Fairfield Prep’s Drew Thompson celebrates after crossing the finish during the 83rd annual New England interscholastic cross country championships at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast on Saturday. Thompson took first. (Ashley L. Conti photo)
BELFAST — Two runners broke the girls’ course record Saturday during the New England Cross Country Championships at Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast.
Julia Robitaille of Manchester West High School of New Hampshire and Eleanor Lawler of South Kingstown in Rhode Island each surpassed the previous mark of 17:47; Robitaille won the race in 17:31.65, while Lawler ran 17:40.55 to snag second place.
In the boys’ race, Luke Laverdiere of Yarmouth was looking to to cap off his undefeated season with a win at New England’s, and after coming within three seconds of the Belfast course record during his win at the Festival of Champions, he knew he could give it a run.
However, Drew Thompson of Fairfield Prep in Connecticut stole the show and won with a time of 15:16, nine seconds slower than Josef Holt-Andrews’ record time of 15:07.
The team winner in the girls’ race was Pinkerton High School out of New Hampshire with 163 points, 20 better than second-place Bishop Guertin, also of New Hampshire.
Camden Hills was the top Maine girls’ team with an 11th-place showing. Grace Iltis led the Windjammers with a 23rd place finish in 18:43.78.
Xavier High School of Connecticut won the boys’ competition with 74, nearly 30 points better than second-place Staples, also of Connecticut. Maine’s top boys’ team was Deering, which placed 16th thanks to a 10th-place finish by senior Yahya Nure.
In the first race of the day, the girls took off and used the cold, dry conditions to their advantage. Robitaille, Lawler and four other runners, including Falmouth freshman Sofie Matson, came through the first mile split at 5:35. Matson won on the course earlier in the year at the Festival of Champions with a time of 18:17.
Lawler and company ran through the two-mile marker at 11:30, with Matson falling off the pace at 11:46. As more runners ran through the course, the more the hardened soil turned to mud, but not before Lawler led the way through the finish line. Lawler’s smile was intact as she crossed the finish line knowing she had shattered the course record previously held by Cassie Hintz of Old Town, set in 2006.
Defending champion Jacqueline Gaughan of Exeter fell off the pace and finished in sixth with a time of 18:06.5. Matson finished with a time of 18:17.3, tying her personal best.
Edward Little High School’s Jillian Richardson finished with a time of 20:09.56 to finish her junior year. For Richardson, the question she had entering her penultimate season was not whether she’d make it to New England’s, but how she would perform.
“I was hoping that I would make it,” Richardson said. “I thought I did training enough that I would. There was definitely a lot of runners so I just tried to pick people off.”
In the boys’ race, Laverdiere and Thompson stayed on each other’s hip and blazed through the first mile in 4:54. Oxford Hills senior Dominic Sclafani was a couple of groups behind, running through the mile marker at 5:16.
After the second mile, the ground had thawed and pockets of mud splattered the trails. Thompson started to pull away from the Maine favorite, passing the two-mile split at 9:58, with a four-second lead on Laverdiere.
Thompson finished by himself, his fist punching the air as he crossed in 15:16.66. In second place was Riley Fenoff of Danville School with a time of 15:48.45.
Eleven seconds later, Laverdiere finished in eighth place, a slow third mile his undoing.
Sclafani finished in 17:15.64, finishing his senior year of cross country with a 138th place finish. The amount of people posed a challenge for the senior on Saturday, as did the weather.
“I think it was partly the conditions and also I have an asthma so that was giving me a hard time,” Sclafani said. “There were more smaller packs but the packs were larger so it felt like you were surrounded by more people and there was less breathing room. I didn’t really enjoy that part but it made it a lot harder and I enjoyed that part. I like the challenge.”
Waterville’s Nick Dall was in a pack of runners just ahead of Sclafani, and finished with a time of 16:55.59, good for 101st.
Runners jockey for position during the 83rd annual New England interscholastic cross country championships at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast on Saturday. (Ashley L. Conti photo)Yarmouth’s Luke Laverdiere keeps pace during the 83rd annual New England interscholastic cross country championships at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast on Saturday. (Ashley L. Conti photo)Falmouth’s Sofie Matson looks over her shoulder during the 83rd annual New England interscholastic cross country championships at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast on Saturday. (Ashley L. Conti photo)Runners navigate a turn during the 83rd annual New England interscholastic cross country championships at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast on Saturday. (Ashley L. Conti photo)