The paths to the high school cross country state championship meets are winding to the finish line and area runners are hoping to use strong conference and regional meets to springboard them into top finishes at the Classes A, B and C meets this Saturday. 

Leavitt Area High School’s Logan Ouellette had the fastest time of any Southern regional runner, as he won the Class B South title with a time of 16:44 at Twin Brook Recreational Park last Saturday. 

Monmouth Academy had two champions in C South, as Brosnan Comeau (17:35) and Alexa Allen (20:02) took home the boys and girls titles, respectively. 

Leavitt junior Logan Ouellette celebrates as he finished first in the Class B boys’ race at the Southern Maine regional. Ouellette finished in 16:44.64. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

Edward Little’s Payton Bell finished runner-up in the Class A North race at Belfast, while Mt. Blue had four finishers inside the top 13 in the girls team race. 

Before the state meets at Belfast, runners and teams are gearing up to put a cherry on top of a near-normal cross country season. 

LEAVITT LEADERS

At the end of the cross country season last fall, Leavitt coach Neal Rioux told Logan Ouellette to go all out and see what the sophomore could do in the final race of the year, the KVAC Class B qualifier at Waterville. 

Ouellette went on to run a 17:51 and used his strong finish as a springboard into the 2021 season. 

“He’s a kid who has been on track for this for a while now,” Rioux said of Ouellette. “He just decided to make running his focus this year and it’s that typical sophomore into junior transformation where they have the idea as a sophomore but don’t have the maturity. Then this year he has just dedicated himself 100 percent and it has paid off.”

Rioux and Ouellette worked on lengthening the junior’s stride and working on his speed this fall. “There’s still more to come,” Rioux said.

“We got a glimpse of it at the regional meet last year, he went out and performed better than he had been,” Rioux said. “I think that set up his attitude over the summer and then the preseason when he showed up and his initial speed made us say, ‘OK, he’s got it.’ Then we said that we think you have more and he kept meeting the challenge. We did a 200-meter repeat workout last Tuesday and he was just hitting his splits every rep, and the last one we said go all out and he crushed it.”

While Ouellette worked on his running and speed in the offseason, so did Abby Marston, Leavitt’s state qualifier on the girls team. 

“Her sophomore year was about figuring things out,” Rioux said. “Lots of distance training helped her prove that she can run more than we race at. I think she’s another one where she surprised herself and us this year. She has shaved significant time where we thought she would barely qualify.”

Leavitt’s Jonathan Schomaker won the B South wheelchair race with a time of 31:26. 

“I think, again, that summer work paid off in the fall,” Rioux said of Schomaker. “He’s been stronger and more consistent. Shifting for him is difficult and challenging but he has figured that out a lot easier. Mixing up the gears on flats has gotten a lot better and he has shaved three minutes at Twin Brook.”

Rioux said his team is really close and is looking forward to the progress his athletes can make going into next year. 

“They’re just a group that just want to be successful,” Rioux said. “This group knows their potential and we tried to structure workouts this year to tap into that.”

MONMOUTH DUO WINS REGIONAL TITLES

Tom Menendez, head coach of the Monmouth Academy cross country team, said you have to talk about Alexa Allen when you talk about Brosnan Comeau, and vice versa. 

“The beginning was last spring when they wanted to get better after the track season,” Menendez said. “They both would go down to the track once or twice a week and do interval training, working on strength and endurance, and I changed their form and they’ve gotten faster. By doing that, they’ve gotten that mental attitude that they’ve improved.”

Monmouth Academy’s Alexa Allen pushes herself up the steep incline as she competes in the Mountain Valley Conference cross country championships earlier this season at the University of Maine at Augusta. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The improvements Comeau and Allen have made are dramatic. Menendez said that Comeau has improved his time from 18:57 his freshman year to 16:59 this season. Allen went from 20:45 to 19:31. Both are undefeated this season in MVC competition, with their only losses coming at the Festival of Champions. 

“They are sticking to the process,” Menendez said. “They’ve both become students of the sport. We do our course walks and they’re asking, ‘What should I do here, what should I do here, what is the strategy?’ They know exactly what they want to do and then they go out and execute it… They’ve bought into the concept, they’re both extremely coachable and students of the games and are very excited for the state meet.”

