Monmouth’s Alexa Allen runs in the Festival of Champions on Oct. 2 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It’s title defense week for the Monmouth Academy cross country team.

A year ago, the Mustangs swept the boys and girls titles at the Mountain Valley Conference championship meet. And head coach Tom Menendez has confidence the team can enjoy a repeat performance happen at the MVCs on Saturday at the University of Maine at Augusta. The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships will also be held Saturday in Augusta, at Cony High School.

“I’m feeling good for both boys and girls (on Saturday),” Menendez said. “But I know once you get up to Saturday, anything can happen.”

Menendez has good reason to be confident in his team heading into the conference meet. On the boys side, junior Brosnan Comeau has been a consistent presence at the top of the results sheet all season, with help from juniors Ethan Nagle, Ostin Smith and sophomore Alex Wing.

“That group with Ethan and Ostin and Alex, if they come ready to compete and they’ve got their heads in the right place, they can compete with that Boothbay group, and it’ll come down to three points, four points to see who’s going to be champ,” Menendez said.

Monmouth’s Ethan Nagle, left, and Richmond’s Marshall Wall round a corner during the LaLiberte Invitational cross country meet earlier this year at Cony High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Monmouth girls look especially strong entering the MVCs. Not only do the Mustangs boast one of the top female runners in the conference in senior Alexa Allen, but they also have some strong juniors in Holly Hunt, Allyson Lewis, Whitney White and Mackenzie Grant.

“They’re in a very strong place, and if they run like they’re supposed to, they should do very well,” Menendez said.

Menendez said he expects tough competition from Boothbay, especially on the boys side. Senior Lucas Hardwick has been Boothbay’s top runner, with juniors Gryffin Kristan, Ryan Clark and sophomore Dominick Dow are turning in strong times as well. Boothbay also can contend on the girls side, with freshman Laura Chapman, sophomore Julia Truesdell and senior Emerson Harris leading the way.

Mt. Blue’s Emma Charles runs in the Festival of Champions cross country meet earlier this month in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Mt. Blue, which didn’t compete at all last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is in the mix among KVAC A schools, both for boys and girls. Head coach Kelley Cullenberg was particularly proud of how the boys team performed at the Festival of Champions in Belfast on Oct. 2, which was a vast improvement from the Cougars’ last full season in 2019. Cyrus Evans has been Mt. Blue’s top boys runner. A junior, Evans finished eighth of 234 seeded runners at Festival and has been a top-3 runner at meets throughout the season.

“A lot happened there (at Festival),” Cullenberg said. “It’s great to see some of these new kids not afraid to work with some of the vets and work together. It works the other way, too… These seniors on the boys side that have been No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, whatever (in the past), they’re excited to see that even though they’re not No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, that the team is doing what it is and is capable of doing more, with their guidance and their leadership.”

Mt. Blue senior Emma Charles has also turned in a strong season. The Cougars boast depth as well, thanks to freshman Nora McCourt, senior Brynne Robbins and junior Bridget Reusch. The group finished 10th as a team at Festival.

Bangor, powered by senior Dan McCarthy, is among the KVAC A favorites, as well as Brunswick, which won the boys team title at Festival. Bangor is also among the favorites in KVAC A girls, led by senior Megan Randall.

Cony’s Jacob Pelletier runs in the Festival of Champions cross country meet earlier this month in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cony looks to be among the teams in the mix for the Class B titles. The Rams have one of the area’s top male runners in Jacob Pelletier, who has been a regular top-five finisher. He also finished 25th at Festival.

“He’s putting up some of the best times of his career as a high school runner,” Cony head coach Shawn Totman said. “You can see that he’s a stronger runner, you can tell he’s alert. He’s a more confident runner in himself… Last year, I don’t think he would have been ready for (top competition at KVACs), but he’s definitely ready for it now.”

By no surprise, Cony’s top female runner is senior Grace Kirk, who finished second in the 800 and 1,600 meter runs at the Class B outdoor track championships last spring.

“Grace has been one of the better runners in the KVAC since she was a freshman,” Totman said. “There’s been some hard luck for her in a couple of the races where she didn’t get the times that she wanted. But Grace is peaking at the right time. She’s been feeling really good her last two races, which I believe are the best two she’s had all year. She’s super focused, her form has been great. She’s putting up good times, so I’m really happy with the direction Grace is heading in going into the championship season.”


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