Bonny Eagle’s Delany Hessler celebrates by hugging her mother, Christine Hesler, after crossing the finish line and winning the Class A individual state title with a time of 18:28.29 on Saturday in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

BELFAST — Bonny Eagle senior Delaney Hesler crossed the finish line to earn his first individual state title and barely broke stride.

Christine Hesler awaited at the end of the chute and spread her arms wide. Tears welled in her eyes as her daughter leaped into a hug and exclaimed, “Finally!”

After years of racing behind the heels of such standouts as Sofie Matson and Karley Piers of Falmouth, Hesler was the first one over the line at a Class A state championship race, and she savored the feeling.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “I’ve been working for this for four years and I haven’t ever stopped thinking about the states. I’m just really happy I was able to put together a good enough race to win.”

Not only did Hesler win individual honors Saturday, in a time of 18 minutes, 28 seconds, but she led the Scots to a third straight state championship. Six Bonny Eagle runners placed among the top 30 on a muddy, rain-soaked 5-kilometer course at Troy Howard Middle School to easily outdistance runner-up Marshwood, 51-112.

Gorham edged Bangor for third, 115-118, among the 13 schools competing in Class A. All four schools qualified, along with Class B champion Mt. Desert Island and Class C champion Orono, for the New England championships on Nov. 13 in Thetford, Vermont. Mt. Blue, the Northern Maine champion, finished in sixth, led by Emma Charles in 11th.

Individuals with the 25 fastest times, regardless of class, also qualified for New Englands. The slowest qualifying time was 20:10.31.

Hesler is one of three Bonny Eagle seniors who have been on three cross country championship teams. Emmaline Pendleton recovered from an early fall and a puncture wound on her upper thigh to finish fifth in the Class A race. Classmate Hannah Stevens was 14th, just behind sophomore Addy Thibodeau.

Two more Bonny Eagle sophomores, Kallie Warner and Allie Hesler, placed 26th and 30th. Bangor senior Megan Randall was the only Class A runner besides Delaney Hesler to break 19 minutes, with an 18:40 clocking. Edward Little’s Payton Bell finished in 19:42.95 to place sixth.

“We didn’t have our best day,” Bonny Eagle Coach Mike Burleson said, “but we had three seniors who have been huge for this program over the past four years and they got it done. With COVID and every other challenge they’ve had, they haven’t skipped a beat as far as what we’ve asked them to do.”

Pendleton said she fell approaching a corner near the end of the opening mile and another runner inadvertently stepped on her.

“It definitely threw me off, but we had a lot of people cheering the whole time,” she said. “I’ve never fallen in a race before, so it was just different, having to work through that.”

Orono sophomore Ruth White was the only runner who didn’t have to follow in anyone else’s footsteps. She led from the gun in the day’s opening race and came within two seconds of the course record she set earlier this month at the Festival of Champions.

Winthrop’s Haley Williams (77) competes during the Class C cross country championships Saturday in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Her Class C winning time was 17:31.92, about 50 seconds faster than that of runner-up Thea Crowley of George Stevens. Older sister Nora White, who missed three weeks because of a back injury, was third in 18:41 to help Orono avenge a Northern Maine regional loss to Houlton. Monmouth’s Alexa Allen, the Southern Maine champion, was fifth, just ahead of Winthrop’s Haley Williams in sixth.

Saturday’s final score was Orono 38, Houlton 45, with Maranacook a distant third at 87.

“I feel bad for the later races,” White said. “It’s going to get worse throughout the day.”

Hours later, after the Class B race, Cape Elizabeth sophomore Hadley Mahoney agreed with White’s assessment. Mahoney won her race by a comfortable 34-second margin over York sophomore Cary Drake in 18:46. Poland’s LiSha Powell was the highest-placing area runner, in 37th.

“It was better than I expected,” Mahoney said. “The corners were very muddy. I had an almost-disaster a few times, but overall it was not bad.”

Mt. Desert Island squeezed five runners among the top 18 to run away with the team competition. Cape Elizabeth edged Greely by four points in the race for second, with York another 11 points back.


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