Members of the York High boys’ cross country traveled to Colorado this summer to run and hike in the Rocky Mountains, meeting up at one peak with three monks who made the ascent. Photo courtesy of Ted Hutch

In July, six members of the Class B state champion boys’ cross country team from York High traveled to Colorado for 10 days of running, hiking and relaxing.

They had T-shirts made up that said Maine 2019 Distance Team, Rocky Mountain Division, and hats with a similar message. Atop one peak, they met three monks who had made their ascent in flowing red robes.

“The kids came back in pretty good shape,” said Ted Hutch, now in his 31st season as Wildcats head coach.

On Saturday at Twin Brook, the York boys’ team will take its first step toward defending the state title. The last time any cross country team from York attempted to do likewise was 1949.

They will run in the Southern Maine regional meet at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland in the second of six races.

“The biggest lesson from last year was don’t overthink it,” Hutch said. “Just prepare for the race and run aggressively.”

Seniors Brady Harrod, Eli Hulstrom, Rollan Lemieux and Josiah Mackaman all made the Colorado trip, as did juniors Cavin McNamara and Alex Hames. The Wildcats (who also got help from junior Gabe Sarno and sophomore Joe Neal) are coming off a Western Maine Conference championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

On Saturday at Twin Brook, Hutch knows that 2018 Class B runner-up (and 2017 state champ) Lincoln Academy will be formidable, as well as Cape Elizabeth, Greely and Freeport. Last fall two points separated the top three teams (York, Cape, Freeport) and the Wildcats needed their sixth runner to break a tie for the regional crown.

“Class B,” Hutch said, “is going to be a dog fight.”

As 54 teams from Southern Maine gather at Twin Brook on Saturday, another 53 from Northern Maine will hold their regional meet at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

Both meets are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. with the Class B girls, followed by Class B boys. Next up is Class C and the final races are for Class A.

Half of the teams, along with the top 30 individuals, in each classification will qualify for the Nov. 2 state meet at Twin Brook.

All three defending team champions for boys hail from Southern Maine: Scarborough in A and Maine Coast Waldorf in C along with York in B. Bonny Eagle of Standish is the two-time defending Class A girls’ regional champ as well as the 2018 state champ.

Several individual matchups are worth watching. In Class A North in Belfast, Mt. Ararat senior Lisandro Berry-Gaviria has eschewed larger invitationals and run only two 5-kilometer races in September and two more in October, knowing his season may once again extend into December. Brunswick senior Will Shaughnessy won the Festival of Champions in early October in a blazing 15:32, a time 3 seconds faster than Berry-Gaviria’s personal best at Belfast.

In the South, Falmouth junior Sofie Matson is the two-time defending Class A regional and state champion and shows no signs of slowing. Cape Elizabeth junior Lila Gaudrault looks for her second straight title and Maine Coast Waldorf junior Olivia Reynolds her third. The tightest individual race may come in Class B boys, where Freeport junior Martin Horne is the defending champ but seniors Jack Bassett (Cape Elizabeth), Griffin Allaire (Wells) and Hulstrom (York) all ran faster at the WMC meet.

The Class B South boys’ race will also include, for the first time, a wheelchair athlete.

Jonathan Schomaker, a sophomore from Leavitt High in Turner, will start with his teammates and other Class B boys at 11:40 but instead of following the hilly 5K course will navigate a modified course of just under 2 miles to avoid any potential mishaps with runners looping back on trails.

Schomaker has cerebellar hypoplasia, a rare neurological condition that affects muscle tone and coordination. He competed in cross country last fall but the Maine Principals’ Association denied him entry to regional and state meets, citing safety concerns. He raced in outdoor track in the spring and continued this fall, pushing on two levers to propel his wheelchair in the manner of a rower pushing on oars.

In last weekend’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Championships in Augusta, Schomaker covered a 2-mile course in 47 minutes, 35.6 seconds. In the 2018 Southern Maine Class B boys race, all 91 runners completed the 3.1-mile course in less than 30 minutes.

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