The Mt. Blue High School boys cross country team entered the season with high expectations. Just two races into the season, coach Kelley Cullenberg is thrilled with her team’s progress.

“They’re doing better than I anticipated,” Cullenberg said. “I’m excited. The boys are excited.”

The Cougars ran in a meet at Lawrence High School on Friday and finished one, two, three. Josh Horne took first, with Aaron Willingham second and Dan Lesko third. Horne and Willingham are about even, and have flip-flopped wins this season. Horne won the preseason Laliberte Invitational at Cony High School in Augusta, and Willingham won the Cougars’ season-opening home meet.

Lesko continues to improve, Cullenberg said, and it may be just a matter of time before he has a breakout race.

“Dan really just needs to realize he can take that next step,” Cullenberg said. “He works so hard in practice. It’s going to be really fun to watch him close the gap.”

Upcoming races will give the Cougars opportunities to see some of the other top teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Eastern Maine. Friday’s meet at Leavitt will include Lewiston and Edward Little. When Mt. Blue runs at Brunswick on Sept. 26, it will run against Bangor.

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The Waterville home meet that was rained out last Friday will likely not be rescheduled, Waterville coach Rob Stanton said. There just aren’t any open dates to make it work.

“It’s unfortunate, mostly because it’s our one home meet,” Stanton said. “Certainly, now is the time to miss one if you’re going to miss one.”

The Purple Panthers graduated six seniors from last season’s team, but some younger runners stepped up in Waterville’s season opening meet at Bangor. Sophomore Erica Jenson placed second in the meet, while freshman Cecilia Morin was fourth. The meet was a chance to shake off some rust, after running just a 2-mile preseason race at Medomak Valley, Stanton said.

“I saw both of them take a big step forward in just a week, especially from a mental level, a competitive level,” Stanton said.

The Panthers race at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield on Friday, then run at Cony on Sept. 27. The Cony race will be a progress report, Stanton said.

“It’s a good indicator of where we are in midseason,” Stanton said. “We see some of the more competitive schools at that one.”

The Cony race also is a chance to race on the KVAC championship course, and to run in a very competitive event the week before the Festival of Champions in Belfast, a race that regularly features the top cross country runners in Eastern Maine, if not the state.

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With the Waterville meet rained out on Friday, Messalonskee ran its normal mileage, including a 5K tempo run.

“We kind of got a meet in with ourselves,” coach Sara Rushton said.

The Messalonskee girls are coming off an impressive effort  in the season-opening meet. Led by seniors Olivia Poulin, Allie Fischang and Holly Wentworth, the Eagles earned a two point win over the host Cougars.

“I think we’re going to progress well,” Rushton said.

On the boys side, Messalonskee is deep. Rushton said she has 11 boys who can run under 22 minutes, depending on the course and conditions. Senior Logan Moses, who placed third at Mt. Blue, leads the team, along with senior Emmitt Heath and freshman Owen Concaugh.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
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