CUMBERLAND – After one mile of the Class A girls’ race Saturday at the Western Maine cross country championships, the leaders were suspicious. Fiona Hendry of Cheverus and Mia Rapolla of Gorham were ahead of Abbey Leonardi and Emily Durgin.

“It was weird,” Rapolla said. “I didn’t know if we were going really fast or they were going really slow Then they started going.”

Leonardi, of Kennebunk, and Durgin of Cheverus, eventually broke away, recording their usual 1-2 finish, with Leonardi the winner in 18 minutes, 26.66 seconds over 3.1 miles.

Durgin, timed in 18:44.22, led a Cheverus contingent that dominated Class A, scoring 31 points to 83 for Massabesic.

In Class B, Cape Elizabeth cruised as expected with 56 points, ahead of runner-up Yarmouth (89). Abby Mace of Maranacook won her third straight regional title (20:01.20), ahead of two freshmen, Kirstin Sandreuter of Greely (20:04.90) and Heather Evans of York (20:07).

Martha Veroneau of Waynflete, the defending Class C state champion, won the regional title in 21:04.60, leading the Flyers to the team championship by one point over Merriconeag.

The top 20 individuals in the Class A and B races and top 30 in Class C qualified for next week’s state meet in Belfast. Teams in the top 50 percent of their class also qualified.

It wasn’t a question whether Leonardi and Durgin, both juniors, would qualify — Leonardi is the two-time depending state champ, Durgin the runner-up both times.

But what were they doing running behind the leaders for the first mile?

“I was wondering what’s going on here. This never happens,” Hendry said.

It was apparently a case of dueling strategies.”

“I had planned on taking it out a little slower than normal,” Durgin said. “But I guess she was thinking the same idea. Our first mile was over 6 minutes. We normally run the first mile here in 5:30.”

Leonardi said, “No one wanted to take the first mile. I guess we both had similar race plans because we both picked it up at the same time.”

Durgin stayed behind Leonardi for the second mile, but in the end, “Abbey ran a crazy-fast mile,” Durgin said, “and I stayed as close as I could.”

A slew of teammates followed Durgin — Hendry (third), Shannon Conley (fourth), Kiera Murray (sixth) and Maddie Woods (16th).

“Awesome team effort,” Durgin said. “Our freshmen (Conley and Murray) were right up there.”

Massabesic was led by Charlotte Pierce (seventh), a breakout race by Mikayla Frazier (ninth) and Victoria Hurlburt (11th).

Rapolla finished fifth to help the Rams place seventh.

In Class B, a rivalry may be developing between Sandreuter and Evans. Sandreuter pushed early.

“My plan was to take the kick out of Heather,” Sandreuter said. “We’ve flip-flopped (this season). It’s really fun to race with her. She pushes me and I push her.”

Kendra Lobley (20:16.30) of Poland and Sarah Becker (20:37.30) of Yarmouth followed. Then came the Capers — Kelsey Barton (sixth), Rachel Nichols (seventh), Catherine Tierney (ninth), Emma Inhorn (12th) and Emily Lobosco (24th).

In Class C, the lead pack didn’t break up for a long time.

“I was surprised how long we stayed together,” Veroneau said. “There was a different leader about seven times. The last half-mile is when I made my move.”

Veroneau beat Anna Doyle (21:10.10) of Winthrop by 51/2 seconds. Merriconeag’s Zoe Chace-Donahue (21:22.50) was third, followed by Lisbon’s Meagan Thomas (21:43.80) and North Yarmouth Academy’s Hillary Detert (21:52.50).

Veroneau’s teammates were all key — Emily Trafton (eighth), Chloe Rowse (19th), Hannah Rindlaub (21st) and Phoebe Suva (24th) — in holding off Merriconeag, 63-64.

Merriconeag fielded a full girls’ team for the first time. Chace-Donahue, Teagan Wu (sixth place) and Carin Tindall (12th) paced Merriconeag.


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