BELFAST, Maine — A full half-hour after they jointly experienced a special moment at Saturday’s state cross country championships, Dan Curts and Silas Eastman shared a hug.
That during the latter instant they were as close to each other as they had been at the finish line of the Class B boys race earlier in the afternoon reflects the level of drama they had brought to their event.
Curts, an Ellsworth High junior, surged at the finish line just enough to edge Eastman, the two-time defending state champion from Fryeburg Academy, by four-hundredths of a second to win their showdown in a time of 15 minutes, 47.52 seconds.
And as they pushed each other to their limits, Curts and Eastman produced the two fastest times of the day in any class over the 3.1-mile Troy Howard Middle School course.
“It’s hard to keep track of everything because your mind is on pushing yourself as hard as you can,” said Eastman, a senior. “It wasn’t even about winning at that point but who had more energy and who could push harder.”
Boys’ team and individual state champions were crowned in three classes, with Massabesic of Waterboro winning in Class A while Cape Elizabeth was the Class B champion and Hall-Dale of Farmingdale won in Class C.
Joining Curts as individual champions were Cam Nadeau of Biddeford in Class A (16:36:40) and Jack Pierce of Freeport’s Merriconeag Waldorf School in Class C in 15:57.41.
But the highlight of the day was the duel between Curts and Eastman, two runners familiar with close battles against each other.
Last spring Eastman edged Curts by 0.23 seconds to win the Class B 3,200-meter state championship in outdoor track.
Then last month, Curts outkicked Eastman over the final 200 meters to edge Eastman by a half-second to win the small-school division of the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational cross country meet.
Curts and Eastman chose a faster early pace in Saturday’s rematch, but it set up a similarly close ending.
“He had a couple-step gap on me most of the race,” said Curts, “and I was just trying to keep close enough so he wouldn’t get away. I think he figured he’d have to drop me before the finish, but I was having a hard time keeping up with him.”
The duo reached the final half-mile with Curts still just off Eastman’s left shoulder before the Eastern Maine champion from Ellsworth — who finished third to Eastman and Falmouth’s Tim Follo in last year’s race — made a modest move.
“That first mile, I tried to take it out really hard and challenge him, but he hung right on with me,” said Eastman. “I slowed down the second mile because I figured he’d stay with me, then with about 600 meters left, he pulled a little bit ahead of me, and I didn’t want to start my kick early so I let him get a little gap on me.”
But Eastman did not let Curts get away.
“I was able to catch up to him coming down the hill toward the finish line, and right before the end we were neck and neck,” said Eastman. “But in the sand near the finish line, he had a little more energy than me, and he pulled ahead by a shoulder.”
Curts said he had no idea how fast he was going along the final straightaway, just that it seemed like a moment frozen in time.
“It’s kind of hard telling how fast you’re going because it does feel like it’s in slo-mo,” he said. “I never thought I was in control, I just knew I had to stick with him. He knows what he’s doing, he’s the two-time defending champion.”
Cape Elizabeth won the Class B team title by dethroning defending champion Falmouth 76-87, with York (101), Ellsworth (105) and Maranacook of Readfield (190) completing the top five.
Cape Elizabeth was paced by two top-10 finishers in Liam Simpson (sixth) and Peter Doane (ninth).
Massabesic secured its first state title in Class A, scoring 82 points to edge Eastern Maine champion Lewiston (91) and defending state champion Scarborough (95).
“They were kind of on a mission. They had a lot they wanted to do,” said Massabesic coach Mark Crepeau, whose team was running to honor the memory of former teammate Casey Irish, who died in an automobile accident in November 2010. “They wanted to do something for him, and they wanted to do something for themselves.”
Less than 36 seconds separated Massabesic’s five scoring runners, a pack led by George Morrison (ninth) and Michael Aboud (11th).
Lewiston’s Mohamed Awil, Isaiah Harris and Mohamed Barre finished 5-6-7 overall and teammate Mohamed Mohamed placed 15th, but the quality of Massabesic’s depth proved too much for the Blue Devils to overcome.
“The race they ran today is pretty much the same race they’ve run all season,” said Crepeau. “They’ve run so close, so tight to each other all year.”
Bangor scored 133 points to place fourth in Class A with Mt. Blue of Farmington (141) fifth.
Pierce pulled away from Telstar of Bethel’s Josef Holt-Andrews to win the Class C individual boys crown by 23 seconds.
Hall-Dale scored 86 points to win the team competition, followed by Orono (115), Winthrop (130), Waynflete (131) and Bangor Christian (137).
Winthrop’s Marc Hachey finished third in the Class C race, followed by Sam Stahnke of George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and fifth-place Tyler White of Orono.