BELFAST — Handicapping a cross country meet is difficult.
But when Caribou boys coach Roy Alden was figuring out what the magic number would be for his Vikings to win their third straight Eastern Maine Class B championship, he estimated 45 points would do it.
Alden was off by seven points, but the the Vikings still head back to Caribou with another regional title, albeit after a tight duel with a determined Hampden squad.
“I thought Hampden would race very well. They do a great job, they’re always well-prepared,” said Alden. “I didn’t expect their second guy to be as far up as he was.”
Even though the Broncos finished 3-5-8, the Vikings’ pack was too deep. All five Caribou scorers finished in the top 20 en route to a 52-63 victory at Troy Howard Middle School Saturday over a 5-kilometer course.
Eight Class B schools qualified for next week’s state championships, also to be held in Belfast. That means Ellsworth (84), Winslow (103), Erskine Academy of South China (138), John Bapst (192), Presque Isle (207) and Mount Desert Island (235) are all moving on.
Mount Ararat of Topsham went on to win the Class A championship while Bangor Christian followed up its PVC team victory with a regional title in Class C.
In Class B, Caribou’s usual lead man, Christian Sleeper, had a bit of an off day. However, he was picked up by his teammates, as D.J. Flynn finished sixth, Sleeper seventh, Ryan Washington 10th, Caleb Chapman 12th and Jesse Sandstrom 17th, followed by Jake Michaud (26th) and Kjetil Rossignol (30th).
Normally, the sixth and seventh runners are overlooked since only five runners score in cross country, but Michaud and Rossignol both finished ahead of Hampden’s No. 5 runner, which gave the Vikings enough cushion.
“Kjteil and Jake, running real well and being ahead of Hampden’s fifth guy might have made a huge difference, too,” said Alden.
Caribou’s times weren’t exactly spectacular on this windy afternoon — Flynn was clocked in 17 minutes, 21.57 seconds — but the only time that mattered for the Vikings was 42 seconds, which was the difference between Flynn and Sandstrom.
“They grouped up together very well early in the race. They did have a little trouble around mile two, but then recovered and ran the last mile of the race really strong,” Alden said.
Hampden was led by Evan Piccirillo’s third-place finish, while Ethan Burke finished fifth and Andrew Closson eighth for coach Dick Balentine’s Broncos.
In the individual race, Ellsworth freshman Dan Curts continued what has been a remarkable rookie campaign. He not only pulled away from top harrier Eben Hodgkins of Erskine, but posted the day’s fastest time.
Curts crossed the finish line in 16:26.45 while Hodgkins was second in 16:45.69.
In Class C, Dylan Merchant and Brad Wilcox, who also play soccer for Bangor Christian, helped add another trophy to the case at the Broadway school with a 3-4 finish while Zac Palmeter was sixth, Brian Parent 14th and Jace Schmidt 25th among scoring runners.
The Pats compiled 37 points to outdistance runner-up Orono, which totaled 61. Lee Academy (83), Sumner of East Sullivan (112) and George Stevens of Blue Hill (113) are also moving on to the state meet.
Alex Bulteel of Orono captured individual honors in 16:43.82 while Mattanawcook of Lincoln’s Alex Guiod took second in 16:59.95.
In Class A, Messalonskee of Oakland’s Harlow Ladd claimed the individual race in 16:30.95 while Mount Ararat edged Mt. Blue of Farmington for team honors.
The Eagles edged the Cougars 57-67 while Edward Little, Lewiston, Cony and Brunswick all qualified for states.
Bangor finished seventh, one slot and one point out of a team qualifying position, while the Rams’ top runner was Juergen Pilot in 21st place (17:58.21).
Brewer, which came in eighth, was led by John Herlihy, who placed 31st in 18:35.01.