CUMBERLAND — Horse races and 100-meter dashes often come down to the wire, but 5-kilometer cross country events?

That’s what happened during Saturday’s Class A state championship race as Messalonskee’s Harlow Ladd and Scarborough’s Nick Morris sprinted to the finish line. The two seniors lunged at the line, neither sure who had won.

“I have some people telling me I did win, but we’ll find out at the awards ceremony,” Morris said five minutes after the race.

By the time the awards ceremony rolled around, both runners learned that Morris won by two hundredths of a second in the closest finish in the history of the event. Ladd held a 10-yard lead with about 80 yards to go but Morris, the defending Class A champion, put on one of his patented finishing kicks.

“He’s known to be the best kicker in the state of Maine,” Ladd said.

Morris was timed in 16 minutes, 46.81 seconds while Ladd finished in 16:46.83. Ladd thought his leg crossed the line before Morris did, but the winner was determined by a chest lean and a finish-line photo confirmed Morris had won.

“I looked back and thought I had it,” Ladd said. “I know I’m going to regret this for the rest of my life, I slowed up at the very end, the last two steps. I looked over at the finish line and he was right there. I was like ‘Oh man, that was close.’ “

Madison senior Matt McClintock won his third straight Class C championship and posted the fastest time of the day, 15:52.97. Class B champion Silas Eastman ran a second-best 16:14.15.

“That was the major goal,” McClintock said of his time. “I wanted to go sub-16.”

McClintock had also set his sights on the Maine high school record on the Twin Brook course of 15:40 set by Brunswick’s Will Geoghean, but the course was a little muddy, particularly at the start,

“It slowed stuff down,” McClintock said of the mud. “You’re using a lot more energy to run at the same pace . . . especially off the start up this hill. You’re sinking in and sliding around.”

Lawrence senior Erzsebet Nagy finished second in the Class A girls race to four-time winner Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk. In the Class B girls race, Camden Hills sophomore Brittany Bowman won her first race of the season, surprising runner-up Bethanie Brown of Waterville and third-place finisher Abby Mace of Maranacook.

Team titles in Class A went to the Scarborough boys and Cheverus girls. The Falmouth boys and Mount Desert Island girls won in Class B while the North Yarmouth boys and Merriconeag girls won Class C titles. Team winners in each class plus the next three best teams overall qualify for the New England championships in two weeks. Qualifying individually are the winners in each class plus the next 22 best overall times.

Nagy, who said she never even saw Leonardi during her race, had her hands full with Emily Durgin of Cheverus.

“There was a whole pack of Cheverus girls and I was trying to stay with them in the beginning,” said Nagy, who won the Eastern regional last week. “I was really happy.”

Brown, who like Nagy is a junior running her first season of cross country, led most of the race before Bowman caught her near the end of the race.

“I was glad to have her push me,” said Brown, who finished 17 seconds behind Bowman. “It helped me speed up.”

Leonardi won the New England race her freshman year but hasn’t competed since. She expects to take a little time off to prepare for regional and national events.

The Winthrop boys, who placed fifth in Class C, were led by senior Kameron Souza who finished sixth in his class and 17th overall to qualify for the New England meet. Souza knocked 21 seconds off his time of a week ago on the same course.

“Our team did pretty good,” Souza said. “Everyone on our team PR’d.”

Mt. Blue’s Justin Tracy finished ninth in Class A and 25th overall while Madison freshman Bronte Elias placed sixth in the Class C race.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com