Noble’s Maddox Jordan, left, and Portland’s Nathan Blades run close together during the Class A South cross country championship at Twin Brook in Cumberland on Oct. 21. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Early in the recent Class A South boys’ cross country championship race over a hilly Twin Brook course in Cumberland, seniors Nathan Blades of Portland and Maddox Jordan of Noble carried on a conversation.

Jordan said he didn’t know the course well. Blades explained how the loops are laid out. The opening mile pace was, for them, a pedestrian 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

Things will be different this Saturday, when Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast hosts the state championship. Twin Brook, Blades said, requires a cautious approach because the course “really punishes you the first mile.”

Belfast has a few dips and turns but is generally more forgiving, with times correspondingly faster. At the Festival of Champions there in late September, Blades said he and Jordan clocked a 4:39 opening mile.

On Saturday, Blades and his teammates will try to end a 45-year state championship drought. Their toughest competition is likely to be two-time defending champ Hampden Academy, winner of the North regional.

Here’s the thing, though. Match up the five scoring runners from each school’s regional meet, and Portland comes out on top every time despite the disparity in courses, with the Bulldogs running at Twin Brook and the Broncos in Belfast.


“Hampden’s the two-time defending state champ for a reason,” said Portland Coach Frank Myatt. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a different plan going into the regional meet.”

A week later than originally scheduled because of the tragic events in Lewiston, the state meet will feature six championship races. Class B girls kick things off at 11 a.m. followed at 40-minute intervals by Class B boys, Class C girls, Class C boys, Class A girls and, finally, Class A boys.

“We really want it this year,” Blades said of the state title that has eluded Portland since 1978. “And I think we’ve got the guys who are willing to work for it, and have the talent to do it, too.”

Fergus Cullen, coach of the defending Class B champion York girls, said the extra week between regional and state meets shouldn’t make much of a difference. In fact, the unseasonable warmth last Saturday may have been detrimental for runners if not for the postponement.

“You want to see athletes at their peak be able to perform at their best,” Cullen said. “Running in 50 degrees this (Saturday) should be a lot better than near 80 last Saturday.”

For both boys and girls, the three individual class champions plus those with the next 22 fastest times (regardless of class) qualify for the New England championships, also in Belfast on Nov. 11.


The three team champions from each gender also qualify, as do the next three lowest-scoring teams when all three races are combined and scored as one meet.

Here’s a look at each class:

CLASS A: The Portland boys and Bonny Eagle girls are the teams to beat. Bonny Eagle is out for a fifth straight crown. Northern champ Camden Hills crammed five runners among the top 11 at regionals and took third to Bonny Eagle’s second at the Festival of Champions, but overall, the Scots were faster on a tougher regional course.

For the boys, Camden Hills will contend with Portland and Hampden, thanks to a tight pack of five. The Bulldogs have won three straight regional crowns, however, and Blades, Ben Prestes and Elias Coleman present a tough senior triumverate.

Blades and Jordan have run against each other twice. Blades prevailed at regionals and Jordan at the Festival of Champions.

Individually, look for another pitched battle between Portland junior Samantha Moore and Bonny Eagle senior Addy Thibodeau, each of whom broke 19 minutes at Twin Brook. On a faster course, only two Northern runners broke 20 minutes at regionals.


CLASS B: The York girls will present a strong title defense, led by Northwestern-bound senior Cary Drake. Northern champ Mt. Desert Island could be a factor, but Southern Maine strength appears superior. Lincoln Academy, Freeport, Cape Elizabeth and Greely are all in contention for hardware.

The boys’ team competition could be tightest of all. Freeport seeks a third straight state title, but York, at less than full strength, came within 10 points of the Falcons at regionals.

Individually, Drake is the clear favorite, with juniors Shealyn Brochu of Morse and Amelia Vandongen of MDI and sophomore Haley Marston of Leavitt potential challengers. For boys, Lake Region junior Sam Laverdiere turned in the fastest time (16:29) at either regional meet, despite competing in a more challenging environment at Twin Brook.

Freeport sophomore Alex Gilbert, York junior Aidan Ring and defending state champion Carter Libby, a Gray-New Gloucester senior, should not be overlooked.

CLASS C: Orono senior Ruth White is the two-time defending New England champion who plans to continue her career at Division I Boise State in Idaho. In August, she won the Maine women’s division of the Beach to Beacon 10K.

She is not without competition, however. Teanne Ewings, a junior from Greater Houlton Christian Academy, clocked a 17:15 at the Festival of Champions last month, faster than White’s course record from last fall. Of course, White won this year’s race in 16:56, lowering her own mark.


Maine Coast Waldorf sophomore Soren Stark-Chessa won the South regional convincingly but will be challenged to hang with White and Ewings.

Orono is poised for a sixth consecutive state title. The Houlton/GHCA squad came within six points at regionals, so Saturday could be interesting. Should either team stumble, South champ Waynflete could take advantage.

For boys, defending state champ George Stevens finished third in the North behind Sumner and Orono. Winthrop, from the South, is also in the mix.

Three seniors are vying for individual honors: Kaleb Colson and Ren Salisbury of Sumner and Chris Pottle of Winthrop. Defending champ Will Hileman, a senior from Bucksport, was third at regionals.

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