CUMBERLAND — Liam Simpson of Cape Elizabeth knew there would be a price to pay for his lead. Sure enough, it came over the last 800 meters of the 5-kilometer race at the Western Maine Class B cross country championships Saturday at Twin Brook.
“I was dying,” he said. “The last 800 or so was excruciating. I thought I was going to (be ill).”
Instead, Simpson held on to win by 21 seconds over Will Shafer of Gray-New Gloucester in 16 minutes, 15 seconds. A week earlier at the Western Maine Conference meet in Standish, Shafer had beaten Simpson with a surge in the final mile.
“I knew if I wanted to win (Saturday) I would have to gap him earlier in the race,” Simpson said, “so I made that decision that after the first mile I’d really pick it up.”
Peter Doane of Cape Elizabeth was only one second behind Shafer, helping the Capers win the team title by a whopping margin over runner-up York, 45-102. Kyle Kennedy (eighth), Mitch Morris (ninth) and Julian Pelzer (24th) completed Cape Elizabeth’s scoring.
“The guys knew they were heavy favorites,” said Cape Elizabeth Coach Derek Veilleux, who rested No. 3 runner Will Britton rather than rush him back from an injury. “We wanted to run our race, kind of a dress rehearsal for next week, and I think we got back to running as a team again.”
Gray-New Gloucester, Freeport, Maranacook, Yarmouth and Lincoln Academy also qualified for the state meet.
Simpson’s time was the second-fastest of the day behind the Class C winner, Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar, who loped across the line in 15:54. He was the only runner in either region – Eastern runners competed in Belfast over a flatter course acknowledged as significantly faster than Twin Brook – to break 16 minutes.
“There was no timing goal in mind,” he said. “I was just trying to make it a hard effort. Not all-out race pace but a hard effort, getting ready for the New Englands in two weeks.”
More than a minute passed before runner-up Ben Allen of Winthrop finished in 17:13. Holt-Andrews didn’t linger. He was off to the airport to catch a flight for recruiting visits to Iowa and Wisconsin.
Boothbay won the Class C title by 50 points over Merriconeag. Monmouth Academy, Winthrop, Hall-Dale, North Yarmouth Academy and Madison also qualified for the state meet.
The Class A meet included, for the first time, Falmouth, a program with four state titles in lower classes and a Western Maine Conference schedule that overlapped with SMAA teams only at the Festival of Champions.
“But that’s such a big race that anything can happen,” said Scarborough Coach Jim Harmon. “This is a whole different ballgame here. Different course, too. This (hilly course) is more similar to what they run on. We train on the roads for the most part.”
With Colin Tardiff (second) and Jacob Terry (fourth) leading the way, Scarborough beat runner-up Falmouth by 11 points with Massabesic in third, another 41 points behind.
Ryan Cadorette of Thornton Academy won individual honors by three seconds in 17:00. Michael Aboud of Massabesic was third, two-tenths of a second behind Tardiff.
Bryce Murdick of Falmouth, who led until the final mile, was fifth in 17:08.
“I think we all kind of went out too hard,” Cadorette said. “I was trying to kick (at the end) but my legs were already beat and juiced out from going out so hard in the beginning.”
Joining the top three teams at the Class A state meet will be Windham, Gorham, South Portland, Deering and Marshwood.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or[email protected]Twitter: GlennJordanPPH