Bridgton’s Tabitha Titzer did it again, blazing out to a strong start to win a cross country race going away in 16:52. This time it was in the Youth Girls 4K at the Maine USATF Junior Olympic state championships, run in clear weather on Sunday in Augusta.

“She’s in high school, right?” asked Rachel Wilkinson of South Portland, who finished second in 18:04. Rachel, who has won a few races herself in her young career, has another year in the division, so she was glad to learn Tabitha will be moving on.

More impressively, Tabitha won on the woodsy, hilly track behind the city’s Civic Center a day after competing in the New England Interscholastic Regional Meet in Thetford, Vermont.

“I got stuck in a huge crowd yesterday and I couldn’t break out,” said Titzer, explaining her race of the previous day. The Lake Region ninth grader finished 80th in a field of 265 high school girls from five states in the Vermont race.

Next she’ll move on to the Junior Olympic Regional Meet, as will the other top finishers from Saturday’s Junior Olympic races. The top 20 individuals and the top three teams in each division qualified to participate in the regional meet, set for Nov. 20 at Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island. From there, the top 20 runners and three teams advance to the National Championship, also at Bryant College, on Dec. 10.

Wilkinson was the fastest of six Lakers Track Club teammates finishing in the top eight of the Youth Girls race. Behind third place Taylor Burr was Lakers’ Hannah Doss, Narisa Morse, Stesha Rudnicki, Morgan Cushing and Jasmine Farrell-Smith.

At 9 a.m. the seniors warmed up the course. Among those crossing the finish line before the day warmed up too much was Bob Payne from Raymond, 67, who started the Maine Running Hall of Fame back in 1986.

“It’s a great temperature,” said Payne, who said he ran better than last week, when he tackled a 5K on this same course.

A marked improvement from last year’s event, many of the runners said, brutal cold and a little snow marking the 2004 races.

Payne, a former Fryeburg Academy cross country runner, has been running for 29 consecutive years since picking the activity up again at age 38, and he is still active in the HOF, which inducts new runners every other year (this is an off year). It now has 65 members.

Grandson Robbie Blair, all smiles after finishing his Bantam 3K race, credits Payne for introducing him to the sport.

“He got me into it,” said Robbie, pointing to his grandfather. “And it’s fun.”

He’ll be going to the regionals as a member of his team (sctc).

Also in on the morning’s open run was Windham’s Doug Green.

“I should be home doing housework,” said Green 49, but with a sarcastic smile.

Green, who used to run in high school, said cross country courses are a bit toughter on the body these days, “but then you get close to the end, and you think, ‘this is great,'” he said.

Green admits that 12-year-old daughter Mary Margaret Green’s interest in cross country has helped keep him stay involved in the sport.

Mary Margaret, a Lakers team member, finished 10th in the Midget Girls 3K Saturday.

Among the more impressive early morning runners was defending state champ Christine Reaser of Dayton, 39, who didn’t have competition in the women’s 5K but still blazed over the course in hurry, finishing in 21:53.10.

Not impressed yet?

The former three-event winner for Old Orchard Beach’s 1984 state track champions ran Saturday’s race just four weeks after giving birth to son Luke.

“I felt okay, but it’s harder now, especially out there running by yourself,” said Reaser, who hasn’t yet decided if she’ll be ready to run in the National Cross Country Championship Meet in Rochester, New York later this month.

“This is an awesome course, but tough,” Christine said of the Augusta path.

Too early to tell if Luke will be a runner, but Christine’s daughter Erica has inherited some of the talent and finished fourth in the Midget Girls 3K.

Winning that race was Abbey Leonardi (12:16), beating Lakers teammate Abby Mace by three seconds. Emily Durgin of Standish was third.

“I don’t mind the hills,” said Durgin, describing a favorite feature of the wooded section. “The hills are okay.”

In the other girls races, Stephanie Parent beat second place finisher Brianna Phinney and third place finisher Emma Cost in the Bantam’s 3K; winner Shauna Lynch (20:39), Jennifer Monsulick, Becca Irwin and Katlin Clifford gave the Lakers Club a 1-4 finish in the Intermediate girls 5K; and Amy Seibert won the 5K Young Women’s race (23:58), beating Erica Boulay.

Daniel Ornstein (12:17) put on a great performance down the stretch to beat Kelby Mace (12:27) for first place in the 3K Bantam Boys race. Sterling Weatherbie was a close third, finishing in 12:51 and Wout Moulin took fourth in 13:05.

“The kid in front of me (Mace) ran a really fast race and I had to keep up with him,” said Ornstein of his win. “I don’t know him, but he’s a great runner.”

Ornstein said that a week earlier, on the same course, he ran his first ever 1.8 miles.

“This (today) was probably my best race, out of all of them this year,” he said.

Added Weatherbie, of Cape Elizabeth, “there were a lot of muddy hills, but I think I ran one of my better races.”

Sam White of Falmouth won the Midget Boys 3K, edging Kevin Desmond and Ben Nickerson, also of Falmouth.

Taylor Dundas (14:45) won the Youth Boys 4K, beating out Lakers teammates Luke Fontaine, Alexander Goldrup and Zackary Carle.

Danny Soltan won the Intermediate Boys 5K race, with Connor Walsh finishing second and Eric Friend (Lakers) taking third.

In the Young Men’s 5K, Mohamed Bashir crossed in 19:07 to beat Ryan Panzore (19:38), Dave Golub (20:10) and the Lakers’ Mohamed Andiruzuk (21:02).