Cross country: UMF makes strong showing in NAC championships

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UMF’s Robbie Hollis (24) looks to his right as he runs beside teammate Jeremiah Sands (20) during the men’s 8K race of the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)

FARMINGTON — Cross country coach Dan Campbell knew that taking a back seat in a championship race wouldn’t sit well with his University of Maine at Farmington Beavers — especially on their home turf.

But the women’s second-place finish and the men’s third-place performance in the North Atlantic Conference championships on a chilly and overcast Saturday morning didn’t rattle Campbell, who beamed with pride and dished out accolades to his Beavers.

“The boys’ performance wasn’t disappointing to me as far as a coach is concerned,” Campbell said. “I know it is disappointing to them as a team because of their expectations — and there are some things you have no control over and one of things we don’t have control over is the team that showed up and survived sickness, they have survived injuries, they have survived, you know, maybe academic stuff, that’s what makes a champion on that god-given day.

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“And for us, we didn’t have our full team there. No excuses by any means, we still ran a great race. When you get two people in the top 10 and you have three people in the top 20, we have done our job.”

Men at work

Colby-Sawyer and Castleton took first and second with 37 and 83 points, respectively in the men’s 8k race. UMF squeezed into third with 89 points.

UMF freshman Jeremiah Sands took second place with his time of 26:44.7. Castleton’s Grandon Smith (26:24.9) topped the field of 85 competitors.

“He was probably the best cross country runner for the state of Maine,” Campbell said. “I think he was seventh at All-New Englands.”

Sands of Falmouth prefers the misty, cool weather and dark skies that blanketed UMF’s apple-orchard course.

“I had a game plan, but obviously in cross country things change,” Sands said. “My coach, he believes so much in me and the team is great so they keep me motivated, keep me going.”

UMF Senior Robbie Hollis of Auburn scrambled into eighth place with his time of 28:04.3 and teammate David Doering took the 18th spot at 30:07.8.

“We have been training here all season. Mentally, I am sure we are the most prepared when it comes to each hill,” Hollis said. “It is basically a roller-coaster course. It really tests a runner’s mental toughness, not so much for time but how much time it takes to recover going up each hill. Overall as a team, I think we did fairly well, but definitely it is a tough course.”

“Out of the men and women, Robbie probably ran the strongest race,” Campbell said, “because he was faltering at the three-mile mark, along with David. He did the same thing, but they just came in and turned on the burners. David picked up three or four places with a mile to go, but Robbie did the exact same thing.”

UMF women a top-10 hit

In the women’s 5K race, the Beavers finished behind Colby-Sawyer (43) with 66 points. New England College’s Abby Shafer finished in first place with a time of 19:19.4 in a field of 95 runners.

But UMF occupied three of the top-10 slots, with sophomore Katie LeBlanc (19:53.5), Laura Pulito (21:00.2) and Gwen Baker (21:42.2) finishing second, fifth and eighth, respectively.

“We came in on the polls as second,” Campbell said. “We had a great year this year. We had the opportunity to go against Colby-Sawyer and we beat them this past year and our expectations were a little higher than second.

“Didn’t turn out that way and it didn’t mean that we didn’t put our hearts into it. It means Colby-Sawyer ran a better race than us today and they had their hearts into it. They came on our course and our backyard and they beat us, god bless them.”

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” LeBlanc said. “My teammate told me, ‘You know what, I think you could get second, just don’t let Castleton beat you.’ I wasn’t nervous. She’s my captain. I look up to her.”

LeBlanc also embraced the cool weather.

“I love cool conditions,” she said. “I feel like I run better in them even if it is raining — I really don’t care.”

“Oh my god. Katie LeBlanc ran way beyond her capacity of my expectations of her,” Campbell said. “She had been sick all week to begin with and she came in, she got second place, did a PR by a lot. I can’t say enough of what Katie has done. Laura, who came in fifth, she hung in tight. She stayed where she was supposed to be.

“Our No. 1 girl beat their No. 1 girl. Our No. 2 girl beat their No. 2 girl. Our No. 3 girl beat their No. 3 girl. That tells you what they did.”

University of Maine at Farmington cross country coach Dan Campbell checks the course during the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)UMF’s Michael Siddall (18) races across the finish line to take 45th in the men’s 8K race of the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)Green Mountain’s Nicholas Lamson (83) stays ahead of UMF’s Jasper Williams (17) in the men’s 8K race of the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington on Saturday. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)UMF’s Gwen Baker (77), Molly Jack (81), Laura Pulito (88) and Katie LeBlanc (85) move out front during the women’s 5K of the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington on Saturday.UMF’s Kelsey Biggott (89) races to the finish line during the women’s 5K of the North Atlantic Conference cross country championships in Farmington on Saturday.(Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)

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