THETFORD, Vt. — The 2021 Hancock County fall sports season reached its conclusion this weekend with a rewarding end-of-year cross-country meet.
Select Hancock County runners competed Saturday in the New England cross-country championships at Thetford Academy in Thetford, Vt. The meet pitted local qualifiers against the best of the best from Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
On the girls’ side, George Stevens Academy’s Thea Crowley finished eighth in the field with a time of 19 minutes, 52.8 seconds. She was one of five Maine runners to finish in the top eight along with Orono’s Ruth White (first place, 18:44.8), Cape Elizabeth’s Hadley Mahoney (fourth place, 19:42.5), York’s Cary Drake (fifth, 19:43.9) and Bonny Eagle’s Delaney Hesler (sixth, 19:48.3).
Crowley and White, who won every race in which she competed this season, have regularly took the top-two spots throughout the season. The two competitors and friendly rivals made the Penobscot Valley Conference proud once again Saturday as they led a field that included championship-caliber runners from across five states.
“She’s such a great person, and we’ve really developed a friendship, I think,” said Crowley, who finished second only to White out of 266 runners across all classes in the Oct. 30 state championships. “I don’t think of it as me running to beat her because that’s never going to happen, but it’s great to run behind her. It pushes you to get better.”
Competing as a team were the Mount Desert Island girls, who completed a sweep of the Penobscot Valley Conference, Northern Maine and state championships last month. The Trojans took 20th place overall in the meet and placed second among the six Maine high schools competing.
“It was a real honor to be able to represent our school, our community and our state at an event like this,” MDI head coach Desiree Sirois said. “It’s very special when you’re able to compete against that level of athletes, and our runners really rose to the occasion.”
Amelia VanDongen posted a time of 21:03.7 to place 49th and finish as the top runner for the MDI girls’ team. AyliGrace Munro finished in the top third of the field for the Trojans as she posted a time of 21:43.5 and an overall place of 84th.
Grace Munger (135th place, 22:25.0) and Ella Joyce (194th place, 23:11.1) finished in the top 200 for the MDI girls. Rounding out the list of competitors for the Trojans were Callan Eason (207th, 23:21.1), Meri Rainford (209th, 23:23.6) and Piper Soares (221st, 23:38.5).
In the boys’ race, MDI’s Sam York finished just inside the top half of the 263-runner field as he posted a time of 18:25.92 to come in 128th overall. Bucksport’s William Hileman, the PVC boys’ champion in Class C, finished with a time of 18:55.40 to place 174th.
As was the case at the state championship meet in Belfast two weeks earlier, the course conditions were wet and muddy Saturday after rain swept through the area. The rolling hills of eastern Vermont also added a layer of difficulty to the course, but it was no challenge too great for the region’s best runners.
“I had heard it was the hardest course in New England, so I expected it to be really tough,” Crowley said. “Compared to what I expected, it wasn’t that bad. It was probably the muddiest I’ve ever raced in, but it was such a big race that I didn’t notice that much. It was a great experience.”