Will Shaughnessy of Brunswick shows off his winning form during Saturday's Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. Shaughnessy led the Dragons to the boys team title. Credit: Glendon Rand Photo

BELFAST, Maine — Brunswick senior Will Shaughnessy faced a unique postrace interview after winning the boys title during Saturday’s 18th annual Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions at the Troy Howard Middle School.

Asking the questions in this case was the runner he’ll likely have to beat to capture the Class A state title crown month, two-time defending champion Lisandro Berry-Gaviria of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham.

Berry-Gaviria had run in a regular-season race Friday and was working the Festival of Champions for the MaineTrackXC running website (me.milesplit.com).

“I look forward to racing him,” Shaughnessy said later. “Racing him at the [Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships] and regionals and states will be a fun time. He’s a good friend of mine.”

Shaughnessy won the FOC title by topping a meet-record boys field of 989 finishers with his time of 15 minutes, 32.86 seconds for the 5-kilometer course. That was nearly nine seconds ahead of runner-up Dan McCarthy of Bangor, a sophomore who posted his first sub 16-minute 5K.

“Of all the runners in this field I was scared of [McCarthy] the most,” Shaughnessy said. “I respect him a lot. He’s made big improvements this year and he’s looked really strong in other meets. I was definitely concerned about him coming up on me.”

Shaughnessy also led Brunswick to its second straight team championship at the state’s largest cross country meet.

The Dragons finished with 105 points, comfortably ahead of York, which edged Bangor 192-197 for second place. Scarborough (225), Falmouth (292) and Lincoln Academy of Newcastle (326) were next among the 67 scoring boys teams.

Shaughnessy’s finish was backed up by junior Tyler Patterson (seventh), sophomore Joey Valliere (14th), junior Aidan Simmons (42nd) and freshman Eli Palmer, who won the freshman boys race in 17:18.55, good for 45th overall.

“This has been a goal of ours, me and my other teammates, for the last four years,” Shaughnessy said. “Our team last year might have had more depth but I think this year’s team is stronger.”

York, the 2018 Class B cross country state champion, was paced by seniors Eli Hultstrom in (22nd) and Josiah Mackaman (26th).

Bangor recorded a series of personal bests for the 3.1-mile distance, led by McCarthy and junior Gordon Doore, who placed ninth in 16:16.79.

Juniors Gavin Sychterz (40th) and James Fahey (55th) and sophomore Fritz Oldenburg (96th) rounded out the scoring for the Rams. Bangor finished second at this meet a year ago en route to a second-place finish at the Class A state championships.

Senior Jarrett Gulden’s eighth-place finish sparked Lincoln Academy to its top-six effort.

Shaughnessy entered the Festival of Champions as the No. 1 boys seed based on a 15:13.30 he clocked on his home course back on Sept. 26

“There was a little bit of pressure,” he said. “There had been some speculation from others that the course I ran at Brunswick was a short course so I kind of felt the need to validate that today. I wanted to do the best I could and get the win and I was able to accomplish that.”

Shaughnessy broke away from the lead pack about three-quarters of a mile into the race.

“That’s always a stressful thing because you’re kind of just running scared,” said Shaughnessy, who finished third at last year’s festival and fifth at the 2018 Class A state championship. “I knew there were some really good guys behind me so I wanted to focus on maintaining a good pace so the guys couldn’t close the gap.”

The rangy McCarthy, who had the sixth-fastest seeding time entering the race at 16:09.20, rallied past several competitors midway through the race before outkicking Falmouth’s Ben Potter for second place.

“I was able to hang with Will for about the first 100 meters and then he was gone,” said McCarthy, who won the Festival of Champions freshman race last fall.

“I was able to move up about a mile and a half into the race in the woods where there were a lot of camel humps and hills. Hills are my specialty, I guess, from playing hockey. It really helps with the leg strength.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...