CUMBERLAND — As they crossed the finish line and entered the chute, runners competing in Saturday’s state championship cross-country meet had nothing left in the tank.
Some lied on their backs; some cried; some blankly into space as they lost themselves in moments of relief and exhaustion following 3.1 grueling miles of running. All were trying desperately to catch their breaths after putting everything on the line in the biggest race of the season.
“In this race, you leave everything on the course,” Ellsworth head coach Louie Luchini said. “That’s what the state meet is all about: everybody giving everything they have left.”
Runners from all six Hancock County high schools did exactly that to close out the cross-country season on a rewarding (yet exhausting day) Saturday at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland. The race pitted the best of the best from every corner of the state with team championships, individual championships, medals and other accolades at stake.
The day began with the Class B girls’ race, which pitted Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island against some of the top teams from Class B South. MDI took second in a tight three-way battle between first-place Greely and third-place Cape Elizabeth.
MDI’s Callan Eason finished as the top Hancock County girl in Class B with a time of 21 minutes, 4.00 seconds and a place of 11th. Katelyn Osborne (15th place), Olivia Johnson (20th place), Rachelle Swanson (25th) and Piper Soares also earned strong finishes for the Trojans, who were the only team to place five runners in the top-25 team-scored positions.
For Ellsworth, senior Caitlin MacPherson finished just 0.06 seconds behind Eason to take 12th place in the 103-runner field. Freshman Casey Carter finished 48th for the Eagles, who placed eighth as a team.
“The end result wasn’t necessarily what we wanted, but something I learned at Stanford is that you can’t let one race define your season,” Luchini said. “We battled through a lot of injuries and saw a lot of growth from some of our younger runners.”
On the boys’ side, MDI put its pack-running strategy to good use to place third behind Greely and York. Ponce Saltysiak finished with a time of 17:38.66 and a place of 13th, and Jon Genrich, Sam York and Calvin Partin came in 17th, 18th and 19th, respectively. Calvin Nelson (46th place) and Matt Shea (49th place) were the top-two finishers for Ellsworth.
MDI’s second- and third-place team finishes capped off a stellar championship season. The Trojans swept the boys’ and girls’ Hancock County, Penobscot Valley Conference and Northern Maine meets before a strong showing Saturday in Cumberland.
“[We had a] fantastic year, for sure,” MDI assistant coach Aaron Long said. “It’s a special group and one that I think will be even better next year.”
In Class C, George Stevens Academy’s Thea Crowley finished with a time of 20:23.76 to place second in the 84-runner field. The freshman was runner-up to Maine Coast Waldorf’s Olivia Reynolds, who claimed her third straight individual title in the event.
Crowley earned her second-place finish after a neck-and-neck battle with Orono’s Erin Gerbi. The two pulled way ahead of the pack a week ago as Crowley claimed the Class C North title by a 7.99-second margin and this race was even closer with Crowley beating Gerbi to the finish line by a mere 1.19 seconds.
“I feel really lucky that she’s the one who’s always giving me close races because she’s such a good person,” Crowley said. “She’s so nice and good-natured, and she always pushes me hard.”
On the boys’ side, GSA earned 99 points to place third of 15 teams. Sol Lorio placed eighth with a time of 18:02.89 for the Eagles, and Clark Morrison (12th place), Caden Mattson (24th place) and Ian Renwick (29th) also finished in the top fourth of the 117-runner field.
GSA’s success in the boys’ meet came as the Eagles fielded a team consisting primarily of young runners. Of the seven runners GSA brought to Saturday’s race, only one, Mattson, was a senior.
“We’ve got a pretty young team still, and for what our freshmen to do what they did, you can’t ask for much more than that,” GSA head coach Todd Eckenfelder said. “Being in the top three is about where we thought we’d be based on the times.”
Sumner also enjoyed a strong day on the boys’ side as juniors Luke Barnes and Logan Carter finished a respective 18th and 30th. Christian Winslow (60th place) and David Hileman (62nd place) led the way for Bucksport.
Top senior runners such as MacPherson, Osborne, Swanson, Shea and Mattson will graduate at the end of the school year. Yet with many teams having built their 2019 backbones on their underclassmen, the sport’s future remains plenty bright in Hancock County.
“I think we’re seeing a resurgence of running here,” Luchini said. “We always have good runners coming down the pipeline in Ellsworth, and I know other schools can say the same. There’s always something to look forward to.”