Tuesday, December 10, 2013
When the New England cross country meet returns to Twin Brook Recreation Area next month, Cumberland will be crawling with runners, spectators and yellow school buses.
Jack Pierce, Merriconeag senior: Pierce broke 16:15 at a big invitational for the second week in a row, placing fourth (second among Maine runners) at the Festival of Champions in Belfast in 16:14 a week after finishing similarly in 16:09 at the Manchester Invitational. HONORABLE MENTION
Robby Hall, Scarborough senior: Lowered his personal best by half a minute to 16:38 on a muddy course in Belfast to finish ninth in the meet, fourth among Class A runners.
Cam Nadeau, Biddeford senior: Unbeaten in the SMAA, Nadeau ran a personal-best time of 16:30 in Belfast to place sixth overall and second among Class A runners.
Liam Simpson, Cape Eliz. junior: Finished 10th at Belfast with a time of 16:41 -- more than a minute faster this his previous best at Belfast and 47 seconds better than a previous best anywhere.
AREA TOP FIVE
2. Cape Elizabeth
4. Massabesic 5. Fryeburg
Samantha Cox, Bonny Eagle senior: Beat personal record by 45 seconds with a time of 18:59 at the Festival of Champions, good for fourth overall and second in Class A, to lead Bonny Eagle to a runner-up finish among 30 teams in Belfast.
Brittany Bowman, Camden Hills junior: Finished fifth in 19:03 at the meet in Belfast, leading the Windjammers to a third-place finish behind MDI and Bonny Eagle.
Nyajock Pan, South Portland senior: Unbeaten in the SMAA, Pan ran a season-best time of 19:23 at Belfast to place ninth overall and fourth among Class A runners.
Mary Szatkowski, Bonny Eagle junior: A former soccer player in her first season of cross country, Szatkowski finished seventh in Belfast in a time of 19:07, a personal best by more than 45 seconds.
AREA TOP FIVE
1. Bonny Eagle
2. Camden Hills
4. Massabesic 5. Mt. Ararat
The last time Maine hosted the event in 2007, it drew 542 athletes and 30 teams of each gender.
It's a big event. And yet it seems almost quaint when compared with the Festival of Champions, which celebrated its 11th edition Saturday in Belfast with nearly 1,400 runners, enough to score 50 teams of girls and 60 teams of boys.
Bonny Eagle girls coach Chris Strout, whose team was runner-up to Mt. Desert Island, said getting a feel for the course that will be used for the state championships was important, and running it with so many others proved inspiring.
"The meet was a great bonding experience for our girls," he said.
All 11 Scots ran personal-best times; Audrey Weyand stood out for a 52-second drop that moved her into fifth on the team. A sprinter in track season, Weyand is usually Bonny Eagle's sixth runner.
Only 10 points separated the top three girls' teams (Camden Hills was third). The boys' competition was even tighter, with fifth-place Scarborough only 15 points behind winner Cumberland, R.I.
Lewiston, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth took second, third and fourth, respectively, for boys. Cheverus, Waterville and Massabesic were fourth, fifth and sixth for girls.
The top seven Cape Elizabeth boys actually ran faster on average (17:17) and in total (by 13 seconds) than third-place Falmouth, only to finish five points behind because of a wide disparity (30 seconds) in fifth runners.
Cape Elizabeth Coach Derek Veilleux said every runner on his team lowered his personal best. Falmouth co-coach Danny Paul, whose team didn't have a single runner among the 25 boys who broke 17 minutes, saw the value of pack running reinforced.
The format included three separate races -- seeded, unseeded and freshmen -- with the top five times from each team, regardless of race, factored into the score.
Will Fowler, who won the unseeded race in 18:07, finished seventh for Scarborough.
"All of our runners got the 'big- meet' experience running with such big crowds of highly-competitive athletes," said Scarborough Coach Jim Harmon.
Individually, Mike Tate of Nova Scotia ran 15:26.64 to break the course and meet record set three years ago by Brunswick graduate Will Geoghegan (15:33).
By less than two seconds, Bethanie Brown of Waterville lowered the meet record set two years ago by Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk to 17:56.69.
AMONG THE 18 girls on the Waynflete roster are three sisters: Martha, Catherine and Annie Veroneau.
Martha and Catherine are senior twins and Annie is a freshman.
Coach Brian "Ziggy" Gillespie is optimistic that his girls will challenge for the Class C state title that, for the past two years, has belonged to Merriconeag. Waynflete won it the previous three years, 2007-2009, with Martha Veroneau winning the individual title as a freshman. Among Waynflete's top seven runners, only Veroneau ran in the state meet last fall.
Even so, Gillespie said, "this might be the strongest team we have ever had."
At Belfast, Waynflete placed 31st and Merriconeag 34th.
TWO RUNNERS who passed on the meet were Dan Curts of Ellsworth and Silas Eastman of Fryeburg Academy. A week earlier, they posted the two fastest times in any of the 5K races at the 38th Manchester (N.H.) Invitational.
Although both were clocked in 15:42, Curts edged Eastman in a sprint to the finish.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: