CUMBERLAND – For the final time in a high school career filled with equal parts grace and success, Abbey Leonardi emerged — alone, of course — from the woods at Twin Brook Recreation Area and glided through a corridor of clapping cross country fans.

She wore long black sleeves, knee-high white socks and a look of quiet determination.

“When it did seem hard,” she said later, “I just had to remember that it would work out well.”

For an unprecedented fourth straight year, the Class A cross country state meet worked out well for Leonardi. She won by more than a half-minute Saturday under chilly, overcast skies to become the first Maine schoolgirl with four state titles to her name.

Only Maranacook’s Scott Roberts, who won each Class B state title between 1982 and 1985, similarly ran the table.

“Even though I’m running and I’m winning the state title, there’s a lot more than just me going into it,” said Leonardi, who finished in 18 minutes, 27.19 seconds a week after setting the course record of 18:05.59. “My family, my coach, my friends, my teachers, my school, the community, everyone. I’m really thankful for how everyone has helped me along the way.”

Lawrence junior Erzsebet Nagy was the Class A runner-up. She finished a fraction under 19 minutes, the only schoolgirl to do so besides Leonardi out of the 300 who competed in three classes Saturday.

Camden Hills sophomore Brittany Bowman, who hadn’t won a race all season, came up big when it mattered most. She claimed the Class B title with a time of 19:12.19. Waterville junior Bethanie Brown was 17 seconds behind, followed by two-time Class B state champion Abby Mace, a Maranacook senior.

In Class C, Washburn sophomore Carsyn Koch defended her title with a 30-second victory over Lisbon senior Meagan Thomas.

Cheverus in Class A, Mt. Desert Island in Class B and Merriconeag in Class C each won the team titles to qualify for the New England championships Nov. 12 in Rhode Island. Joining them will be Massabesic, Mt. Ararat and Camden Hills, as well as any individual who finished with a time among the top 25 of the day.

The Class A title was the third straight for Cheverus, which placed four runners in the top six following a week of uncertainty after a closer-than-expected regional meet in which former New England champion Emily Durgin quit midrace, overcome by problems related to anemia.

On Saturday, Durgin wore a wristwatch and old spikes, forgot about trying to stay with Leonardi and simply made sure she finished.

“The whole thing with my anemia is if I go out fast, after a mile and a half I’m gassed,” Durgin said. “So I figured, stay in the pack. I was just really relaxed and did it for the team because I really wanted us to win.”

Durgin wound up third, four seconds behind Nagy, and was immediately followed by teammates Fiona Hendry, Kiera Murray and Shannon Conley, who staggered across the line and received medical attention after the race.

“She totally blanked out at the top of the hill (about 80 meters from the finish),” said Cheverus Coach Valerie Guillet. “Her mother was there and saw her eyes going sideways and going back. It’s almost like she passed out at the top of the hill and just kept going. These kids are tough.”

Mt. Ararat edged Massabesic for second place, 92-93.

In Class B, MDI rebounded from a one-point regional loss to Camden Hills with a 16-point win, packing five runners within 14 seconds, all among the top 16.

In Class C, Merriconeag didn’t have anyone among the top 15 but still edged Washburn by eight points for its second straight title.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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