Since the Maine Principals' Association trimmed the sport from four classes to three in 2005, the state high school cross country championships have been a playground for western Maine Class B and C schools and a dead end for their eastern Maine counterparts.
Only four of a possible 28 team titles have been captured by eastern Maine schools in the last seven years, all in Class B — Mount Desert Island girls (2006, 2011), Caribou boys (2010), and John Bapst girls (2010).
Perhaps the Caribou/Bapst sweep in 2010 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, the site of Saturday's state championship meets, indicates the East is starting to defend its "home" turf. Eastern Maine runners certainly have an advantage this week having run on the muddy 3.1 mile course at last week's regionals. A week of dry weather means everyone will welcome better course conditions Saturday.
The attention in Class B will be focused on Fryeburg's Academy's Silas Eastman, who will be trying for his third consecutive state title. Ellsworth's Dan Curts, the Eastern Maine champion, may present his greatest challenge yet.
Regional champions Ellsworth and Cape Elizabeth and defending champion Falmouth figure to battle for the team title.
The girls' race also boasts a returning champion, Camden Hills junior Brittany Bowman. Bowman finished third at regionals, trailing Bethanie Brown of Waterville and Ellsworth's Aleta Looker.Kirstin Sandreuter and Eva Bates of Greely lead the Western Maine contenders, along with Maranacook's Caroline Colan and Poland's Kristina Smith.
Defending champion MDI, regional champions Camden Hills and Falmouth and regional runners-up Yarmouth and Waterville will vie for the team title.
The Class C boys promise a showdown like their Class B counterparts with Merriconeag's Jack Pierce and Telstar's Josef Holt-Andrews set to resume their compelling duel at regionals. Pierce won that match by eight seconds. Holt-Andrews did beat Pierce in their other meeting this year, at Festival of Champions. Winthrop's Marc Hachey and Ben Allen and Telstar's Bronson Dean could also land spots on the podium.
Regional champions Orono and Hall-Dale enter the race as favorites. Waynflete, Winthrop and Bangor Christian will challenge.
Carsyn Koch of Washburn is favored to win her third girls' state championship in a row. To do it, she will have to hold off Sophia Thayer of Boothbay, Hannah Austin of North Yarmouth Academy, Natalie Bolduc of Dirigo and Orono's Lily Koffman.
Merriconeag is also seeking its third consecutive title. Waynflete, Dirigo, Washburn and Orono have the best shot at ending the streak.