If preseason indications held true, then the Mt. Blue boys would already be declared state champions for the upcoming 2005 high school cross country season.

Okay, so don’t start printing up those white tee-shirts with the “2005 State Champs” slogan.

But what the Cougars did to finish up 2004 was very promising. They won both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and the East Regional before finishing third in the state meet.

During the recent Laliberty preseason event featuring 18 area teams and 820 runners, the Cougars placed six of their boys in the first 15 to cross the finish line.

“I think these guys are going in with a sense of confidence,” says Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg. “I think they’re pretty excited.”

Seniors Adam Deveau and Joe Staples lead the long list of Cougar talent.

While the Cougars are the clear favorite to repeat as KVAC champions, teams such as Morse with Chris Roy, Mt. Ararat and Edward Little won’t be walkovers.

The Red Eddies return sophomore Nick Kazar (sixth in state meet) and welcome former soccer goalie Tom Esponette aboard. Sleeper picks threatening to crack into the top tier include Lewiston, Cony and Brunswick.

On the girls’ side of things, defending state champion Mt. Ararat suffered some losses to graduation but still have the top runner in the KVAC in Krystal Douglas.

Brunswick, Cony and Mt. Blue are not far behind. Oxford Hills’ Mandy Ivey doesn’t have much talent around her, but she is among the conference’s elite.

In KVAC Class B, the Leavitt boys are young, but state-meet tested.

Last year the Hornets took five freshmen and a sophomore to compete in the state final. Beating out veteran Belfast, Maranacook and Camden Hills teams, however, won’t be easy. Nor will staving off Waterville, which dropped from Class A to B. The Purple Panther girls may be the team to beat on the girls side with Belfast, Maranacook and Camden Hills on the cusp.

The Western Maine Conference may be the toughest conference in the state.

With many teams having moved up to Class A this time around, the WMC remains very strong. York and Greely are at the top of the girls’ division with Cape Elizabeth, Wells and Falmouth also having solid teams. The Greely boys have won five of the last six state crowns, including the past two. They are once again the team to beat. Falmouth, York and Cape Elizabeth should be top contenders.

Lisbon lost state champion Dan Southers, but the Greyhounds return a solid core of runners as they begin quest of their third straight Class C crown.

While not as strong as they have been, the Greyhounds can still count on Tyler Clark. Filling in behind Clark however, will be the challenge for Lisbon coach Hank Fuller.

The Greyhounds perch atop the Mountain Valley Conference will be challenged by Winthrop and Wiscasset. Danny Soltan heads a deep Rambler unit. The rest of the conference thins out after the top three teams. Thin is certainly the word describing the MVC girls. While many of the teams within the conference struggle for numbers, the Monmouth Mustangs just keep rolling along. With 16 runners out, the Mustangs are poised to capture their fourth straight regional title. Lindsay Scirica, Amy Hobson and Becca Irwin all placed in the top 15 at the state meet and are back to better their second place finish as a team at the state meet.

The Madison Bulldogs appear to be their only threat for the conference crown.

-Dave St. Hilaire

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