The big cross country race season begins on Saturday, with one of the biggest. The annual Festival of Champions will take place in Belfast, and this year, the event has 1,692 runners registered to compete.

Seventy Maine teams are confirmed for the Festival of Champions, along with five teams from out of state: Burrillville, R.I., Cumberland, R.I., Harwood Union of Duxbury, Vt., Colonel Gray High School from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and Dr. J.H. Gillis High School from Antigonish, Novia Scotia.

In the boys race, Mt. Blue has two runners seeded in the top five. Aaron Willingham, a junior, is seeded third at 15 minutes, 49 seconds, while senior Josh Horne is fifth (16:18). Waterville’s Chris Cote is seeded eighth (16:30) and Logan Moses of Messalonskee is ninth at 16:35.7.

Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar is the top boys seed at 15:21, while Ellsworth’s Dan Curtis is second at 15:43.

Kents Hill sophomore Anne McKee is the top seed in the girls race, with a time of 19:12.50, and is seeded three seconds ahead of Kiera Murray of Cheverus. Erica Jensen, a Waterville sophomore, is seeded 20th, one spot ahead of Maranacook’s Hannah Despres, although they share a time of 20:30.0.

Cony’s Anne Guadalupi is the top seed in the freshman girls section, with a time of 19:25.34.

Waterville’s Cecilia Morin is seeded fourth (21:00.0) in the freshman girls race, while Isabel Charland of Kents Hills is fifth (21:20.30). Mt. Blue’s Maggie Hickey is seeded eighth (21:30.0).

Messalonskee’s Owen Concaugh is seeded second in the freshman boys race with a time of 17:51.90, just behind Ben Breton of Windham (17:50.50).

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Hall-Dale coach Chris Poulin was pleased with his boys effort in the Mountain Valley Conference meet at the University of Maine at Augusta on Wednesday. The Bulldogs placed fourth out of 10 scoring teams. James McAuliffe placed fifth with a time of 18:19.63, while Chris Pomerleau was sixth (18:26.27).

“I’m happy with that. It was our best effort of the season so far,” Poulin said. “They still have some improvement to do. They’re still learning how to pace themselves.

It was the first race of the season for Pomerleau, who has battled some nagging injuries this fall, Poulin said.

“We’re hoping he’s going to stay healthy the rest of the season. He’s working hard. We’re hoping he has a big second half of the season,” Poulin said.

Thomas Plourde placed 24th for the Bulldogs at Wednesday’s meet, while freshman Jonathan Whitcomb was 39th.

“(Whitcomb) is doing well. He’s having a good freshman year,” Poulin said.

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When the season started, the Madison girls had just three runners, not enough to score as a team at meets. Then Emily McKenney and Alex Jarvais joined the team, the biggest reason being to give the Bulldogs enough runners to score.

Jarvais is rehabbing from ACL surgery eight months ago, coach Rob Saucier said.

“I think it’s incredible that they came out just so we’d have enough to score,” Saucier said. “(Jarvais) is working out with us and doing her best.”

With three strong runners — Olivia Demchak, Bronte Elias, and Aly LeBlanc — at the top, the

Bulldogs are having a strong season. Madison placed fourth at Wednesday’s MVC meet in Augusta.

Demchak placed fourth (22:24.36), while Elias was 11th (23:07.16) and LeBlanc 12th (23:08.41).

This is Demchak’s first season running competitively.

“She started running as a hobby this summer, and we convinced her to join the team,” Saucier said.

A first-year coach, Saucier has the Bulldogs working at weight training and plyometrics, and they’ve embraced the new workouts. The team is looking forward to running in the Festival of Champions on Saturday, he said.

“They’re real excited about it. They want to see where they stand,” Saucier said. “I see them only getting better.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
[email protected]