KVAC championship: Willingham runs away with it

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AUGUSTA — Aaron Willingham left the competition in the dust.

The Mt. Blue senior broke the course record at Cony with a time 16:56.5, beating his teammate Dan Lesko, who ran a time of 17:12.9 in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Championships.

“They were both able to play to their strengths today,” Mt. Blue coach Kelly Cullenburg said. “We run hills all season long, and I keep telling them over and over again, this is why we run hills all season long because we knew we were coming here.” 

It was the second straight season that the Mt. Blue boys had a win in the KVACs. Josh Horne won last year. In 2012, Justin Tracy was a top Class A runner who finished third overall.

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Leavitt’s Harrison Knowlton (17:34.2) finished fourth overall and was the top Class B finisher. Two Hampden Academy runners, Paul Casavant (17:29.3) and Caleb Lord (17:37.1), came in third and fifth place, respectfully.

“I saw the other guys were struggling, so that got myself to push it,” Knowlton said. “I had more in me and it hurt, but it felt good.”

The next closest Class B runner was Waterville’s Chris Cote, who finished with a time of 18:17.3

For the team events, Leavitt finished eighth in both Class B boys and girls.

Willingham was in a battle with rivals Isaiah Harris and Osmam Doorow early on but broke away from the pack near the one mile mark.

“Like I was just saying to my mom, I got closed in back there at the 800 (meter) mark,” Willingham said. “I heard these two footsteps, well one footstep because I was already battling it out with Isaiah, which was extremely fun. We were neck and neck, elbow to elbow, which was awesome. I hear Osman coming up, and I get so scared that I just start running away, which is pretty antisocial, but I did it.”

Harris finished sixth overall (17:47.8) followed by Doorow who was 12 seconds behind Harris.

Hampden Academy won the Class A team event with 53 points, 22 ahead of Mt. Blue. Messalonskee finished in third (91), followed by Brewer (99) and Lewiston (102) to round out the top five. In Class B,  Maranacook took the team title with 87 points followed by Camden Hills (91), Belfast (102), Erskine Academy (106)  and Morse.

“The boys’ didn’t run as well as I liked,” Lewiston co-coach Kim Wettlaufer said. “They did OK and Isaiah has been away a lot and hasn’t been training very much. Isaiah ran what I was expecting and Osman didn’t have it today. I don’t know why.”

In the girls’ individual race, Cony’s Anne Guadlupi finished the race 15 seconds ahead of Hampden’s Elizabeth Labun with a time of 20:30.6. Brunswick’s Tessa Cassidy finished third (21:07.4) followed by Mt. Ararat freshman Katherine Leckbree, who was five seconds behind Cassidy.

“I thought I did pretty well. I wanted to stay with the top girls and I did that,” Anne Guadlupi said. “We stayed together until the bottom of Hodgskins Hill, so it was a great race.”

Hannah Depress of Maranacook was the top Class B runner finishing fifth overall with a time of 21:34.8, 10 seconds ahead of the next Class B runner Lauren Brown of Waterville. Leavitt’s Julia Labbe finished sixth in the Class B race with a time of 22:50.3

Hampden won the girls’ Class A team event with 61 points, three ahead of Brunswick, which in addition to Cassidy, had two others finish in the top 10 in the A race. Tiffany Tanner finished in fifth (22:11.2) and Ruth Van Kampen came in right behind her teammate(22:19.6).

Lewiston came in third (110) followed by Brewer (112) and Mt. Blue (128) rounded out the top five.

In the Class B event, Morse finished first (52), finishing nine points ahead of Maranacook . Camden Hills came in third (86) while Waterville (102) came in fourth, and MCI rounded out the top five (132). 

The Edward Little boys finished in eighth place in the Class A  boys’ race and 12th in the girls’ race.

“Our goal from the beginning of the year was able to come to KVAC and make the top seven,” Edward Little co-coach Dan Campbell said. “We were one place out. We didn’t have the great race that we wanted today. We beat five other teams that have beaten us all year. So we are this far (away), next week will be interesting.”

Oxford Hills  finished in 10th in the boys’ Class A race and 11th on the girls’ side.

“We came up on average what I was expecting,” Oxford Hills coach Kristin Dacko said. “All in all it was right where we were expecting.”

Spruce Mountain had a tough day as it was missing a couple of runners and didn’t place in either the boys’ or girls’ team event in Class B.

“Today went well. Unfortunately, we had a couple of people out not feeling good,” Spruce Mountain coach Kelsey Biliouris said. “There’s something going around and someone hurt their ankle warming up. We had two of our girls and three of our boys (racing) today, which was kind of bummer. The kids that did ran, ran really well. we are trying to peak them next week at regionals because we have two boys who might make it to states.” 

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