CUMBERLAND CENTER, Maine — The course at Twin Brooks Recreation Area is likely to be a bit sloppy Saturday as the top cross country runners in the region gather for the 78th New England Championship.
Teams from Maine will host teams and individual competitors from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut in what should be a fast competition.
Maine teams are likely to finish back in the pack in the girls’ and boys’ meets, both of which have talented fields.
Champlain Valley Union of Hinesburg, Vt., is going after its third consecutive New England girls team title, but is expected to face resistance from the likes of Coe-Brown Academy of Northwood, N.H., and Barrington (R.I.) High and LaSalle Academy of Providence, R.I., last year’s runner-up.
Maine’s top entry in the girls’ competition is Bonny Eagle of Standish, which claimed Class A honors.
The girls race will include four of the top six runners and 12 of the top 20 finishers from the 2011 New Englands.
Defending champion Elle Purrier of Richford, Vt., is back to head up the talented list of individuals after emerging as her state’s fastest runner this fall.
Among the runners who should be at the front of the pack with Purrier is dominating Waterville High senior Bethanie Brown, who was fifth in this meet in 2011. The Class B individual state champion is unbeaten this year and sports a season-best time of 17 minutes, 56 seconds for 5 kilometers.
Senior Taylor Spillane of Champlain Valley, who was fourth last year, could also be within striking distance. Maine’s other hopefuls include Lawrence of Fairfield senior Erzebet Nagy, the Class A state champion, along with Class A runner-up Nyajock Pan of South Portland, Class B state runner-up Kirstin Sandreuter of Greely in Cumberland Center and Brittany Bowman of Camden Hills.
The boys meet also welcomes back the defending champion in Bishop Henricken of Warwick, R.I. The five-time state titlists arrive with a strong instate counterpart in LaSalle Academy, which was the Rhode Island runner-up.
Other potential team contenders are Souhegan High of Amherst, N.H., New Milford, Conn., and Bedford, N.H.
Souhegan was the New England runner-up a year ago, while LaSalle finished third and Beford placed fourth.
Massabesic High of Waterboro, the Class A state winner, looks like the top squad from Maine in the event.
There should be plenty of challengers for individual honors, with seven of last year’s top 20 back for another shot.
Trevor Crawley of Cumberland, R.I., the state’s open champion, was 57th in 2011, but boasts a season-best time of 15:28 over 5K. Henry Wynne of Staples High (Westport, Conn.) was seventh at the New Englands last year and is the top returnee from that field.
However, Maine also is likely to have a couple of runners up toward the front.
Dan Curts of Ellsworth High and Silas Eastman of Fryeburg Academy, the fastest two runners in the state this fall, will renew their intense rivalry on an even bigger stage.
Curts outleaned Eastman two weeks ago at Belfast to claim the Class B individual state title. Both have run 15:42 this season, albeit back in September.
Other potential challengers include Jake Feinstein of Newtown, Conn., who was that state’s runner-up behind Wynne, along with Jeremy Brassard of Coe-Brown Academy in Northwood, N.H., and Malcolm Plunkett of South Burlington, Vt.
UMaine at NCAA qualifier
The University of Maine’s cross country teams are in Madison, Conn., today, where they will compete in the NCAA Northeast Regional Qualifier.
Coach Mark Lech’s Black Bears are not likely to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships scheduled for Nov. 17 at Louisville, Ky.
He explained that there are only two automatic team qualifiers and five individuals who are guaranteed championship berths, although some teams may advance by virtue of at-large berths.
“The team’s not quite strong enough,” Lech said. “We’ve been struggling to find a solid fifth person the whole year on both sides, the men’s and the ladies.”
Senior Corey Conner, who has led the women’s squad, has been sidelined for several weeks with an injury and is not expected to compete.