BELFAST, Maine — Dan Curts wasn’t at 100 percent Saturday, but the reigning Class B cross country state champion from Ellsworth and his teammates were strong enough to win their second straight Eastern Maine championship.
Curts, sidelined recently by a hamstring injury, returned to competition to post the fastest time of the day (16:00.95) on the 3.1-mile Troy Howard Middle School course while pacing his cousin and classmate, senior Brayden Beardsley, to a second-place finish.
“We knew running 1-2 was a possibility, so that was the plan,” said Curts. “We communicated throughout the race, and when he said he was feeling good, we picked it up a little bit; and there was a point where we wanted to try to pull away, and we did that.”
Orono used a 3-4-5 finish from its top three runners to join the school’s girls squad as Class C champions, while Lewiston won the Eastern A crown.
Ellsworth placed its five scoring runners among the top nine finishers to score just 23 points compared to 109 for runner-up John Bapst of Bangor.
Beardsley, the Penobscot Valley Conference champion in Curts’ absence a week earlier, finished less than three seconds behind Curts at the regional with the second-fastest time of the day. Teammates Robert Looker (fifth), Frank King (sixth) and Cooper Holmes (ninth) all added strong contributions to the team victory.
“We definitely wanted to have five in early.” said Beardsley. “We talked to each other about when to push each other harder, and it worked.”
Orono’s lead pack also proved pivotal in the Class C race as the Red Riots totaled 33 points to best George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (51) and third-place Fort Kent (70).
Senior James O’Neil, sophomore Tristan Butterfield and senior Conall Malloy led the Red Riots as they followed Fort Kent’s Matthew Toussaint and GSA’s John Hassett across the finish line.
Josh Marquis added a seventh-place finish for the Red Riots while Brian Westhoven was 15th to complete Orono’s scoring contingent.
“I’m just very fortunate to have some strong, strong runners, and they do buy into that pack running philosophy where they key off their teammates and work together. For us, it has been an advantage,” said Orono coach Lin White. “I’ve got a great group of kids who have worked hard this season and have these goals. We just feel fortunate that they were able to achieve this one today.”
Toussaint was clocked in 16:51.81 to score a 33-second victory in the individual competition.
“I pushed hard at the beginning, tried to get ahead of the pack and then tried to keep a steady pace in the middle,” said Toussaint, a junior. “It was a pretty flat course, so I was able to keep a pretty good pace; then at the end, I just gave it everything I had.”
Lewiston’s top five runners, led by third-place Isaiah Harris (16:23.07), had a pack time of just 36.1 seconds to avenge a loss to Bangor at last week’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet.
Lewiston was boosted by the return of Mohamed Mohamed, who finished 13th overall after being sidelined at the KVACs by injury.
Between Harris and Mohamed were Mohamed Awil (ninth), Farhan Abdillahi (10th) and Osman Mohamed (11th) as the Blue Devils totaled 46 points to top Bangor (76) and third-place Mt. Blue of Farmington (94).
Mt. Blue’s Josh Horne won the individual title in 16:12.94, while Bangor’s Jonathan Stanhope surged late to finish second in 16:19.21 and teammate Ben Salinas was eighth in 16:44.41.