BELFAST, Maine — Their head-to-head showdown expected failed to materialize, victim of a hamstring injury that left Ellsworth’s Dan Curts unable to finish Saturday’s Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions.
So Josef Holt-Andrews had to settle for setting a new meet and course record.
Holt-Andrews, a senior at Telstar Regional High School of Bethel, pulled away from Mt. Blue HIgh School of Farmington teammates Aaron Willingham and Josh Horne midway through the 3.1-mile race at Troy Howard Middle School to win the boys seeded division in 15 minutes, 6.92 seconds.
That easily topped the previous meet and course best of 15:26.64 set last year by Mike Tate of Dr. J.H. Gillis High School of Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
“It was in mind,” said Holt-Andrews of the record, “but I was actually thinking me and Dan would duke it out so I had in mind just to go early and hopefully he wouldn’t.”
Kialeigh Marston, a sophomore from Bonny Eagle High School of Standish in her first season of running cross country, won the girls race in 18:42.94.
“I felt like my race went really good, but it didn’t feel very good,” said Marston. “I felt terrible, but I guess if you like running you kind of like the terrible feeling.”
Mount Desert Island High School cruised to its third straight girls team title, while Lewiston High placed its top five runners among the top 34 finishers to win the boys team championship.
For Holt-Andrews and Curts, the reigning Class B state champion, the battle for the boys individual title was seen as a potential rematch of their clash last weekend at the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational, where Curts eked out a four-second victory.
But Curts tweaked his right hamstring during that run, and while he took it easy this week the injury left him at less than 100 percent.
The Ellsworth senior maintained contact with the leaders for much of the race, but pulled up midway through the final mile.
By that time Holt-Andrews had taken control of the field and it was just a matter of the extent of his record-setting performance.
“I knew my hamstring was a little messed up from last weekend,” said Curts. “I’d seen a physical therapist twice this week and it had been bugging me and bugging me. I didn’t really run this week and then today it was really bugging me in the race so I pulled out.
“Honestly I felt it really early, but I probably ran 2½ miles of the race.”
Holt-Andrews established his lead fairly early, passing Willingham and Horne on a hill at the start of the second mile.
“I knew I had to start going early because I don’t have much speed yet early in the season,” he said.
“After the first mile I just hauled and tried to take everybody’s kick out of them and rely on my strength work I did this summer, my base training.”
Willingham finished second in 15:42.18, with Horne (15:54.21), Sam Nishi of Harwood Union High School in Moretown, Vt. (15:58.13) and Cale Elizabeth’s Liam Simpson (16:00.08) completing the top five among 797 boys who started in one of the festival’s three divisions — seeded, unseeded and freshman.
Lewiston was led to its team victory by junior Isaiah Harris, who finished eighth overall in 16:21.70.
But it was the quality of the Blue Devils’ depth that made the difference, as Lewiston’s five scoring runners — Harris, Mohamed Awil, Mohamed Mohamed, Farhan Abdillahi and Osman Mohamed — finished within a remarkable pack separation of just 34.23 seconds.
Lewiston totaled 87 points, while Harwood Union — whose top five runners had the exact same 16:34 average time as the top five Blue Devils — placed second among the 57 scoring boys teams with 107 points. Cape Elizabeth (138), Scarborough (172) and Falmouth (206) completed the top five.
The MDI girls finished with 95 points, barely half the 181 scored by second-place Falmouth in that 51-team field.
The two-time defending Class B state champion Trojans were led by senior Maggie Painter, who finished fifth overall in 19:05.74.
MDI had just five runners in the seeded race because their six-through-nine finishers all were in the freshman race — with times from all three divisions combined for team scoring purposes.
Senior Isabel Erickson and junior Waylon Henggeler placed 11th and 13th overall for the Trojans, while junior Caroline Driscoll (32nd) and senior Olivia Erickson (38th) completed the champions’ scoring.
Harwood Union was third in the girls field with 232 points, with Cape Elizabeth (273) and Massabesic of Waterboro (286) next.
Marston, who played soccer at Bonny Eagle last fall, controlled the girls race from the outset.
“I haven’t run where I’ve wanted to,” said Marston, who did run the mile in indoor and outdoor track for the Scots last winter and spring. “But today was really good because I wanted to break 19 (minutes) and I did.“
Shannon Conley, a senior from South Portland, finished 17 seconds behind Marston with a second-place time of 18:59.21, edging third-place Anne McKee of Kents Hill by 0.19 seconds.
Ellsworth senior Aleta Looker was a close fourth among the 633 participants in the three girls divisions with a time of 19:01.13.
Carsyn Koch of Washburn, the three-time Class C state champion, was sixth in 19:15.15.