CUMBERLAND — Silas Eastman had hoped for at least a third-place finish in the New England High School Boys Cross Country Championship Saturday at Twin Brooks Recreation Area.
But Eastman was in fifth when he turned onto the last, long straightaway.
And he slipped in the mud, like several other runners had already done.
“I didn’t think I was going to catch anyone then,” Eastman said. “I was sure someone was going to pass me, but no one did.”
Instead, Eastman, the Fryeburg Academy senior, picked himself up and found a faster gear. Eastman sprinted home, lunged toward the finish line and finished third, covering the 5K course in 16:26.09.
Jake Feinstein of Newtown, Conn. was 0.05 behind in fourth place.
Eastman’s performance was the highlight of Maine’s competitors Saturday.
In the girls race, Waterville’s Bethanie Brown was Maine’s top finisher, in seventh place, in 19:18.60. Brown was in the lead pack, but faded at the end.
Both the boys and girls races featured 30 full teams — six from every New England state, except Massachusetts, which is still conducting its own high school season.
Bonny Eagle had the highest finish of any Maine team, placing 15th among the girls. The Cape Elizabeth paced the Maine boys with a 22nd place.
In the boys race, Bishop Hendricken High of Rhode Island won with 85 points, over state rival LaSalle (127). Henry Wynn of Staples High in Connecticut won in 16:12.86, just ahead of Trevor Crawley of Cumberland (R.I.) HIgh (16:14.21).
In the girls race, Barrington (R.I.) won easily with 75 points, Coe-Brown of New Hampshires finished second with 132 points.
Elle Purrier of Richford High in Vermont defended her individual championship, winning in a time of 18:42.44, 21 seconds ahead of runner-up Taylor Spillane of Champlain Valley Union of Vermont.
Both races featured 265 runners. Early in the boys race, Eastman was in a pack behind the leaders.
“I was dying,” Eastman said. “I held onto fifth, until coming down the finish. I heard people behind me and I was trying to hold them off. I didn’t think I was going to.”
Then came the slip in the mud, the recovery, and the sprint home.
“I went in thinking top-three,” Eastman said. “I feel really, really good about how I did, considering how I was at the beginning of the race.”
Besides Eastman, three other boys from Maine placed in the top 25 — Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar (fifth, 16:29.75); Jack Pierce of Merriconeag (12th, 16:43.54); and Dan Curtis of Ellsworth (17th, 16:49.88).
In the girls race, Greely’s Kirstin Sandreuter was the second-fastest Mainer, finishing 12th (19:40.78). Brittany Bowman of Camden Hills finished 24th (19:58.11).
Bonny Eagle was paced by Mary Szatkowski and Samantha Cox, who finished 35th and 36th. The Scots totaled 407 points.
“We ran well,” Scots coach Chris Strout said. “This is a bonus meet for us. We’ve never been here before and it was awesome.”
The other Maine girls teams were Massabesic (18th), Camden Hills (22nd), Cheverus (25th), Mount Desert Island (26th) and Washburn (30th).
Cape Elizabeth’s boys was paced by junior Liam Simpson, who finished 33rd in 17:06.18. The Capers finished with 507 points.
“Liam ran out of his mind and that was huge for us,” Cape Elizabeth coach Derek Veilleux said. “We set a goal to be the top Maine team and it came out that way.
“With this group all coming back, I’m looking forward to next year.”
After Cape, the other Maine boys teams were Lewiston (24th), Massabesic (25th), Falmouth (26th), Scarborough (27th) and Hall-Dale (30th).