BELFAST — Sofie Matson had already won two Festival of Champions girls’ titles, but there was still something for the Falmouth junior to accomplish.

Matson won for the third straight time at the massive meet in Belfast, and this time set an event record with her time of 17 minutes, 35.91 seconds. Siona Chisholm of JH Gillis High School in Nova Scotia was second at 18:08.60, followed by Ava Thurston of Harwood Union (Vt.) at 18:16.72, Falmouth’s Karley Piers at 18:23.22 and Maine Coast Waldorf’s Olivia Reynolds at 18:42.

“I’m definitely a lot further along this year than I was last year,” Matson said. “I wasn’t used to kind of pushing myself. This year, I’m trying to do that a little bit more and I think that’s helped me run faster times.”

Brunswick’s Will Shaughnessy won the boys’ race, coming in at 15:32.86. Bangor sophomore Daniel McCarthy (15:41.72) was second, followed by Falmouth’s Ben Potter (15:45.99), Cape Elizabeth’s Jack Bassett (15:50.36) and Falmouth’s Ben Greene (15:59.17).

“I felt comfortable making a big move around the mile, or even sooner,” Shaughnessy said, “and, I don’t know, I just never looked back. I went for it.”

Shaughnessy’s win was only the start for the Dragons. Brunswick also got a seventh-place finish from Tyler Patterson, a 14th-place finish from Joey Valliere and a win in the freshman race from Eli Palmer (17:18.55), lifting it to 105 points and a team win over York (192), Bangor (197), Scarborough (225) and Falmouth (292).


Harwood Union (151) had the best girls’ team score, followed by Bonny Eagle (153), JH Gillis (154), Cumberland, R.I. (208) and Scarborough (315).

“You’re just watching people warm up and you’re seeing how great the other athletes are,” Brunswick Coach Dan Dearing said. “To beat these teams is quite an accomplishment. Anything can happen week to week, this was our day and it’s really humbling to win something like this, because the competition is so good.”

Matson made sure there wasn’t much drama in the girls’ race.

“I try not to think about (being the favorite),” she said. “I’m mostly running my own race and doing what I set out to do.”

On Saturday, that meant gunning for the meet record time of 17:57, set in 2012 by Waterville’s Bethanie Brown.

“I definitely had the meet record in mind. … I knew I could definitely go under that,” said Matson, who has a season-best time of 17:29 during a race at Gorham. “Right from the beginning, I wanted to get out fast. I find that when I do that, it helps set the tone for the rest of the race.”


She had no trouble maintaining that pace, and ended up with the second-fastest time recorded at the Belfast course. Only Manchester (N.H.) West’s Julia Robitaille (17:31 in 2017 New England championships) was faster.

“This has always been one of my favorite meets. I love the size of it, I love the course. It has really great energy,” Matson said. “It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking, but at a bigger meet I usually perform better, I think.”

She had a teammate not far behind – Piers, who won the Beach to Beacon High School Mile in August, improved her time from last year’s ninth-place finish by 56 seconds.

“I knew that the field was going to be pretty good, and the start is always kind of tough to get out, but I just went out and tried to find a good place with some other girls,” Piers said. “(Sofie and I) push each other all the time. It’s awesome to look up to her.”

Like Matson in the girls’ race, Shaughnessy began the day as the favorite in the boys’ event – not that he didn’t feel he had something to prove.

“There was a little bit of pressure,” he said. “There had been some speculation from others that the course I run at Brunswick was a short course, so I kind of felt the need to validate that today. I just wanted to do the best I could, come away with the win and accomplish that.”


He did, even though McCarthy, who won the freshman race last year, came on strong at the end.

“Of all the runners in this field, I was scared of him the most,” Shaughnessy said. “I’ll see him many times again. … He’s a monster. He’s just so big. He’s a giant person. He’s just terrifying.”

McCarthy, meanwhile, had no idea coming in how close he’d be to the front.

“I’m psyched. I’m really happy. I was not expecting that,” he said. “I just put it all out there and went for it. After mile 1, I was like ‘Oh no, I can’t hold on to this for much longer.’ And somehow I found something in me to be able to keep going until my adrenaline kicked in for the end.”

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