CUMBERLAND — Karley Piers of Falmouth High School seems likely to pass through high school without ever winning a cross country race of regional or statewide significance, yet she’s unquestionably one of the best runners in the state — overshadowed only by a teammate.

In the Class A state meet Saturday afternoon, Piers ran a strategic race, moving up two places in the final mile to finish with a faster time than everyone in the Class B and C races and 109 out of 110 girls in the Class A race.

For her considerable effort, Piers earned second place, more than a full minute behind her classmate, Falmouth junior Sofie Matson, whose winning time of 17 minutes, 52.02 seconds marked only the second time any Maine schoolgirl has run faster than 18 minutes on the 5K course at hilly Twin Brook Recreation Area.

The Class A girl take off at the start of the state championship meet Saturday at Twin Brook in Cumberland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

Edward Little freshman Payton Bell placed ninth in the girls Class A race, finishing in 20:06.16. Mt. Blue’s Kahryn Cullenberg (20:08.33) was 12th, and teammate Emma Charles (20:20.46) placed 15th.

By finishing in the top 25 among girls in all classes at the state meets, Bell, Cullenberg and Charles qualify for the New England championships next Saturday in Manchester, Connecticut.

All three classes’ state championships were held Saturday at Twin Brook.

In Class B girls race, Poland’s Olivia Ouellette matched Bell for the best area finish, taking ninth (20:51.46). Ouellette’s teammate, Mia Turkington (21:15.50), took 14th and Spruce Mountain’s Bailey Coates (21:33.86) came in 21st.

Winthrop’s Jillian Schmelzer (21:55.11) and Madison Forgue (21:57.11) finished 11th and 12th, respectively, in the girls Class C race. St. Dom’s Sarah Brown (22:37.03) placed 20th and Monmouth’s Holly Hunt (22:50.68) was 22nd.

At last weekend’s Southern Maine regional, Matson became the first to achieve the feat with a 17:51.74 clocking that broke an eight-year-old record set by Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk.

“Some people might look at it like, ‘Aw, Karley has to race against her every race,’ but I look at it as a positive aspect,” Piers said. “I have the privilege to race against the fastest girl and just an amazing person. Every single race and every single day, I get to race with her and run with her, so it’s awesome.”

Even with the 1-2 individual finish, Falmouth could not unseat defending state champion Bonny Eagle. Sophomore Delaney Hesler, who was fourth, led the Scots to their sixth state championship in eight years.

Greely of Cumberland emerged triumphant in Class B, and Orono made it three straight titles in Class C. Individually, juniors Lila Gaudrault of Cape Elizabeth (19:19.62) and Olivia Reynolds of Maine Coast Waldorf in Freeport (19:44.66) repeated as champions, Reynolds winning Class C for the third straight year.

“It was definitely a little bit muddier than last week, which I expected with all the rain this week,” Gaudrault said of conditions on a sunny Saturday with temperatures in the mid-40s. “But it wasn’t that bad, especially in the woods where it’s more of a gravel surface.”

“It was a lot colder,” said Reynolds, who cut 21 seconds from her winning time at regionals. “My fingers were all numb.”

Bonny Eagle’s chief concern in the Class A team race was 2017 state champion Camden Hills, which boasted a tight pack that helped the Windjammers place second overall when all three meets were combined to figure New England qualification.

Runners take off at the start of the Class B girls’ race. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

In Class A alone, however, Camden Hills (124) placed fourth behind Bonny Eagle (72), Falmouth (114) and Gorham (120). Bonny Eagle sophomores Emmaline Pendleton (10th) and Hannah Stevens (13th) ran toward the front near Hesler, and senior Emma Abbott (26th) and junior Ella Dunne (32nd) completed the scoring for the Scots.

“Hannah Stevens had the race of her life today,” Bonny Eagle coach Mike Burleson said. “She was close to that top 10. And Ella Dunne has been improving all year. She was way up high. Our kids did what they were supposed to do, run smart early and tough late.”

The three class champions qualify for the New England meet, scheduled for next Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester, Connecticut, along with the next three highest-scoring teams when times from all three races are combined. Individuals with the 25 fastest times overall also qualify, which meant each girl who ran faster than 20:39 made it.

Camden Hills, Falmouth and Gorham will join the Maine state champions in Connecticut.

The Class B team race proved closest of the three classes. Greely edged Northern Maine champion Mt. Desert Island, 71-79, despite all seven MDI runners completing the course before any other team’s fifth.

Greely’s Marin Provencher, Charlotte Taylor, Abby Hollis and Katie Hankinson went 3-7-8-18 but had to wait another minute and a half before Elsa Dean-Muncie completed the scoring in 53rd place.

“It was a lot of pressure,” Dean-Muncie said. “I was really nervous before the race, but my teammates were so supportive. They (said) there’s a reason there are five runners, so it doesn’t just fall on just one person.”

Greely coach David Dowling credited the team’s third state title in six years on “low sticks and a persistent fifth runner. She might not have had her best race, but it was darn strong and good enough.”

Cape Elizabeth finished a close third, six points behind MDI, thanks to a boost from the 1-2 finish of Gaudrault and freshman Charlotte DeGeorge, whose time of 20:07 was 48 seconds behind that of Gaudrault and exactly in the middle of the 25 individual New England qualifiers.

In Class C, Orono claimed half of the top eight individual places to easily outpace Maine Coast Waldorf, 33-57, with Maranacook (116) a distant third. Reynolds was 39 seconds ahead of her nearest pursuer, freshman Thea Crowley of George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.