There has been little doubt this fall about the identities of the two best cross-country runners in Maine high school competition.

Yarmouth senior Luke Laverdiere has not been seriously challenged, nor has Falmouth freshman Sofie Matson.

As for teams, however, that muddled picture should begin to clear Saturday at the regional championships. Southern Maine teams will gather at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland – which is also the site of the state championships on Oct. 28 – and Northern Maine teams will race at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast – site of the New England championships on Nov. 11.

One of the best races involves a pair of defending boys’ state champions, Greely (Class B) and Falmouth (Class A). Greely moved up to Class A this fall and will face its former Western Maine Conference rival.

Falmouth freshman Sofie Matson goes into the South regional Saturday as the clear-cut favorite among Class A girls. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Neither team was at full strength at the season’s two big invitationals last month, the Southern Maine Classic (Greely bested a field of 23) and the Festival of Champions (Falmouth was fourth, behind three out-of-state schools, among a field of 68).

“Falmouth didn’t have everybody at Gorham and we didn’t have everybody in Belfast,” said Greely Coach David Dowling. “So with everybody (running) their healthy times, it’s a pretty good matchup. It will be a good race.”

Deering attended neither invitational, adding further intrigue to Saturday’s race, scheduled for 12:45 p.m. as the fourth of six races at Twin Brook. The Class C girls kick things off at 11 a.m., and the Class B boys go off last at 1:55 p.m.

Deering beat Falmouth by eight points last weekend in South Portland, but Falmouth wasn’t at full strength.

“I wouldn’t put too much stock into the score,” Deering Coach Frank Myatt said. “But I thought we raced well.”

Scarborough, the state champion in 2014 and 2015, should also contend.

Winning a regional is not a prerequisite to a state title, but in each of the past two years, five of the six state championship teams were also regional champions.

The Bonny Eagle girls placed second to Falmouth in Class A South last fall, and the George Stevens Academy boys did likewise in 2015 against Orono in Class C North. Both went on to earn state championships.

“You’re not going to get a whole lot more fit,” said Jorma Kurry, one of two head coaches at Falmouth, of the week between regional and state meets. “You can change strategy, that’s about it, figure out where people’s strengths are and try to use yours the best you can.”

In Class A South girls, Falmouth and Bonny Eagle boast strong front-runners but could be vulnerable because of depth issues. Gorham, which has never won a girls’ state title, may not have anyone in the top 10 but could pack its top five among the top 25. Deering is another team with enviable depth.

“This week definitely has a bit more pressure with it than other weeks,” said Bonny Eagle Coach Andrea Johnson. “The girls need to trust their training, be confident, and run smart races.”

In Class A North, the Camden Hills girls appear dominant, while the boys of Brunswick, Hampden Academy and Bangor are more closely matched.

Greely’s ascension means Class B South will have two new regional champions. Yarmouth, York and Cape Elizabeth are the most likely girls’ contenders, although York won’t have top senior Kathryn Miller because of a shin issue.

“Stress fracture has not been ruled out, but things are improving daily, so we’re hopeful,” York Coach Candace Jaffe said. “We are exercising caution and hoping that she will be ready to compete at states.”

For Class B South boys, Lincoln Academy and Wells appear strongest, with Yarmouth and Freeport not far behind.

North schools have swept the Class C state titles the past two years, and Orono seems poised to continue that streak. The strongest South school may be Maine Coast Waldorf, although Maranacook and Waynflete will put up a fight.

“Our boys have been a pleasant surprise,” said Morgan Lake Adams, coach of Maine Coast Waldorf. “My girls are very young, a lot of freshmen and sophomores.”

Conditions for Saturday should be ideal. The course is dry and no rain is expected.

“It’s always nice to go first,” Adams said. “We’re hoping for a fast day.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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