SULLIVAN — Hancock County cross-country runners got one last tune-up before championship season Friday and Saturday at meets in Sullivan and Old Town.
On Friday, Sumner hosted runners from Bucksport, George Stevens Academy and Deer Isle-Stonington in the Seacoast Invitational. Calais, Jonesport-Beals, Lee Academy, Machias, Narraguagus, Searsport and Shead also participated.
On the boys’ side, GSA stole the show to place first with 22 points. Caden Mattson finished fourth with a time of 18 minutes, 52 seconds for the Eagles, who also got top-10 finishes from Ian Renwick (fifth), Andrew Szwez (seventh) and Clark Morrison (eighth).
Third-place finisher Luke Barnes of Sumner was Hancock County’s top individual runner in the Seacoast Invitational with a time of 18:30, though the Tigers did not field enough runners to place as a team. Calais earned second place with 64 points with Lee Academy (74), Bucksport (101), Machias (118) and Searsport (157) rounding out the rest of the teams.
GSA also took first place as a team on the girls’ side. The Eagles recorded 15 points to beat out Machias, which posted 40.
Individually, GSA’s Eleanor Williamson took second behind Shead’s Katherine Bartlett with a time of 23:22. Grace Broughton (fifth place), Lanny Zentz (sixth), Josie Czuj (seventh) and Jenna Eldridge (eighth) gave the Eagles five top-10 finishers.
Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island competed Saturday in the Old Town Invitational. The meet pitted the Eagles and Trojans against the host team as well as runners from Bangor Christian, Brewer, Caribou, Dexter, Foxcroft, Hermon, Houlton, John Bapst, Mattanawcook Academy, Orono, Presque Isle and Washington Academy.
In the boys’ race, Ellsworth’s Matt Shea crossed the finish line in 17:52.76 to finish third of 80 finishers. The Eagles also earned top-20 finishes from Nick Cormier (11th), Mark Berry (12th), Beckett Markosian (14th) and Calvin Nelson (15th) to place third behind Hermon and Caribou with 55 points.
On the girls’ side, Caitlin MacPherson finished with a time of 20:34.08 to place third of 64 finishers for the Eagles. Teammate Abby Mazgaj posted a time of 21:19.38 to finish sixth for the Eagles, who placed second behind Orono with 56 points.
Ellsworth has about 30 runners this season, a big step up from past years. The Eagles will only lose five of those runners to graduation, and head coach Louie Luchini believes his current crop of young athletes will provide a strong foundation for the team in the seasons to come.
“We have a big freshman crop this year and a pretty big team overall,” Luchini said. “It kind of goes in waves as to what sports kids do, and we’re riding one of those good waves with a lot of young cross-country runners coming up right now. I think that will provide us with a lot of stability.”
MDI finished third on the girls’ side and fifth on the boys’ side. Olivia Johnson and Katelyn Osborne finished a respective 10th and 11th for the Trojans in the girls’ race, and senior Alex Eason took 16th for the boys.
The next meet for Hancock County runners will be the Festival of Champions next Saturday, Sept. 29, at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. The first race will begin at 10:30 a.m. with boys’ and girls’ unseeded, freshman and seeded races lasting throughout the late morning and early afternoon leading up to the awards ceremony at 3:15.