A weight was lifted off Comeau and Allen’s shoulders when Menendez explained earlier in the season that his goal wasn’t for them to win every meet, but rather to stick to the training and just run well. 

“I talked to them the other day and I could see the look of, ‘OK, good, you’re not expecting me to win,’’’ Menendez said. “I never expect them to win, it’s a different mental focus. They go out, run, have a mental focus and the race will take care of itself. They make me look good and they’re both excellent kids.”

PAYTON BELL BOUNCING BACK

Payton Bell finished in second place at the Class A North regional race behind Megan Randall of Bangor. The Red Eddies junior ran 19:45 and continued her successful third cross country season. 

“First, let me say she did not have a very good year last year,” Edward Little coach Keith Weatherbie said. “Last year, she wasn’t as good as her freshman year and I think the interruptions could have been a problem last year. She’s come back strong and she’s better than she was as a freshman. She has a great attitude, looks strong and she is ready to have a real good race at states. She came in second to the girl from Bangor and I expect her to have a really good race and hopefully qualify for New Englands.”

Edward Little’s Payton Bell runs for second place overall during Class A cross country North regionals last Saturday in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

At her home course at Auburn Middle School to begin the season, Bell ran 20:46 and showed Weatherbie that this year was going to be a strong one. 

“It showed me she had done some work and was ready to go,” Weatherbie said. “She’s been great in practice and the speed work she’s done has been on target, and she has a great attitude and has been very helpful.”

Weatherbie also shouted out his assistant coach, Katie Byrne, as a positive influence on Bell and the team.

MT. BLUE COUGARS RUNNING IN PACK

Emma Charles usually is defeating everyone in Nordic skiing, but has worked to try and do the same thing in cross country this season. 

Charles, a senior, finished in third place at the A North regional with a time of 19:48, just behind Bell of Edward Little. Her teammates, Bridget Reusch (21:11.26) and Nora McCourt (21:11.29), finished in 10th and 11th, respectively, followed later by Brynne Robbins (21:17) in 13th. The Cougars went on to edge Bangor for the A North girls title, with both teams scoring 53 points each but the Cougars earning first thanks to their sixth-place finisher placing higher.

Mt. Blue’s Emma Charles runs in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cross country championship Saturday at Cony High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Charles, according to head coach Kelley Cullenberg, has thrived with less pressure in cross country. 

“I think the biggest thing is building confidence as a runner,” Cullenberg said of Charles. “I think that the season is a nice one for her because, the biggest reason, I don’t think she puts the same pressure on herself. She’s a super competitor regardless of what the sport is but she looks at cross country differently than she looks at Nordic. The season, when she is feeling good, it’s refreshing for her because she can let loose and not be so concerned.”

Charles and Cullenberg talked about running a lifetime best last Saturday at Belfast, and Charles did just that. 

“That was her goal at regionals and regionals was her first meet of breaking 20 and got a lifetime best by six seconds,” Cullenberg said. “It was great to see her with a huge smile and clearly happy and she really closed the gap on Payton. She was a lot further behind Payton at the two-mile mark. She closed on her and it was awesome.”

Charles has led her team this season, but is closely followed by a trio of girls that run very similar times. 

“At regionals, the three of them ran the first and second miles completely together,” Cullenberg said of Reusch, McCourt and Robbins. “Bridget and Nora ran the last 1.1 completely together, a couple hundredths of a second apart at the finish. One race, one of them will end up finishing ahead. They’ve been doing workouts, speed workouts, in the same training group exactly together. That helps for many reasons, helps team, helps confidence and is a lot more fun to get a workout in when you’re running with someone.”

On the boys side, Mt. Blue’s Cyrus Evans has taken leaps this season. Originally from Reno, Nevada, Evans has had to get used to the hilly courses around Maine, including his home course. 

“It didn’t take him long to get used to running the hills we have on our course, it almost got to the point where he was better on hills than a flat course,” Cullenberg said. “Then we got to FOC and he dropped a considerable amount of time.”

Evans broke 17 minutes for the first time in his career at this year’s Festival of Champions, with a time of 16:33. 

On Saturday, Evans ran a 16:40 at the same course to finish in sixth place at the Class A North regional final.


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.