LEWISTON — The start of a big cross country race is one of the most colorful spectacles in high school sports. Whether they sprint or trot off the starting line, runners usually do so as a team in clumps of red, blue, green and virtually every other color in the spectrum.

The colors tend to separate as a race unfolds. But if Lewiston is on the course, chances are one can find a cluster of blue in the procession, regardless of whether it’s the beginning, middle or end of the race.

“They’re close and run tight. They’re like a large body out there,” Massabesic coach Mark Crepeau said at last year’s state Class A championship meet.

Coach TJ Niles likes the idea of his top four runners staying close to each other, because all are capable of winning the race, and whoever is having a good day is likely to bring the rest of the quartet with him.

That goes for practice, too.

“They’re all up there on the workouts together. They’re all pushing each other. They’ve got that friendly competition between each other,” he said.

Seniors Mohamed Awil, Farhan Abdillahi and Mohamed Mohamed and junior Isaiah Harris are pushing each other, with occasional verbal jabs mixed in, to outdo last year’s conference and regional titles and New England championship berth. The first state title since 2007 is all that is left.

The Devils have chalked up a pair of wins at Leavitt (one of which was to be a home meet, but had to be moved) and started the season by beating Edward Little.

It was the victory over their rival that had the Blue Devils double-checking their watches.

“I wasn’t expecting to run 17 (minutes) in my first meet (against Edward Little), which I ran about 15 seconds faster than last year,” Mohamed Mohamed said.

“The whole team started out faster than we did last year,” Harris said. “And then out of nowhere, we’ve got this one kid named Osman, who is already our fifth runner. He’s going to help us a lot. With him, we’re looking to redeem ourselves from last year.”

Mohamed invited sophomore Osman Mohamed (no relation) to join the team after watching him run on the Lewiston track over the summer. It’s Niles’ hope that he can be the elusive fifth runner for the Blue Devils.

“The gap between our four and our five was so big that it didn’t really matter how good of a day our top four had, it mattered how good of a day our fifth had, because if he had a bad day, we weren’t going to win,” Niles said.

The Devils have a pretty clear No. 1. Awil, the team captain and pace-setter.

“I think Awil’s our solid No. 1. He’s got a lot of natural endurance. This is his third year running for me and the longer he goes, the faster he gets,” Niles said. “A lot of these guys will kick his butt in the mile, but he lives for the 5k and longer.”

Awil is usually the one kicking some butt, not just with his times but with his teammates.

“When one of us slows down, we have a leader, usually Awil, who encourages us to speed up and keep the pace,”Abdallahi said.

“It doesn’t matter who leads as long as we win,” Awil said. “Winning at states my senior year would be awesome.”

The most likely candidate pick up the slack if Awil is having an off day may be Harris, a junior who returned to cross country last year after a year of football and has been rapidly climbing up the rankings.

One of the most discouraging things for any runner is to see him in their rear view mirror late in the race, because that’s when Harris, who broke the state 800-meter record last spring, is at his best.

“Isaiah will outkick pretty much anyone at the end of a race. He has great finishing speed,” Niles said. “I tell guys ‘If you don’t run fast enough that second mile and Isaiah’s there, he’s going to outkick you.'”

Mohamed has been a steady No. 3 or 4 runner for the Blue Devils for the last two years, finishing 10th in Eastern A and 15th at states last year.Abdillahi, a sporadic contributor last year, finished second in a quad meet at Leavitt on Sept. 14.

The quartet formed a strong bond during summer workouts. With Niles making a few tweaks to their training, the Blue Devils set out to dominate early in the season but peak late.

“Their workouts are light years ahead of anything I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been coaching here at Lewiston,” Niles said.

The girls’ team is about as good as Niles has had there, too. A lot would have to go right for a sweep at KVACs.

“Who knows how things are going to go? You never know when someone is going to fall. At New England’s we had one guy lose a shoe,” Niles said. “But you’ll see a kid go from KVACs to regionals and they’ll improve by a minute from out of nowhere. You never know what’s going to happen.”


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