EL boys’ team has it all covered

High school cross country teams share a similar dynamic with baseball pitching staffs.

Every coach considers himself fortunate to unleash an ace once a week. But every team’s championship hopes are only as strong as their second, third, fourth and fifth options.

Edward Little High School has both the height and the depth covered this fall, fielding perhaps its strongest boys’ team since a run of three consecutive Class A championships from 1998 to 2000.

The Red Eddies flaunted their strength at the Maine Festival of Champions in Belfast last Saturday, finishing four points behind a Scarborough program that has captured four of the last five state titles.

“That’s the race of the year as far as we’re concerned in Maine,” said EL coach Dan Campbell.

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Scarborough (62 points) edged EL and John Hugh Gillis High School of Antigonish, Nova Scotia (66 points each) in the 5-kilometer event that featured 47 full boys’ team and 566 runners.

Sadam Abdi led three EL finishers in the top 25. He was 14th, 12 seconds ahead of Omar Abdi in 23rd. Faisal Noor crossed the line 25th.

Unlike other schools with a clear separation among the runners in its lead pack, EL enjoys as much healthy competition at practice as it does on race day.

“They’ve been beating each other all year. It depends who shows up on that day,” Campbell said.”It’s a nice threesome to have.”

Sadam Abdi, a transfer student and member of Lewiston’s 2007 state championship squad, is typically the EL runner to beat.

But Noor topped his teammates Sept. 25 at Cony, with under five seconds separating the Red Eddies’ lead trio. Omar Abdi enjoyed the view in front of Noor and Sadam Abdi in an earlier race at Mt. Ararat.

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They’ve ushered in a major resurgence for EL, which hasn’t qualified for the Class A state meet since 2006.

“We finally have been able to tap into the Somali community and work with the ESL (English as a Second Language) kids,” Campbell said. “We’ve been working on that for a couple of years now.”

Justin Leclair (46th) and Hussein Mohamed (88th) also scored points in the Belfast event.

“Hussein set a PR (personal record) by over a minute,” said Campbell, who acknowledged that Mohamed’s development is key to the Eddies’ conference, regional and state title hopes. “Our one through four guys are pretty strong. That’s the whole key. Nobody except maybe Scarborough has that consistent No. 5.”

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

On the girls’ side, both EL and Lewiston’s coaches believe this season’s best is yet to come.

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The Red Eddies (20th) and Blue Devils (27th) each finished in the second half of the Belfast pack, but the Twin Cities teams are nursing injuries and on the comeback trail from a host of maladies, respectively.

Two of the Eddies’ top four runners, Audrey Bennett and Carmen Lasagna, sat out the Festival of Champions.

“I think we’ll be able to pull off a minor upset or two,” Campbell said. “We may not compete with the likes of Mt. Ararat or maybe Brewer, but I think we can contend for the top two or three at (Eastern Maine) regionals.”

Abby Hart (55th out of 437 runners) and Rebecca Barton (70th) led the Edward Little charge on Saturday.

“Rebecca might have beaten her, but she had to stop when one of her shoes came off,” Campbell said.

Nicole Court-Menendez, Ali Butler, Jenny Bergeron and Careena Michaud have been the top performers for Lewiston.

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“We’re just starting to get healthy,” said Lewiston coach Jamerson Crowley. “(For the first month) we never really had a full team.”

MOST AT THE COAST

Mt. Blue enjoyed a solid day in Belfast, highlighted by a runner-up individual effort and a top-five team showing.

Kelton Cullenberg took second place in the boys’ run at 15:44, only 11 seconds off the course-record pace of Brunswick’s Will Geoghegan.

Melody Lam led three Cougars in the top 20 in the girls’ race, staking Mt. Blue to fifth overall behind Cheverus, John Bapst, Gorham and Scarborough. Lam (eighth, 19:54.1) was followed closely by Addie Cullenberg (17th) and Gwen Beacham (20th).

Other top-50 individual finishers representing local schools: Hussain Ibrahim of Lewiston (28th), Patrick McInnis of Monmouth (36th), Brody Hines of Mt. Blue (39th) and Faisal Abdillahi of Lewiston (43rd) for the boys; and Sorrel Dunn of Oxford Hills (33rd) among the girls.

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BUSY WEEKEND

Wednesday’s rain postponed a six-team Mountain Valley Conference meet at Lisbon to this afternoon. Monmouth and St. Dom’s also will compete in the race at Beaver Park.

EL, Lewiston and Oxford Hills will run at Leavitt on Friday, coinciding with a relay event at Mt. Blue.

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