It’s that time of the season when cross country teams are priming for the end – the regional meets this Saturday and, for those who make it, the state championships the following week.

Small meets leading up to this weekend mean little, except in terms of preparation.

The Cheverus High girls, favorites to win a second straight Class A title, have been running in a pack – also called a tempo run – with at least one top runner holding back to push her teammates to faster times.

Two weeks ago, Cheverus won a three-team meet at Smiling Hill Farm, with Emily Durgin staying back. The plan not only helped push the team, but allowed Fiona Hendry to win the 5K race, in 19:17.79.

Hendry is one of the top runners in the state and in New England, but she rarely gets to break the victory tape because of Durgin’s presence.

“It nice to be able to do that,” said Hendry, a junior. “It was a real confidence booster.”

Last week, it was Hendry’s turn to stay back, and Durgin broke loose for a win on Cheverus’ home course, covering the three miles in 17:58.5.

region meets Saturday at the Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland, Cheverus will be heavily favored in the Western Class A race, with Massabesic the closest contender. The Mustangs have been in the shadow of the Stags, but running well.

“The season has gone great for both the boys and the girls teams,” Massabesic Coach Mark Crepeau said. “We should be right in the thick of things this weekend and next weekend.”

The Mustangs were missing one of their top runners, Jocelyn Acheson, who has been injured. But Crepeau said Acheson has resumed running and is expected back Saturday.

Some of the other top Massabesic girls include Charlotte Pierce, Tory Hurlburt, Mikayla Frazier, Nikki Roberge, Maggie Lee and Nikki Smith.

ABBEY LEONARDI has received some national recognition this month. Besides being featured in this month’s Running Times magazine – “Abbey’s Road” – Leonardi has also been nominated for the National High School Coaches Association Athlete of the Month for October.

Leonardi, a junior at Kennebunk, is one of six athletes to be nominated. The winner will be announced later.

THE BIGGEST BOYS’ news has concerned injuries. Cheverus’ Jack Terwilliger is back after missing the middle of the season with Iliotibal (IT) Band Syndrome. Terwilliger competed in a four-team home meet last week, winning in 17:05 over the three-mile course.

Gorham’s No. 1 runner, Logan Marshall is expected to return this Saturday after missing a meet last week because of a “minor hip issue,” according to Rams Coach Jason Tanguay.

THE KENNEBEC Valley Athletic Conference meet was held last Saturday at Hampden Academy, with Mount Ararat sweeping the boys’ and girls’ titles.

Led by Andy Reifman-Packett, (third, 17:39.8), the Eagles’ boys placed seven in the top 34 – Nick Parsons (eighth), Jack Letourneau (10th), Nick Demosthenes (15th), Nathan MacKenzie (20th), Alex Spies (27th) and Jake Demonsthenes.

Brunswick’s Katie McMahon won the girls’ race in 19:55.9, but she was followed by three Eagles – Emma Wood, Kate Spies and Emilia McGrath. The rest of the Mount Ararat team finished among the top 18 – Lauren McNett (eighth), Chloe Emerson (12th), Emmie Cox (12th) and Morgan Martin (18th).

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:  [email protected]