Two years ago, Cape Elizabeth cross-country coach Andrew Lupien entered 16 boys in the Western Maine Conference championship meet.

Six ran in the varsity race, 10 in the junior varsity race. The slowest of all was a sophomore named Peter DiNinno.

Fast forward to this weekend, where DiNinno, now a senior, is an integral part of a Cape Elizabeth team looking to knock off defending Class B state champ Lincoln Academy in the Southern Maine regional meet Saturday at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland.

“It has been incredible to watch the growth of our boys’ team since last season,” said Lupien, whose Capers placed sixth in last fall’s regional meet. “(DiNinno) has transformed into a solid distance runner and could finish in the top 10 on Saturday.”

DiNinno was seventh at the WMC championship meet last weekend and second for Cape Elizabeth behind Jack Bassett, the runner-up behind Martin Horne of Freeport.

Ricky Perruzzi, Aidan Willits and Ryan Connolly also scored for Cape Elizabeth, which placed second to York. All three teams have a chance to beat favored Lincoln on Saturday, but the Capers are within a point in a virtual meet including the season’s best times from all runners involved.

“I saw a lot of positive movement last fall,” Lupien said, “but since this spring our top four boys have really committed to the training and have made tremendous progress.”

At the Festival of Champions earlier this month in Belfast, site of next weekend’s state meet, the Cape Elizabeth boys finished ninth and Lincoln 10th. Lupien thinks the experience gained from competing in big meets translates into superior performances.

“I know that it has become popular for coaches to sit out their top seven athletes (at conference championships),” Lupien said, “but I think the benefits of racing in a big meet outweigh the negatives of three big races in three weeks. I think most high school athletes can bounce back and run fine with eight days between WMCs and regionals. I guess we will find out.”

Saturday’s meet at Twin Brook kicks off with the Class A boys at 11 a.m. followed by the Class A girls at 11:45. Class B gets under way at 12:30 p.m. (boys) and 1:15 (girls). Class C starts at 2 (boys) and 2:45 (girls).

The Northern Maine regional meets will be held Saturday at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, with 35 minutes between races rather than 45.

In Southern Maine, the Greely boys and Bonny Eagle girls are favored in Class A. Scarborough, Falmouth, Massabesic and Bonny Eagle are within striking distance of Greely, particularly if injury and illness continue to plague the Rangers.

Only the Falmouth girls, with defending Class A state champion Sofie Matson, have a realistic shot at Bonny Eagle.

Defending regional champ Alec Troxell of Deering, Jon Auer of Falmouth and Luke Marsanskis of Greely will compete for individual honors.

Defending state champion Yarmouth is poised to win the B girls’ race, with Cape Elizabeth, Freeport and York also in the mix. The individual race is likely to come down to Lily Horne of Freeport and Lila Gaudrault of Cape Elizabeth.

Among the boys, Horne of Freeport, Griffin Allaire of Wells, Sam Russ and Jarrett Gulden of Lincoln, and Bassett of Cape Elizabeth appear to be the front-runners.

In Class C, Maine Coast Waldorf is the team to beat in both races, with Olivia Reynolds, the defending state champion, the clear individual favorite.

Henry Spritz, also a state champion, from Waynflete, will face five able challengers from Maranacook, Lisbon and Maine Coast Waldorf.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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