CUMBERLAND — Gorham senior Anna Slager tries to make cross country, seemingly the most individual of sports, all about team.

So those fifth and sixth and seventh runners slogging their way with little fanfare through the middle of the pack?

“Treat ’em like they’re part of a the limelight,” Slager said. “All for one. A train is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Her metaphor might be slightly mixed, but Slager’s message was right on track Saturday as Gorham knocked off two-time defending state champion Bonny Eagle as well as defending regional champion Falmouth to win the Class A South title at Twin Brook Recreation Area.

Under sunny skies and temperatures approaching 70 degrees, the Rams qualified for the state meet for the first time in Slager’s high school career. They did so by packing five runners among the top 22 finishers of a race that included 122 girls.

Iris Kitchen (ninth), Kate Tugman (16th), Sarah Johnson (21st) and Meadow Fortier (22nd) gave Gorham a comfortable 72-101 victory over Falmouth with Greely (113) edging Bonny Eagle (117) for third. Deering was fifth at 124.

Slager, who won this race as a freshman and sophomore, finished fourth in 19 minutes, 58 seconds over the hilly 5-kilometer course.

“When you have people to lift you up, cheer you on and work together,” she said, “you realize you’re running for something greater than yourself. My team is tough. We can handle anything.”

Falmouth freshman Sofie Matson turned in the day’s fastest time of 19:03.58 to earn individual honors by nearly a minute.

Carolyn Todd of Greely nipped Karley Piers of Falmouth for second in 19:56.01. The top nine of 18 teams advanced to next weekend’s state championship.

In other races, Anneka Murrin led Yarmouth to the Class B South title and Maranacook won Class C South despite an individual victory by freshman Olivia Reynolds of runner-up Maine Coast Waldorf.

Matson quickly separated herself from the pack in Class A, and ran alone into and out of the woods and up the short but steep hill late in Mile 3 that runners lovingly call the Pain Cave. Saturday was the first time Matson had run the full course.

“In middle school we do the 2-mile course here, so I had done parts of it,” she said. “I had never done the Pain Cave before. It’s always nice to challenge yourself in a race.”

In Class B, Murrin and Lily Horne of Freeport ran together for much of the race until Murrin surged late to win by three seconds in 19:31.37.

“Coming out of the Pain Cave, I decided it was time to make a move,” Murrin said. “I knew that Lily was right behind me. I just sprinted as hard as I could.”

Sophia Laukli (fourth), Greta Elder (seventh), Sadie Cowles (11th) and Abi Thornton (29th) combined to push Yarmouth past York 52-66 with Cape Elizabeth (82) third. Fryeburg Academy (95), Freeport (162) and Morse (166) also qualified for the state meet.

“Sadie had a great race, just phenomenal,” said Yarmouth Coach John Rogers.

In Class C, the first race of the day, Maranacook crammed four girls among the top eight and Madelyn Dwyer completed the scoring at 14th for a 37-51 victory over Maine Coast Waldorf. Saint Dominic (93), Waynflete (102) and Monmouth Academy (144) also qualified for the state meet.

Reynolds and teammate Olivia Skillings ran side by side for half the race. But Molly McGrail of Maranacook surged to second, 25 seconds behind the winning time (20:26) of Reynolds, who had won only one other race this fall.

“I had a lot of pre-race nerves,” Reynolds said, “but I knew it was possible.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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