BELFAST – Runners at the Eastern Maine cross country regional race on Saturday gave new meaning to “going nowhere fast.”

“When you came out around the second loop, and go over those hills, the wind is just like a wall,” said Lewiston runner George Foster. “That’s where my arms just died.”

Foster and his Lewiston High School Blue Devils, motivated by a slim loss to Edward Little at the KVAC race last weekend, did what they could to battle the Eddies – and the elements – at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

As it turned out, both challenges were just a bit too tough.

Led by Tom Esponette in seventh place, Tyler Gammon in eighth and a 12th-place finish from the always unpredictable Nick Kazar, the Eddies battled their way to a 15-point win over Lewiston to claim the East Regional crown.

“We honestly weren’t coming in here to win this thing,” said EL coach Dan Campbell. “Our goal this year was really last week, at KVACs. Our goal today was to qualify for states, but I told the kids, if they felt good after two miles, to go for it.”

“I thought we raced well,” said Lewiston coach Ray Putnam. “Last week, I didn’t think we ran a great race, but (Saturday) we did. We did what we could do; it just wasn’t good enough.”

Esponette, normally a front-runner, had a hard time knifing through the stiff wind that greeted runners after every hill. Still, he finished in seventh place and pulled Gammon, a sophomore, with him.

“He didn’t have his best race today,” said Campbell, “but he was able to pull Gammon with him. In this wind, being able to work with someone was crucial.”

“With the wind being so powerful, I just wanted to stay back and draft off people,” said Esponette.

Working together helped a pair of Bangor runners – Casey Quaglia and Riley Masters – take the top two positions in the race. Quaglia broke away in the last 100 yards to win the race in 16:49.6, just 7.5 seconds ahead of his teammate.

“We’ve been running together and helping each other out all year,” said Quaglia. “This whole race, I drafted off of him for the first mile, and then he drafted off of me for the next two.”

The Blue Devils, meanwhile, had solid finishes from sophomores Matt Driscoll (sixth) and Robbie Leeman (ninth) to match EL’s 7-8 finish, but Kazar (12th) handily legged out Lewiston’s Jeff Lucier (18th) to give the Eddies the edge they would need.

“Throughout the whole week, I was trying to work out, to get myself in position,” said Kazar. “Really, I wanted to win, but that didn’t work out. The second mile was probably my fastest mile today, and I just gave it what I had left on that last part.”

Adding to the runners’ misery Saturday was a course soaked through from Friday night’s deluge. In one dip in the woods, a 6-inch deep puddle spanned the width of the trail, and the only option was to go through it.

Mt. Blue’s Eric Marceau, this year’s KVAC champion, finished third overall behind the pair of Bangor runners. Marceau may have been able to stick with the frontrunners, had he been able to work with someone along the way.

“They’re both really good, and they can work off of each other,” Marceau said of the Bangor runners. “It’s tough trying to catch up to someone alone.”

Brunswick finished third in the team total (100) following Edward Little’s 69 and Lewiston’s 86. Mt. Blue (104), Bangor (115) and Morse (120) rounded out the top six and qualified for next weekend’s state championship meet at Leavitt Area High School.

On the girls’ side, Brunswick capped a season of dominating the competition in the East with a convincing 44-point win over Mt. Ararat (27-71). Hampden Academy, home of race winner Molly Peverada, took third with 95 points, followed by Brewer (108), Cony (122) and Bangor (178).

The Mt. Blue girls missed qualifying for the state race by one point.

“We had some girls who had some good races,” said Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg. “We are a young team, though. We’ll be here again next year.”

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