CUMBERLAND — Josef Holt-Andrews knew in order to have a good finish Saturday, he needed a good start.

It couldn’t just be a normal strong kick from the starting line. It needed a little extra exertion that could get him out ahead of a pack of 260-plus runners.

The Twin Brooks course quickly funneled the field of New England Championship cross country runners into a smaller space between ropes. The Telstar junior knew he had to be among the pack in front before the field got squeezed.

“I felt like I got out like I needed to,” said Holt-Andrews. “It was definitely a lot different than regionals or anything else. So I definitely tried to get out more.”

Those efforts paid off. Holt-Andrews put himself among the leaders early and was able to run the kind of race he wanted the rest of the way. He finished fifth overall.

“It went pretty much how I wanted it to go,” said Holt-Andrews. “I got out in the top 10. I sort of hung on and as it progressed, I moved up like I wanted to.”

Henry Wynne of Staples, Conn., won the race in 16:12.86. Trevor Crawley, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, was second in 16:14.21. Fryeburg’s Silas Eastman was the top Maine runner, finishing in 16:26.09. After Jake Feinstein, of Newtown, Conn., Holt-Andrews rounded out the top five in 16:28.14.

“I knew I was right up there,” said Holt-Andrews. “I was trying to move up even more but then coming around that last corner, I fell. I think I could have been up there, probably not No. 1 but up there a little more.”

After finishing 28th last year, it was a nice upgrade after a summer of intense training and focus.

“I was just going for the top 10,” said Holt-Andrews. “So fifth was nice.”

It was a challenging course for all runners Saturday. With a slick and muddy surface, it was difficult for runners to get traction. Lewiston’s hopes to be the top Maine team were dashed by the slick conditions.

Mohamed Mohamed lost his shoe at the start. He continued on a bit before Coach T.J. Niles had him stop so he wouldn’t get injured.

“We had like five guys go down during the race,” Niles said. “It was a tough day. It was muddy.”

Lewiston finished 24th overall and behind Cape Elizabeth in 22nd as the top Maine school. Bishop Hendricken of Rhode Island won the meet with 85 points followed by LaSalle of Rhode Island with 127. Souhegan of New Hampshire was third with 222. Cape finished with 507 while Lewiston had 514.

“It wasn’t a PR day, but it was  do the best you can place-wise,” Niles said.

Lewiston still had some good performances. Mohamed Barre was 64th overall in 17:30.35.

“Right at the beginning, I was going hard and trying to stay with the lead pack,” Barre said. “But then I slowed down a little bit and this whole crowd swarmed in. I was so crowded, I thought I was going to fall. I didn’t think I settled in until after the first mile.”

Teammates Isaiah Harris finished 79th overall in 17:39.90. He found it equally difficult to focus solely on running.

“It was fast,” said Harris. “Everybody was all around you. You couldn’t slow down and you couldn’t speed up. Everyone was around you. It was crazy.”

Harris said it was unlike any other race he’d run and made it difficult to find space to run, like Barre, he said he didn’t settle in until later in the race.

“It’s definitely the most crowded I’ve felt,” said Harris, who also slipped and fell late in the race while coming down the final hill. “I couldn’t move to the left and I couldn’t move to the right. I was afraid I was going to fall. A lot of people were falling.”

Lewiston also placed Mohamed Awil 83rd. Andrew Balsamo was 242nd and Jordan Balsamo was 249th. Abdifatah Mohamed finished 262nd.

“Overall, it looks like they did well but five of the seven guys went down in the race,” said Niles. “Some might have fallen more than once.”

Also in the boys’ race,  Mt. Blue’s Josh Horne finished 103rd with a time of 17:53.95. Teammate Justin Tracy was 160th in 18:22.87.

Winthrop’s Marc Hachey finished 148th in 18:16.24 while Gray-New Gloucester’s Will Shafer was 162nd in 18:23.59.

In the girls’ race, Waterville’s Bethanie Brown was the top Maine finisher. She took seventh in 19:18.60. Poland’s Kristina Smith was the top local runner. She finished 172nd with a time of 21:58.15.

Elle Purrier, of Richford, Vermont, won the race in 18:42.44. Taylor Spillane of Champlain Valley was second in 19:03.11. Emma McMillan, of Barrington, Rhode Island, was third in 19:07.13.

Barrington was the top girls’ team with 75 points. Coe-Brown, of New Hampshire, was second with 132. Champlain Valley was third with 176. The top Maine team was Bonny Eagle in 15th with 407 points. Massabesic was 18th with 465.

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