CUMBERLAND – One squishy step into the rain-softened fields of Twin Brook Recreation Area was enough to realize Saturday’s Western Maine cross country championship meet would be a soggy, mud-spattered affair, a test to endure rather than something to conquer.

And yet, despite sidestepping the ooze and easing through slick corners, Kennebunk senior Abbey Leonardi managed to break a course record that had stood since the 2007 New Englands were held in Maine. She won the Western Class A girls’ race by more than a minute over runner-up Fiona Hendry of Cheverus, in 18 minutes, 5.59 seconds.

The previous record was 18:06 set by Georgia Griffith, a New Hampshire native who now runs for Stanford.

“I guess that’s kind of cool,” said Leonardi, who mistakenly thought the record was 18:02 and, truth be told, still feels as if she’s in training mode because college visits this fall and an eye on returning to the nationals limited her to three races before Saturday.

“So I wanted to go fast, but given the mud and everything, I wanted to be a little cautious,” she said. “Hopefully it will be dry for next week.”

The top 30 individuals from each of three class races as well as the top half of the teams in each field qualified for next Saturday’s state meet, also at Twin Brook. Joining Leonardi as individual winners Saturday were Maranacook senior Abby Mace (19:41.49) in Class B and Lisbon senior Meagan Thomas (21:11.60) in Class C.

Leonardi, Hendry, Mace and Cheverus sophomore Shannon Conley were the only girls to break 20 minutes on the challenging 5-kilometer course. Cheverus won the Class A title despite the loss of senior Emily Durgin, the 2009 regional state and New England champion, who dropped out near the race’s midpoint.

In the closest of the team races, Cheverus held off Massabesic, 45-51. In Class B, Greely rebounded from a third-place finish in the conference meet to edge Falmouth 79-98, with Western Maine Conference champion Cape Elizabeth losing out to York by a point for third place, 100-101.

Merriconeag ran away with Class C, packing five runners among the top 15 finishers to easily outdistance runner-up Waynflete, 41-90.

“I personally love messy conditions,” said Hendry, who led a 2-3-4 finish for Cheverus that included Conley and sophomore Kiera Murray. “Maybe not during workouts or regular runs, but (in) races, I think it makes you feel tougher.”

Durgin said she’s suffering from anemia and has been taking iron supplements for more than a week. This marked the third race this fall she failed to finish.

“It’s certain that she’s not where she would have been if she didn’t have this anemia issue, but she is still very strong,” said Cheverus Coach Valerie Guillet. “With her, we can accomplish great things both at states and, later on, New Englands.”

Seniors Maddie Woods (15th) and Lizzie Gwilym (21st) picked up the slack for Cheverus. Freshman Gabrielle Johnson led a 6-7-8 finish for Massabesic, along with Jocelyn Acheson and Mikayla Frazier.

In Class B, freshman Eva Bates, sophomore Kirstin Sandreuter and junior Allie Day went 6-8-12, with sophomore Jill Booth (24th) and senior Melissa Jacques (33rd) clinching Greely’s title.

“We’re a young team coming along well at the end,” said Greely Coach David Dowling. “They’re learning they can run with the top 20 (individuals) in the region.”

Junior Zoe Chace-Donahue, who dropped out of last week’s WMC race, led a 7-9-10 finish for Merriconeag in Class C, followed by freshman Sam Pierce and junior Teagan Wu. Freshman Jesse Saffeir (12th) and sophomore Carlin Tindall (15th) completed the scoring.

Only 15 seconds separated the middle three runners, all of whom led Chace-Donahue through the first mile.

“We were really focused on running as a pack,” said Merriconeag cp-coach Morgan Lake-Adams. “They executed that incredibly well. They ran strong and supported each other. That’s kind of how they’ve run all season.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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