 seconds, the top time of the day regardless of class. “We had five in the top 10 today, and we’re really happy with that.”
The most anticipated race of the day was the Eastern B girls matchup between defending state champion MDI and Camden Hills, which edged the Trojans by one point to win last year’s regional crown.
Neither team, as it turned out, was at full strength, but Camden Hills finished with 51 points to outdistance Waterville (65), MDI (78) and Caribou (81) for its second straight EM championship.
The Windjammers were led by junior Brittany Bowman, who finished third behind race winner Bethanie Brown of Waterville (18:46.11) and runner-up Aleta Looker of Ellsworth.
Emily Lopez (sixth), Hannah Brownawell (seventh), Samantha Morse (14th) and Lily Kassen (27th) also had scoring finishes for the Windjammers, who overcame the loss of freshman Jacqueline Russell — a top-five runner for the team — due to illness midway through the race.
“It’s a great group of girls, they’ve worked so hard,” said Camden Hills coach Becky Flanagan, whose team had won the KVAC Class B title a week earlier. “We took it easy this week, I let them recover and they weren’t too happy with me. But all is well.”
MDI was without top runner Maggie Painter, sidelined by illness, but the Trojans got top-10 finishes from Waylon Henggeler and Olivia Erickson, who finished eighth and ninth.
In Class A, the Hampden Academy girls won the tightest battle of the day, edging both Mount Ararat of Topsham and Brunswick by two points to win the regional title.
The Broncos were paced by senior Kylee Parker and sophomore Elizabeth Lebun, who ran together and finished third and fourth behind race winner Erzsebet Nagy of Lawrence of Fairfield (20:10.33) and runner-up Tessa Cassidy, a freshman from Brunswick timed in 20:36.1.
Sarah Tatgenhorst (12th), Bryanna Parker (23rd) and Roxy Winters (24th) supplied the depth needed for Hampden to finish with 63 points, compared to 65 each for Mount Ararat and Brunswick.
Lewiston placed four runners among the top 10 finishers to win the Eastern A boys title, defeating defending champion Bangor 59-83.
“We were pretty close together throughout the whole race,” said Isaiah Harris, a Lewiston sophomore who finished third overall, just behind second-place teammate Mohamed Awil. “I think we could see each other the whole race. We didn’t plan on it, but that’s how it worked out.”
Senior Mohamed Barre placed sixth overall for the Blue Devils, while junior Mohamed Mohamed finished 10th and senior Jordan Balsamo rounded out Lewiston’s scoring contingent in 38th place.
Mount Ararat junior Sam Wood won the Eastern A boys individual title in 17:00.81.
Bangor, which finished 41 points behind Lewiston while placing third at last week’s KVAC championships, narrowed that margin at the regional behind the top-20 finishes of Jonathan Stanhope (seventh), Jacob Archer (13th), Colin Glencross (15th) and Caleb Halvorson-Fried (18th).
“Lewiston is very good and they have four very good runners along with a solid fifth and sixth who don’t waver much and know their roles very well, said Bangor coach Adam Goode. “But I feel like we closed the gap on a very good team and I’m proud of them.”
In Class C, senior Tyler White sparked Orono’s winning effort in the boys race, leading a pack of six Red Riots among the top 13 finishers with his first-place time of 17:27.97.
Brian Westhoven placed sixth for Orono, while Schuyler Collett (eighth), Josh Marquis (ninth), James O’Neill (12th) ad Conall Malloy (13th) helped the Red Riots finish with 30 points, well ahead of 2011 regional champion Bangor Christian (60).
“I think this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everybody, it was just so bad out there,” said White. “You just have to know going in that times don’t matter, it’s about your place, and for just finishing the race everyone should get a medal.”
Two-time defending Class C individual state champion Carsyn Koch was one of five Washburn girls to place among the top 16 in their race with her winning time of 20:57.14. Fellow junior Carmen Bragg (third), sophomore Mackenzie Worcester (fifth), freshman Emilia Churchill (10th) and sophomore Hannah Heald (16th) helped the Beavers defeat second-place Orono 28-41.
“It was so muddy that it made it a completely different race based on strength more than how fast you can run,” said Worcester. “It really affected every runner pretty much and made your legs feel extra tired so you couldn’t run as fast.”
Koch and Bragg were among several Washburn runners to playfully pay homage to the challenging conditions by wearing eye mud — a take-off on the eye black often worn by baseball players.
“It was like running in peanut butter,” said Koch. “Every single step the mud would try to suck you in, and I usually tried to stay on the high side of the course but there were times you just had to say the heck with it and go right through the peanut butter.”