For some high school athletes, Saturday’s cross country state championships are a culmination of hard work and preparation that began with long runs on summer days.

For others, Saturday is a cause for celebration, simply to be able to lace up the spikes and take a place behind the starting line.

Count Thornton Academy’s girls among the latter.

After a 4-10 season, the Trojans came up big at the Western Class A meet last Saturday at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland, slipping past several teams who had beaten them head-to-head to nab the eighth and final qualifying spot for Saturday’s state meet.

“It wasn’t even on our radar screen going into the meet,” Coach John Raby wrote in response to an email query. “Our goals were around everyone having a good race, for the veterans beating previous times and for our rookies in the meet going out and catching some people they had lost to earlier in the season.”

Junior Charlotte Pierce (18th) and senior Olivia Bean were the only TA runners among the top 40, but the team still managed to edge Kennebunk 232-234 for the final berth. A meet official tipped off Raby to the news, which he kept to himself for the awards ceremony.

As a Maine Principals’ Association official paused after reading scores of the teams not qualifying for states before announcing those who did, “our girls actually turned to me to complain that they had been missed in the results,” Raby said.

So when they heard the news that TA had made it, the girls were stunned and elated.
Raby called it “one of the best moments I’ve had in coaching.”

Along with teams who are happy to be there, there are others hoping for hardware and individuals hoping to extend their season to the New England meet, scheduled for Nov. 12 in North Scituate, R.I.
Individually, the three class champions and runners with the next 22 best times, regardless of class, qualify for New Englands.

Also, Maine will send six boys’ and six girls’ teams to Rhode Island: the three champions and those with the next three best scores when results from all three meets are combined and viewed as one.

Officials also bumped back the Class B races by half an hour from their original time slot to ease traffic congestion at Twin Brook.

Here’s a look at Saturday’s six races in the order they will be run:

• Class C girls

Defending champ: Merriconeag

West winner: Merriconeag

East winner: Washburn

The skinny: Most Washburn runners also play for the top-seeded (in Class D) soccer team, which plays today. They packed seven in the top 30 and five in the top 25 at the Eastern regional, but their 1-5 gap was more than four minutes.

By contrast, only 45 seconds separated Merriconeag’s first and fifth runners. All five squeezed into the top 15 last weekend, which bodes well for the Waldorf School’s title defense. Waynflete and Orono are also in the mix.

Washburn sophomore Carsyn Koch is the defending champion and the only girl in either Class C regional meet to break 21 minutes. She is the favorite.

• Class C boys

Defending champ: North Yarmouth Academy

West winner: North Yarmouth Academy

East winner: Bangor Christian

The skinny: The senior-dominated NYA team packed six among the top 25 in the regional meet and should fare well again this weekend. Bangor Christian placed four among the top eight in the East, finishing within 26 seconds of each other, but the fifth runner was another minute back.
Waynflete, Telstar, Boothbay and Orono each has a chance at the runner-up spot.

Matt McClintock of Madison put up the fastest time (16:00) at either venue last Saturday. Look for him to win a third straight Class C title in convincing fashion. In the race for second, Chase Brown of Boothbay, Jack Pierce of Merriconeag, Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar and Abshir Horor of Waynflete all posted faster times on a harder course than Eastern champ Matt Guiod of Mattanawcook Academy.

• Class A girls

Defending champ: Cheverus

West winner: Cheverus

East winner: Mt. Ararat

The skinny: Much depends on the health of Cheverus senior Emily Durgin, who has dropped out of three races because of low iron levels in her blood. Without the three-time state runner-up scoring, Cheverus managed to hold off Massabesic by six points in the West. Doing so again with Mt. Ararat and Brunswick in the mix will be even more of a challenge for the two-time defending champs.

This race will cap an extraordinary high school career in Maine for Kennebunk senior Abbey Leonardi, who set a course record at Twin Brook last week despite muddy conditions and is aiming for a fourth straight state title.

Lawrence junior Erzsebet Nagy and Cheverus senior Fiona Hendry should battle for second.

• Class A boys

Defending champ: Scarborough

West winner: Scarborough

East winner: Bangor

The skinny: Scarborough is the clear favorite to win its sixth state title in eight years. The Red Storm turned in faster average and total times in the regional meet than Bangor despite running on a tougher course. South Portland and Mt. Ararat will also be factors.

Five seniors have a shot at winning the race, with defending champ Nick Morris of Scarborough attempting to hold off two-time Eastern Maine champ Harlow Ladd of Messalonskee, Chris Dunn of Kennebunk, Benson Worthington of Brunswick and Andy Reifman-Packett of Mt. Ararat.

• Class B girls

Defending champ: John Bapst

West winner: Greely

East winner: Camden Hills

The skinny: This promises to be the most competitive race of the day. Camden Hills, in its first year of state qualifying, arrives as the Eastern champion by a single point over Mt. Desert Island. MDI has a tighter pack, but Camden Hills has better front-runners.

Greely, Falmouth, York and Cape Elizabeth will also be in the mix. The Capers are seeking their seventh straight trip to New Englands.

Maranacook senior Abby Mace – the 2008 and 2009 state champ – will be pushed by Bethanie Brown of Waterville, Willow Parker and Brittany Bowman of Camden Hills, Heather Evans of York and Kristina Smith of Poland.

• Class B boys

Defending champ: Caribou

West winner: Falmouth

East winner: Caribou

The skinny: Falmouth appears to have the edge based on an impressive regional showing, which included packing all seven runners among the top 25 and posting significantly lower average and total times than Eastern champ Caribou, despite the inequality of the Belfast (flat) and Twin Brook (hilly) courses.

Should Falmouth falter, Ellsworth, Cape Elizabeth, York or Greely could challenge, along with defending champ Caribou.

Fryeburg Academy junior Silas Eastman looks to defend his title against the likes of Falmouth senior Tim Follo and Eastern champ Dan Curts, an Ellsworth sophomore.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH