A crowd of 77 teams will converge on Belfast today for the state high school cross country championships, while another group of 71 runners are competing for themselves, having qualified for states even though their teams did not.

the end of the day, there will be boys’ and girls’ team champions in each of three classes, and six individuals will be holding titles.

Today serves as another reminder that cross country may be the ultimate team sport in terms of scoring. Four good runners will not cut it. The first five runners for each team count in the scoring. And good teams have depth, some of them filling out rosters with runners who came out of nowhere.

Greely, for example, won last Saturday’s Western Class B boys’ meet because a hockey player, Justin Murphy, joined cross country to get in shape. He was Greely’s No. 5 runner in the regional.

The Waynflete girls feature two runners in their top five — Hanna Rindlaub and Phoebe Suva — whom Coach Brian Gillespie talked into joining the team before the season. How important were they? Waynflete topped Merriconeag by one point in the Western Class C regional.

Teams obviously want standout runners, but the score depends on five individuals.

Look at the Western Class C boys’ regional. North Yarmouth Academy won without a top-five finisher, and Freeport finished second with a pack of five runners placing between 16th and 22nd.

Who has high hopes in the state meet? Here’s a look at the six races.

 

CLASS A BOYS: Scarborough not only won the Western regional with a dominating 38 points, but has run successfully on the Belfast course, winning the Festival of Champions earlier in the month. Eastern champion Mt. Ararat, Massabesic and Gorham should contend for second place.

Harlow Ladd of Messalonskee may be the individual favorite against a group of Western runners — regional winner Nick Morris of Scarborough, Jakob Morris of Massabesic, Tom Hague of Scarborough, Bryant Perkins of Sanford, Logan Marshall of Gorham and Jack Terwilliger of Cheverus.

 

CLASS A GIRLS: Like the Scarborough boys, the Cheverus girls turned in an eye-popping performance in the regionals, scoring 31 points. Second place should be between Massabesic and Mt. Ararat.

Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk and Emily Durgin of Cheverus will continue their rivalry, with Leonardi aiming for a third straight title. Katie McMahon of Brunswick is among the other contenders.

 

CLASS B BOYS: This will probably be the most competitive team race of the meet, with as many as six teams in the hunt. Falmouth had been the favorite from the West until Greely and Cape Elizabeth snuck by the Yachtsmen in the regional meet. Caribou may be the best from the East, although Hampden Academy and Ellsworth aren’t far behind.

Silas Eastman of Fryeburg Academy will try to complete his undefeated season, with Ellsworth freshman Dan Curts and Tim Follo of Falmouth his biggest challengers.

 

CLASS B GIRLS: Cape Elizabeth and John Bapst have been the powerhouses in their regions this season. John Bapst finished second to Cheverus in the Festival of Champions meet in Belfast on Oct. 2 (a meet in which Cape did not participate). The Capers are looking for a fourth straight title.

Abby Mace of Maranacook is the two-time defending champion. Dacie Manion of Old Town is her biggest threat. Kirstin Sandreuter, a Greely freshman, and Heather Evans of York will be near the front.

 

CLASS C BOYS: West champion North Yarmouth Academy has run strong all year, although rival Freeport hopes to close the gap. East champion Bangor Christian and Waynflete may be going for third place.

Matt McClintock of Madison is the individual favorite, with Chase Brown of Boothbay the likely runner-up. Jack Pierce of Merriconeag is peaking, and Abshir Horor of Waynflete is fighting off an injury.

 

CLASS C GIRLS: Merriconeag is fielding a girls’ team for the first time and finished second to Waynflete in the regionals by a point. The teams likely will be neck-and-neck again.

Martha Veroneau of Waynflete is the defending champion, but Washburn freshman Carsyn Koch will challenge.

 

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