If there’s one thing the John Bapst girls showed in Saturday’s Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions at Belfast, it’s that coach Joe Capehart has one of the more balanced and powerful packs in the state.
With heavily-favored Cheverus of Portland running away with the girls team title, thanks to the 1-2 punch of Emily Durgin and Fiona Hendry, there was a great race within the race as the Crusaders and Gorham battled for runner-up honors, a duel Bapst won.
And the most impressive thing? Not a single Crusader runner finished in the top 20 overall, but Bapst’s No. 1 runner and No. 5 girl were separated by 1 minute, 7 seconds, which is pretty solid in a talented girls field that had 435 finishers.
“That’s what we’ve been emphasizing all year,” Capehart said. “We knew we might not have the top girl [up front] but we had the quality depth that would give us five in the top 35.”
That goal wasn’t quite attained, but the Crusaders’ top five runners placed in the top 63 overall, while freshman Adrienne Carmack won the freshman race, placing 27th overall.
At the Festival of Champions, the times from the freshman, seeded and unseeded races were scored together to compile team scores.
With a talented cast of schools from throughout the state such as Gorham, Scarborough and Mt. Blue of Farmington, Capehart figured a top-5 finish might be within reach.
“Personally I didn’t think we were going to get runner-up but the girls have been working really, really hard this year,” he said. “This is the hardest working group I’ve had.”
Sophomore Mary Carmack led Bapst’s pack with a 22nd-place finish while classmate Sarah Dickens earned 26th.
Bapst made a statement that it will be the team to beat in Eastern Maine Class B this fall. The Crusaders haven’t won a regional championship since 2004, when they also won the state title.
However, with only two weeks until conference championship meets, Bapst must continue to train hard and keep its focus.
“I’m very happy with where we’re at, but it’s not like we’re taking for granted what the other teams are going to do,” Capehart said. “The meets that matter are still down the road.”
Other key runners have been Kim Spencer, Stesha Rudnicki, Laura Donovan and Mandy Martin.
Clash of the Titans
Heal points, playoff positioning, and perhaps more will be on the line in the Queen City tonight as two Class A girls soccer heavyweights go at it in Bangor.
The Rams will host defending state champion Waterville at 6 p.m. and coach Joe Johnson’s club goes into the match with an 8-0-1 record and the top spot in the standings.
Bangor knocked off the Purple Panthers 2-1 in double-overtime on Sept. 13 in Waterville, thanks to two goals by freshman standout Grace MacLean.
MacLean has helped spearhead a balanced Bangor offensive attack, which has numerous other scoring threats in Eliza Estabrook, Ashley Robinson, Denali Graham, Kim Jordan, M.J. Boyce and Jade Baumrind.
Goalkeeper Mia Smith has been outstanding in net this season with five shutouts.
The Purple Panthers counter with one of the state’s top strikers in Jordan Pellerin, and some sound offensive weapons in Taylor Frame and Sylvia Reynolds.
Coach Ian Wilson’s club also has two defensive standouts in fullback Kayla Tuttle and goalkeeper Cara Rousseau.