Wednesday, March 12, 2014
BELFAST - The state Class A girls' cross country championship featured the familiar, as in Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk winning and the Cheverus High girls dominating.
Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk sprints to the finish to win Class A for the third straight year, just missing a course record.
Photos by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
Zoe Chace-Donahue finished fifth in Class C but was the top runner for Merriconeag, which captured the state title in its first attempt for the girls’ team.
But the Class C meet had heads turning, while spectators tried to pronounce the winning school.
Merriconeag, the small Waldorf school in New Gloucester, never had a full girls' team before. But now it has a trophy, winning Class C, topping runner-up Waynflete by six points.
In Class B, the East and West powers finally met, and John Bapst won with 72 points to second-place Cape Elizabeth's 78.
Leonardi, a junior, just missed the 3.1-mile course record by a second, winning in 17 minutes, 49.01 seconds for her third straight championship. Emily Durgin of Cheverus was second for the third consecutive year.
Dacie Manion of Old Town won Class B in 18:50.41, ahead of the defending champion, Abby Mace of Maranacook (19:25.64). Greely freshman Kirstin Sandreuter finished fifth (19:45.41).
In Class C, Washburn freshman Carsyn Koch, who also played soccer this fall, won in 19:36.50, 1:12 ahead of the defending state champion, Martha Veroneau of Waynflete.
"She's obviously a real talent," Waynflete Coach Brian Gillespie said. "She played two soccer games this week, which didn't matter."
The marquee girls' race featured Leonardi and Durgin. Leonardi took the lead from the start and Durgin, who has been fighting an infection all week with antibiotics, followed.
"First mile or so, there were three or four of us (in the pack)," Durgin said. "Going into the second mile, Abbey started to pull away so I tried to pull away with her. I kept a good gap and she just slowly started pulling away."
Leonardi sprinted at the end. The race was won but Leonardi wanted the course record.
"Tried to take it out fast from the start and tried to hold a consistent pace," Leonardi said. "I could have probably found a little extra something in the tank (for the record). Next year, I guess."
After Leonardi, three Cheverus girls were 2-3-4 -- Durgin, Fiona Hendry and Shannon Conley. Then came Kiera Murray (14th) and Maddie Woods (22nd). The Stags totaled 45 points.
"Our top five girls had season bests, some of them personal bests," Stags Coach Valerie Guillet said. "I don't think we could ask for more."
Also impressive was the second-place finish by Mt. Ararat (68 points), 14 ahead of Massabesic. Led by Emma Wood's fifth place and Kate Spies' ninth, the Eagles placed six runners in the top 23.
In Class B, the battle between John Bapst and Cape Elizabeth was close, with the Capers led by Rachel Nichols (eighth), Kelsey Barton (10th), and Catherine Tierney (13).
But the Crusaders, led by Adrienne Carmack (sixth), had the tighter pack. The No. 5 runner, Laura Donovan, clinched it for the Crusaders with a 37th place.
John Bapst won its first state title since 2004, ending Cape Elizabeth's three-year reign.
Waynflete also saw its three-year string of championships end, by the upstarts from Merriconeag. Waynflete edged Merriconeag by one point in the regionals.
"We are very evenly matched and it's been this way all year," Gillespie said. "We ran well."
Merriconeag is so new to athletics, the school doesn't even have a nickname. But it does have committed runners. The difference was the improvement of the No. 5 runner, freshman Emma Dolan, who bettered her regional time by nearly two minutes, placing 29th in 22:46.45.
"I asked her to commit," Merriconeag Coach Tom Ryan said. "I asked her to stay with our No. 4 runner as long as she could."
Dolan pushed it. "I went out fast and just let my finish carry me the rest of the way," Dolan said. "It feels good to help."
Merriconeag was led by Zoe Chace-Donahue (fifth) and Teagan Wu (ninth). Others in the scoring were Carlin Tindall (14th) and Emelie Chace-Donahue (25th).
"We weren't even a team last year," said Zoe Chace-Donahue, who ran states as an individual last year. "Everyone worked so hard."
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Emily Durgin, right, and Fiona Hendry dash down a hill en route to leading Cheverus to the Class A title.