CUMBERLAND — The Lewiston Blue Devils kept a running dialogue whenever they were in hearing distance of each other on the grueling 3.1-mile course at Twin Brook.
The Devils know talk is beneficial, especially when they had set their sights on a state title. That open line of communication helped the Blue Devils place five runners in the top 20 and secure a victory in the state Class A boys’ cross country championship on an unseasonably warm November afternoon.
“It is always something we try to work on,” Lewiston cross country coach T.J. Niles said. “We always try to run as a pack. I am just lucky to have a handful of guys who run at the same level of ability.
“They usually work together. They try to talk to each other during the race. They are always talking to each other during the race.
“I told them I wanted the pack to be in 10th place at the mile — we were 13 through 17. When we hit two miles, we were six through 17. We ended up getting one guy all the way to second place.”
Junior Isaiah Harris (17:01.27) was the Lewiston runner who locked up second and helped give the Blue Devils a 51-point win. Scarborough finished second and Bangor took third in the event.
The conditions were good,” Harris said. “Compared to last year, New Englands, we went here — wind, rain, mud — everything. This year, with the sun out, it was a lot better.”
Senior Mohamed Awil (17:03,92) was within a whisper of Harris when he crossed the line with a fourth-place finish.
“I feel awesome right now,” Awil said. “We kind of started out slow the first mile and picked up the pace the second mile. I am glad to be a captain of this team.”
“I am always preaching hammering the second mile” Niles said. “That is where most of the ground can be made. The second mile is always the slowest.”
Osman Mohamed ( 17:23.97) took 14th, Mohamed Mohamed (17:31.10) was 17th, and Farhan Abdillahi grabbed the 19th slot to stack the top 20 with Lewiston competitors.
But Mt. Blue’s Josh Horne, who didn’t feel as chipper during the second mile, created a huge gap in the field and topped them all with his first-place finish in a winning time of 16:43.79. Teammate Dan Lesko (17:20.19) finished 11th.
“This has been my dream for so long,” Horne said. “I expected it to be muddy with all the rain we got all week. It was so dry and so perfect. I have been trying for this so long.”
There was also a shining star for Lewiston in the girls’ Class A race. Junior Farhiyo Aden (20:21.97) placed 11th. Mt. Blue’s Sarah Wade (21:40.90) finished 25th. Bonny Eagle took the A title with 82 points, followed by second-place Massabesic.
The Class B boys’ title was carried off by Cape Elizabeth, with Liam Simpson (16:19.45) leading the way with his second-place finish. Ellsworth and York took second and third, respectively.
Will Shafer persevered for the Gray-New Gloucester Patriots and impressively finished in fourth place with a time of 16:32.00.
“Last week at regionals, I didn’t feel the greatest physically, but I felt really strong mentally, and I gutted it out to hold my place,” Shafer said. “But today, I was feeling it both physically and mentally so it helped me step up a little bit more and dropped my time even a little more.
“I was exhausted towards the end, but I felt as good as I could running this time on this hard course.”
Shafer’s teammate, Ben Garcia (17:47.42), took 18th. Leavitt junior Harrison Knowlton (17:39.96) finished 17th and Lisbon’s Nicholas Harriman (17:55.87) took 22nd.
In the girls’ Class B competition, Leavitt freshman Juilia Labbe (21:26.62) had an impressive finish at 18th place. Mt. Desert Island ended up owning the B title with 49 points, with Freeport and Greely following close behind.
Josef Holt-Andrews (17:00.87) seemed barely out of breath after winning the boys’ Class C race. It looked as though Holt-Andrews had been out for a walk or just left the couch to get a sandwich.
And yet, the Telstar senior runner had just breezed past the competition. He used the race as a tune-up for the New Englands, which will be held in Manchester, Conn.
“It was kind of planned,” Holt-Andrews said. “We had a target where we would try to take off and kick it in, and it worked.”
“Today was more about just maintenance,” Telstar coach Dan Crooker said. “His main focus is New Englands next week and Foot Locker.
“He just needed what he needed to do today. Today wasn’t about time; it was about place. The goal today was to lock up his cross country title, and he did that.”
And Boothbay secured the Class C title, barely skipping past Orono and George Stevens.
Although Boothbay won the prize, Winthrop junior Ben Allen (17:27.49) raced into fourth place.
Telstar’s Gabi Stone (21:56.54) turned in an eighth-place finish, but Orono High School came away with girls’ Class C title, beating Washburn and Waynflete. Monmouth Academy finished fourth.
New England qualifiers
It was no surprise that Lewiston qualified for New Englands and teammates Harris, Awil, Mohamed, M. Mohamed and Abdillahi will be there to talk the Blue Devils through another competition.
Other qualifiers include Horne, Lesko, Shafer and Holt-Andrews on the boys’ side. For the girls. Aden, Labbe and Jessica Conant of Dirigo will be competing.