STANDISH – The Bonny Eagle cross country team has looked every bit of a Class A state title threat so far this season.

That’s not hard to believe – the Scots have won five of the past seven championships – but Bonny Eagle lost three of their top seven runners to graduation from a year ago, including standouts Ami Beaumier and Kayla Raymond. A program usually takes a step back when it loses top-end talent. 

But at Bonny Eagle, you don’t rebuild. You reload. 

“(Beaumier and Raymond) are school record ladened kids,” said Bonny Eagle head coach Mike Burleson. “To lose the three of them, and still have a state title-contending team, is pretty sweet.” 

On Sept. 14 at the Southern Maine XC Classic, competing against the top teams in the region, the Scots convincingly won the 24-team meet with 87 points. 

Much of Bonny Eagle’s prolonged success can be attributed to the youth cross country program it has with the junior high students. The program, which typically attracts at least 40 aspiring runners each season, teaches students the fundamentals of training and racing. It offers runners their “first taste of distance running,” Burleson said, so when they reach the high school level, the athletes already know much about what to expect. 


“You can’t coach talent,” Burleson said. “But we have a lot of fun here. We spend a lot of time with our kids, but I think at the end of the day they have a lot of fun. When you have fun and have success, then we tend to get more kids to come to the program.”

One of Burleson’s brightest star during the start of the season is sophomore Delaney Hesler, who set a personal-best in the 5-kilometer race at the Southern Maine Cross Country Classic in Gorham on Sept. 14 in 18 minutes, 32.58 seconds. Hesler’s early season time, which is the third-fastest in the state so far, is a result of the time she spent on the trails and roads during the summer. 

“(Delaney) put in a huge summer’s worth of work,” Burleson said. “She’s a kid who will do everything you ask and more … She got her mileage up, did a lot of strength training this summer, and now she has a year under her belt, and understands the race dynamics.” 

While Hesler was pleased with her time, her sights are set primarily on team goals and bringing another state championship back to Standish.

Before the postseason, though, Hesler and her teammates will get a taste of what to expect from more of their Class A competition when Bonny Eagle heads to the Festival of Champions in Belfast on Oct. 5. 

In this Press Herald file photo, Bonny Eagle sophomore Emmaline Pendleton runs at the Class A South regional championship in Cumberland last October. Pendleton is one of the top returners for a Bonny Eagle team that has sights on a second consecutive Class A championship. (Portland Press Herald)

The Camden Hills Windjammers are competing and were the runner-ups to Bonny Eagle at the state championship last fall. The Windjammers have title aspirations of their own. 


“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do (against Camden Hills),” Hesler said. “We’ve all worked really hard, and it would be nice to show that work in person against competition.”

The work Hesler has put in during the summer and now in the season has been easier due to the closeness of the team. Teammate Emmaline Pendleton said workouts can go by like a flash when you’re running with friends. 

“It’s a lot of fun, honestly,” Pendleton said. “Usually people say, ‘Oh running’s not that fun,’ but it makes it a lot of fun because we do our long runs together and have team dinners and stuff like that. I think that helps us because of how close we are.” 

 Teammate Hannah Stevens added to Pendleton’s sentiment.

“We do a lot of close friends stuff,” Stevens said. “I hang out with a lot of them at school, so it’s like we’re all really good friends.

Burleson doesn’t see the winning stopping any time soon for the Scots. He goes back to the strength of the youth program and the talent it’s brought through over the years. The success, he believes, leads to more runners coming out for the tea,

“We do a pretty good job of not losing our kids,” Burleson said. “ We don’t have much attrition. We try to keep them happy and healthy.”


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