Cross country has returned to the Jay and Livermore Falls communities.

Spruce Mountain will field a cross country team for first time this fall since the two communities consolidated their high schools in 2011.

“For years and years, this community has been rich in athletic programs (including) cross country,” Spruce Mountain assistant principal and athletic director Lee Hixon said. “Between Jay and Livermore they have won state (championship) after state (championship). A few years ago, the interest waned and the program dissolved.  We have quite a few kids interested, and we are just revitalizing it and getting it back up again.”

The two schools went at it in the mid 1980s to the early ’90s. The Jay girls won the Class C championship three years in a row from 1985 to 1987. Livermore Falls’ girls won the next four.

Hixon hired Kelsey Biliouris to be the head coach. Biliouris who was a track star at Livermore Falls. She spent four years with the University of Maine track team from 2006 to 2010. She has helped out Spruce Mountain’s track and field program the past few years.

“She was a phenomenal track athlete when she was here,” Hixon said. “Bringing her on board as a coach, she has done a tremondous job for us with track. When we decided to open up the cross country position, she was very eager to apply and we were very eager to have her. It worked out very, very well.”

Biliouris, who played field hockey in the fall when she was an athlete at Livermore Falls, said there’s excitement in the air.

“We are all really excited to get the program back, and even though we are starting out kind of small, we will start at the grass roots level, grow and get more competitive,” Biliouris said.

The team has five boys and four girls .

Seniors Alex Greenleaf and Sam Brenner both come from the track program. Hixon said there are about 50 athletes in that program.

“It’s definitely a good way to prepare for cross country,” Biliouris said of participating in track and field. “There’s obviously a difference between running a distance race on a track compared to running out on a cross country course.”

Both Hixon and Bilouris attributed the rebirth of the program to Randy Easter, who is heavily involved at the middle school.

“Randy Easter, who’s huge across the state, not only in cross country but also in track, works at the middle school right here,” Hixon said. “Having him talking to the kids and getting the kids fired up about the sport has really helped.”

Hixon said he will continue to promote the sport to the students at the high school to grow the new program, which will be competing this year with Spruce Mountain’s other teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference for the first time.

Easter has joined the program in a voluntary role.

“He definitely knows what he’s talking about,” Biliouris said. “If I have any questions, I go to him. He has come to a couple of practices and he has shown us the trails. He has been really great helping me out.”

Having a cross country team at Spruce Mountain has helped Brenner, who has spent the last couple of years running with the Leavitt Area High School program.

“Last year he was our only cross country runner, and we did an individual co-op with Leavitt, so he had the opportunity to run,” Hixon said. “This year having it right here obviously saves him travel time and helps him build school spirit.”

Brenner found out that Spruce Mountain would have its own program before the start of the track and field season last year.

“When on the first day we had five people show up, I was really excited about that, because I never had a full team before,” Brenner said.

Brenner said he invited some of his friends to join the program, but he also said everyone came to the team of their own free will. 

He strives to be a leader for the younger kids.

“While we haven’t officially named team captains, I have taken a leadership position, because I have run the courses before,” Brenner said. “A lot of our kids are freshmen, so I am introducing them to cross country.”

Brenner hopes as a new program that everyone can finish each race. His individual goal is to perform well at the KVAC meet and be a KVAC first or second-team all-star.

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