Cross country coaches and athletes used the conference championships this past weekend as a learning experience and as a confidence boost heading into the regional championships next Saturday.
“It’s great, because it might be one of the hardest conferences in the state,” Mt. Blue runner Aaron Willingham said of the KVAC. “For Dan (Lesko) and I to get one-two, that could foreshadow us getting one-two at states.”
Performing well in your conference showcase gives you positive vibes heading into the final two weeks of the season.
“It really gives me a boost in confidence going into the bigger races coming up the next few weeks,” said Mira Wyman of Falmouth. Wyman won the Western Maine Conference girls’ race on Friday with a time of 20:17.
For smaller or inexperienced teams such as Poland and Spruce Mountain, the bigger setting that the conference championships provided didn’t faze them.
“We had a team dinner (Thursday) night. Amazingly (while) we haven’t had a great win-loss record, we won a few, but the kids are really upbeat and they have a positive attitude,” Poland co-coach Ray Lafreniere said.
Spruce Mountain coach Kelsey Biliouris is pleased that her kids now know what’s it like to be on the big stage.
“Now they kind of have a feeling on how a championship is like,” Biliouris said. “They will be better prepared knowing what they are going into.”
Hills and valleys
For the Eastern teams, they will head back to Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast nest Saturday, where the Festival of Champions took place at the beginning of the month. That course is known to be a fast track.
Teams in the West regionals? Well, they aren’t so lucky as they head to Twin Brook in Cumberland on Saturday.
Isaiah Harris of Lewiston is excited to get back to Belfast.
“I ran there six or seven times now in two years,” Harris said of the course in Belfast. “I know the course well, like when you need to pick (the pace) up. I think it’s definitely an advantage. A lot of people also have ran there a million times too, but it’s a fast course. That’s my specialty.”
Lewiston co-coach Kim Wettlaufer believes the rest of the team will be comfortable there, too.
“Everyone has run that course,” he said. “I think everyone likes that course. We have some guys that are speed runners,” Kim Wettlaufer said.
Harrison Knowlton and the rest of the Leavitt team will be heading to Twin Brook. They will be used to the hilly conditions after running in the KVAC Championship at Cony.
Knowlton won the KVAC Class B individual title.
“They are similar courses. Twin Brook has hills, as well, like Cony does,” Leavitt coach Dustin Williamson said. “We are going to have a familiar style course from Cony to Twin Brook. It’s a great way to prepare ourselves even more.”
While it’s a challenging course, runners still enjoy the challenge.
“Twin Brook is hilly, but if you run a smart race, you can still go pretty fast on it,” Knowlton said.
Facing new competition
Some teams they will be facing new competition into regionals. Falmouth, a Class A school, mostly competed against Class B and C schools in the regular season in the Western Maine Conference.
“It’s fine. We go to Festival of Champions and see most of (the Class A) teams,” Falmouth coach Jorma Kurry said. “It’s always a good challenge for us. We do enjoy racing Greely, York and a lot of our longtime rivals.”
Spruce Mountain and Leavitt, who competed against Eastern schools most of the season, will now raceWestern opponents.
Rain is no obstacle
Most coaches on Friday at the Western Maine Conference race at Saint Joseph’s College thought the course was pretty dry after Thursday night’s downpour.
“I looked at the weather report, and I knew the sun was going to break out and the wind was going to pickup,” Yarmouth coach Bob Morse said. “With all the leaves on the ground, most of the rain we got ran off.”
Bryce Murdick of Falmouth, who won the boys’ race thought the course was going to be wet but said the course ran fast. His time of 16:49 reflected that statement.