BELFAST — Christian Sleeper had a nervous yet confident look on his face Saturday as officials posted results of the Class B boys cross country championship meet on a red building at Troy Howard Middle School.
When Sleeper finally peered at the team standings and saw the name “Caribou” at the top, he subsequently jumped, ran over to hug coach Roy Alden and began the search for his teammates.
“They were all freaking out,” Sleeper said.
The Vikings had good reason to do so, as they claimed their first state championship in cross country since 1938 by edging Falmouth 92 points to 100.
Caribou’s triumph was also the first for an Eastern Maine team in Class B since Louie Luchini led Ellsworth to the top in 1998.
Cape Elizabeth finished third in the tight team race with 109 points while Hampden Academy was fourth with 113, followed by Greely of Cumberland Center (124).
Western Maine teams would dominate the remainder of the meet, as North Yarmouth Academy won the Class C race and Scarborough took the Class A meet.
When Alden handicapped the meet throughout the week, he figured Sleeper would need to have a top-10 finish, the Vikings’ Nos. 2 and 3 guys would need to finish close to the top 20 and the fourth and fifth runners around the top 30.
Caribou executed that plan to perfection, as Sleeper finished fourth, Caleb Chapman and D.J. Flynn 12th and 15th, respectively, Ryan Washington 29th and Jesse Sandstrom 32nd.
More importantly, Sandstrom was ahead of Falmouth’s No. 5 runner by three slots while Chapman and Flynn both finished ahead of the Yachstmen’s second runner.
“We put together a plan and believed in it, talked about just (having) faith in ourselves and being willing to do what it takes,” Alden said. “Basically, we wanted to run the first mile fairly relaxed and comfortable, then be more aggressive throughout mile two and then really take off and run strong.”
Sleeper did that in enjoying his best race of what had been a somewhat frustrating postseason after slipping on a corner in the PVC championships and struggling a bit in the Eastern Maine regional meet.
“To do what I did, it was awesome,” said Sleeper, who covered the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 36.94 seconds. “We wanted to do well. We knew it was going to be tight.”
The Vikings’ pack time was impressive, as the spread between Sleeper and No. 5 man Sandstrom was 1:12, which is a solid number in a large field.
“We wanted to get as small a pack time as possible, so we’d all be together. We knew that was our best chance,” said Flynn. “Caleb and I have been running together all year so we knew going into this race that we wanted to stay tight, work off each other.”
The championship is particularly special for the Vikings’ three senior varsity members, Sleeper, Flynn and Jake Michaud, who were freshmen when Caribou earned a state runner-up finish. While Flynn didn’t come on board until his junior campaign, he was at a loss for words.
“It’s very special, we’re proud of how we ran,” he said.
“Those kids have had a state runner-up, three Eastern Maine championships and now a state championship, that’s quite an accomplishment in four years,” said Alden, referring to his three seniors on varsity and five others who were on the JV squad.
Fryeburg Academy’s Silas Eastman went on to win the individual title in 16:02.44 while Dan Curts of Ellsworth was third and Evan Piccirillo of Hampden 12th.
NYA tallied 60 points while Freeport was second with 99 in Class C while Bangor Christian was the top Eastern Maine team in eighth with 191 points.
Matt McClintock of Madison posted the day’s fastest time, covering the course in 16:00.91, while the top Eastern Maine runners were Alex Bulteel of Orono (fifth) and Matt Guiod of Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln (sixth).
Leading NYA was Cam Regan in fifth place and Evan Kendall in eighth
In Class A, Scarborough had the top individual in Nick Morris, who was timed in 16:25.15, while Tom Hague also finished in the top 10 for the Red Storm, running to sixth.