Fryeburg’s Alfie Walker celebrates his narrow first-place finish after a homestretch duel with Freeport’s Martin Horne, left, in the Class B state cross country championships race Saturday at Troy A. Howard Middle School. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)
BELFAST — A while back, Ted Hutch came across some microfilm of this newspaper that included a story about York High School winning a state championship in cross country.
“November 7th, 1948,” he said. “Page 4.”
Seventy years later, the Wildcats earned a second title Saturday. Five boys from York finished within 34 seconds of each other in a pack successful enough to win the Class B championship at Troy Howard Middle School.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hutch, whose team edged defending champ Lincoln Academy by six points, 84-90. “We’ve been fighting this for 70 years. This is huge.”
The victory capped a month that also included York winning the Western Maine Conference and South regional titles. Other Class B titlists included the Ellsworth girls, Cape Elizabeth sophomore Lila Gaudrault and surprising Fryeburg Academy senior Alfie Walker, who rose from eighth in the regional last week to state champion, thanks to a spirited kick over the final 200 meters of the 5K course.
Olivia Ouellette of Poland finished 10th in the girls’ race. Gray-New Gloucester’s William Maines was the highest area boys’ finisher, coming in 35th.
Despite falling twice in the mud amid temperatures in the high 30s, Eli Hulstrom of York was glad officials decided to hold the meet earlier than originally Saturday, rather than postpone it and hope for better weather.
“The conditions actually weren’t as bad as we thought they were going to be,” said Hulstrom, who placed ninth. “We thought it was going to be raining and extremely cold, so we’re pretty happy with that.”
Griffin McNamara (12th), Joseph Neal (18th), Braedon Harrod (26th) and Josiah Mackaman (29th) completed York’s scoring. Mackaman had a 13-point advantage over Lincoln’s fifth runner.
North champion Hermon was third at 104, and Cape Elizabeth was fourth at 108.
The individual race was a three-way fight between Walker, Martin Horne of Freeport and Griffin Allaire of Wells, who held a slight lead in the final turn toward the finish line. Horne took the lead briefly, but Walker caught him with 15 meters to go and won by a second in 16:18.84.
“I’ve never beaten them before,” Walker said. “A lot of adrenaline kicked me in. I could see it and I really wanted it. It was a wild ride.”
Gaudrault also came from behind, catching defending champ Lily Horne of Freeport near the 2-mile mark after stalking her instead of running alongside her, as was the case in last week’s South regional.
“I kind of like that better,” Gaudrault said, “because I can keep her in my sight the whole time and focus on reeling her in.”
Ellsworth, the North champion by a tiebreaker over Mt. Desert Island, finished with 87 points to 90 for defending state champ Yarmouth, 97 for York and 101 for MDI.
Unlike many runners on a raw morning, Gaudrault eschewed long sleeves, tights, gloves, a headband or ear muffs. She embraced the cold and crossed the line in 18:42.82, nearly a half-minute ahead of Horne, who was another 39 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Caitlin MacPherson of Ellsworth.
“I was expecting a nor’easter, with rain and snow,” Gaudrault said, “so just running in a little mud didn’t bother me.”
Runners in the girls’ Class B cross country championship race depart the starting line Saturday at Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald) Cape Elizabeth’s Lila Gaudrault cracks a smile as she maintains a big lead into the home stretch during the Class B girls’ state cross country championship race Saturday at Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald) Freeport’s Lily Horne catches her breath after a second-place finish in the Class B girls’ state cross country championship race Saturday at Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald) Boys’ Class B runners traverse a field Saturday at Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)