March 13, 2010

Runners are hoping to be in the running


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Jack Milton/Staff Photographer: Abbey Leonardi, Kennebunk, at the start of the Class A Girls State Championship Cross Country meet in Belfast Saturday, November 1, 2008. Leonardi won the Class A Girls title. On the left are #504, Fiona Hendry, Cheverus, , Brunswick #475, Kathleen McMahon.

Jack Milton

Staff Writer

After his team wrapped up the Class B cross country state championship in convincing fashion last weekend in Belfast, Greely Coach David Dowling turned his attention to the New England meet, held a year ago on his home course in Cumberland.

''Last year it was just an experience,'' Dowling said of his young team's 26th-place showing among the 30 teams. ''We'd like to make it a race this year.''

The best showing by any Maine team in recent years was a third-place finish by the Cape Elizabeth boys in 2006.

''That's a high bar to get over,'' Dowling said. ''We'll give it a shot but New Englands are tough competition.''

The meet is scheduled for Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H., with the boys' race at 11:30 a.m. and the girls at 12:30 p.m.

Because the event rotates through the five participating states (all but Massachusetts, whose season runs later than the rest), this marks a return to New Hampshire for the first time since 2003, when Maine placed three boys and three girls among the top 10 in each race.

Ben True of Greely, Eric Giddings of South Portland and Levi Miller of Belfast went 2-4-9. Elise Moody-Roberts of Cape Elizabeth and the Wilcox sisters of Mt. Ararat, Jesse and Beth, went 2-8-9.

Cape Elizabeth's girls placed eighth last year, the only top-10 finish by a girls' team from Maine. They aim to improve upon that Saturday.

''We're hoping to do really well,'' said Kelsey Barton of Cape Elizabeth. ''Maybe get in the top five.''

Just as the Greely boys look to the 2006 Cape Elizabeth squad for inspiration, the Cape Elizabeth girls can measure themselves against the 2004 Mt. Ararat girls, led by the Wilcox sisters and Krystal Douglas, who competed as individuals and finished 7-11-52.

''They were a good team but I think we're better than they were,'' said Cape Elizabeth Coach Mary Ann Doss, whose top five runners each posted a time among the top 30 from the 275 finishers in three classes at last Saturday's state championship meet in Belfast.

She said the 2008 Capers are stronger and deeper than last year's edition.

Individually, no girl from Maine has won the New England title, although Moody-Roberts twice was runner-up, and likely would have been the 2005 champion if not for a poorly marked turn that caused her to stray from the course in Connecticut while in the lead.

Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk leads a strong quartet of Maine freshmen that includes Emily Durgin of Bonny Eagle, Fiona Hendry of Cheverus and Abby Mace of Maranacook. Waynflete senior Adele Espy, who ran largely unchallenged in Class C, also has the potential to crack the top 10 in Manchester.

Girls first ran the New England meet in 1977, the year before Maine withdrew from the competition until 1998. The only other girl to finish as high as Moody-Roberts was runner-up Kim McDonald of Mt. Blue in 1977.

Seven runners from Maine have claimed the boys' individual title: Morris Toothaker of Phillips in 1938, Paul Firlotte of Ellsworth in 1951, Harold Hatch of Pemetic of Southwest Harbor in 1956, Harvey Barlow of Deering in 1973, Bruce Bickford of Lawrence of Fairfield in 1974, Joe Belyea of South Portland in 1976 and Louis Luchini of Ellsworth in 1998.

Maine's top boys in Saturday's race are expected to be Alex Moser of York and Matt Rand of Cape Elizabeth, who went 1-2 in Class B, and Will Geoghegan of Brunswick and Nate Hathaway of Scarbrough, who finished similarly in Class A. All are juniors except Rand, a senior.

Wade Davis of Hall-Dale, the Class C champion, finally will have company after running most of the regional and state races by himself.

Although comparing times from different courses is folly, it is interesting to note that Leonardi ran a faster 5-kilometer race last weekend (18 minutes, 2.97 seconds) than did any of the Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Connecticut champions at their state meets.

''If anybody ever beats her,'' said Kennebunk Coach Mike Dinehart, ''they're going to have to really, really, really, really hurt to get by her. At the Maine high school level, we haven't seen anyone who can touch her.''

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

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