FARMINGTON — Whatever notions of a home course advantage Sarah Wade and the Mt. Blue Cougars had when they learned Wednesday’s Nordic race had been moved from Bond Brook in Augusta to Titcomb Mountain vanished on their first practice run.

“It’s a different course than the one we normally see. It was a little confusing at first,” Wade said. 

As it turned out, Wade probably could have wandered off-course and still taken the girls’ 5k freestyle race, which she ended up winning by 53 seconds. But the rest of the Cougars didn’t have any margin for error come race time. They ended up edging Maranacook by a point for the win.

The boys’ race flipped that script, with a photo finish for the individual title as Mt. Ararat’s Sam Wood edged Mt. Blue’s Issac Doiron by 3/10ths of a second. Doiron and the Cougars took team honors by 11 points over Leavitt in the final 5K of the season before next week’s conference championships.

With the conference 5k classical championships scheduled for Feb. 8 at Titcomb, organizers made some course alterations for Wednesday’s race to preserve the more familiar loop for the postseason.

Starting in waves, 61 girls and 76 boys encountered a longer, more sustained early climb than they normally find at Titcomb. The usual course goes to a higher point, but the race back down hill on Wednesday was broken up by more quick, steep climbs.

“It was so much uphill,” Wade said. “I like uphills personally, but it was a lot. You just keep a steady pace going up.”

Wade, who finished third at last week’s Sassi Memorial at Black Mountain and is the defending Class A freestyle champion, took control early and cruised to the finish line in 14:44.8. Anne McKee of Kents Hill was second in 15:37.2.

“At the Sassi, (Wade) was only seven seconds out,” Mt. Blue coach David Nordstrom said. “That was kind of like the real state championship, because everybody shows up. So she showed that she can definitely be right there in the thick with anybody in the state.”

“At all of these races, you see what’s very different with her, which is, you don’t just see her going really fast,” Nordstrom added. “She’s going fast and she’s got a smile on her face, and she’s looking like she’s having fun.”

Orono’s Hanna Renado, Izzy Gerencer of St. Dom’s and Maranacook’s Hannah Despres rounded out the top five. Julia Ramsey, Leah Hardy and Miriam Cohen placed in the top 16 to give the Cougars the team win, 30-31, over Maranacook. Leavitt (68) was third.

Wood (12:10.3) had just enough of a finishing kick to win a three-man sprint with Doiron (12:10.6) and Hampden’s Dustin Ramsey (12:11.5) in the final 50 meters.

“I made the move on the little hill parallel to the end, maybe 400 meters out, and just tried to maintain until the finish,” Wood said. “(Doiron) was coming on really strong, obviously, but I managed to hold him off.”

“It went from being a really tough course to being a really fast course very quickly,” Wood said. “It was a really good race.”

Ethan Harriman of Maranacook and Rylee Knox of Leavitt finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Dustin Staples, Dan Lesko and Miles Pelletier added top-10 scores to give the Cougars, who had eight racers in the top 20, 23 points. They were followed by Leavitt (34) and Maranacook (36).

Most of the teams who took part in Wednesday’s race have one more regular-season race remaining, Saturday’s Oxford Hills Sprints, before the conference championships begin with next Tuesday’s freestyle at Black Mountain. Several of this month’s regularly-scheduled Nordic races were cancelled due to the combination of rain, warm weather and lack of snow.

“We’re all just happy to get another race in,” Nordstrom said. “Every time these kids get another race in, they get a little bit sharper, and it prepares them for the championship races that are coming.”


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