RUMFORD — Abby Mace woke up Saturday aiming high.

After finishing fourth in last year’s Sassi Memorial Classical, the Maranacook junior was looking to better that. When she arrived at Black Mountain and learned that some of her toughest competition weren’t there, she aimed higher.

“I was really hoping to be top three because last year I got fourth,” said Mace. “I was really hoping to improve on that. When I found out that some of the Gould girls and Sarah Abramson from Falmouth wasn’t racing, I was hoping to win.”

Mace won the girls’ race in 17:30.9, beating out Mt. Blue’s Hannah Allen, who finished in 17:52.4. Mt. Abram’s Sadie James was third in a time of 17:58.4.

In the boys’ race, Fryeburg’s Silas Eastman had no expectations for his finish. He’d been battling an illness all week and was just hoping to perform well.

“You kind of want to do better because it’s such a big race,” said Eastman, a sophomore. “It seems like it’s more important than some of the others that are just for fun. It’s kind of hard to look at this one as one race you just want to have fun in.”

Thomas Sullivan of Yarmouth was second followed by Falmouth’s Jackson Bloch.

Teams from all over the state were at Black Mountain and over 400 racers finished between to the boys and girls 5K events.

Yarmouth swept the team scores. The Clippers had 24 points in the girls’ race followed by Caribou with 80. Mt. Blue took third with 86 followed by Edward Little (100) and Leavitt (106).

In the boys, Yarmouth finished with 50 points followed by NYA with 71 and Falmouth with 72. Caribou (84) and Fryeburg (85) rounded out the top five. The top local team was Mt. Blue in seventh with 110 points. Gould was 10th with 263.

Mace’s perspective on the race changed in a hurry when she realized she truly had the chance to win.

“I was a little disappointed because I wanted all the competition possible, but then I was like, ‘Maybe I could win now.'” said Mace, who was 14th her freshman year. “So it was exciting to be able to win.”

Mace was the second skier to start and had much of the course to herself. She had Allen behind her to push her.

“It was kind of nice because you don’t have to worry about getting in people’s way or people getting in your way,” said Mace. “Hannah Allen was behind me so it was really good to have her behind me to push me. I knew I couldn’t slow down and let her pass me. So I pushed it really hard.”

Mace was the first to finish and had an impressive time of 17:30.9.

“I didn’t really have anything to compare it to because I was the first person to cross the line,” said Mace. “Then Hannah came in, and I saw her time. I knew she had to have a good race, too. So, once other people came in, I knew it was a good time.”

Allen had Mace in her sights for much of the race but just couldn’t catch her. Allen finished in 17:52.2. James followed in 17:58.4.

The next top local racer was EL’s Audrey Bennette in ninth.

“I just wanted to finish,” said Allen, who was fifth, behind Mace, last year. “I’ve been struggling with some injuries. That’s beside the point. I just wanted to finish and go hard out there.”

Allen would make a move on Mace on the downhill portions of the course, but because Mace did so well going uphill, it made it difficult for Allen to pass her.

“It’s really amazing to have someone like Abby in front of me,” said Allen. “I always had a target to look at. She did beat me by a good chunk of time, but it’s good to have someone to keep pace with.”

Allen was expecting to do well, but she said she was focused on producing a good race.

“I came into this just trying to be out there and ski,” said Allen. “As I was going along, I felt pretty good. I was just trying to work my double pole while I was out there, and I felt really good.”

Eastman started coming down with an illness early in the week. He was battling a cough and was wondering how healthy he might be by Saturday.

“I missed practice Thursday because of it,” said Eastman. “The only reason I went (Friday) was because we were waxing. I was just hoping it would clear out by now, but it hasn’t.”

He wasn’t sure how the illness would hinder him. He admits it was one of the more painful races he’s had this year, but at the same time, the illness forced him to battle through.

“I knew I was going to have to work harder to get a good time and a good place,” said Eastman. “So that kind of pushed me harder.”

He finished in 15:22.7, just three seconds ahead of Yarmouth’s Thomas Sullivan. Falmouth’s Jackson Bloch was third in 15:32.4. Sullivan had heard from his coaches that he was in front at one point, but Eastman finished strong, even though he had no idea he was ahead.

“I was just trying to push hard as if they were right there behind me,” said Eastman, whose coach couldn’t provide a status assessment of the race because his computer went down during the race. “When I finished, I heard them announce it. I was happy. I was just hoping it would stick, but I was thinking someone might have a better time.”

The top local racer was Mt. Blue’s Brody Hines in 10th. The Cougars also had Jonah Jones in at 15th.

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Click here to see more photos of the men’s race.


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