A week after beating the top boys high school cross country runners in Maine, Josh Horne is ready to take on the top runners in New England.
Horne, a senior at Mt. Blue, will run in the 79th New England High School Interscholastic Cross Country Championship on Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H. Horne is competing at New Englands for the second straight season.
“I’m pretty excited,” Horne said. “I went to New Englands last season, but I didn’t do so well. It’s definitely cool that I get to run against guys that I don’t usually run against. There’s a lot of good people in Class B and C that I never get to see ever.”
Horne won the Class A title at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Championships at Cony High School in Augusta on Oct. 18 with a time of 17:05.2. Last week, Horne easily pulled away from the pack to win the individual Class A title at the Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland. Horne finished the 3.1 mile course in 16:43.79, which was 18 seconds faster than runner-up Isaiah Harris. Horne also won the Eastern A regional title.
Horne, according to head coach Kelley Cullenberg is the first male runner in Mt. Blue history to win the KVAC, regional and state title in the same season.
“He has just done everything to the T this year,” Mt. Blue coach Cullenberg said. “He’s really been on top of his mileage. He’s been on top of how his body feels, cutting back when he needs to cut back. Right from the beginning, he knew what his goals were going to be and just did everything imaginable to make sure that if he didn’t do his goal it wasn’t because he didn’t try.”
Horne credits his improvement on his mental approach.
“It’s all mental, really,” Horne said. “To stay motivated to get to the next level. I have done more miles than I’ve done in the past. I’m in the 70s (miles per week) this year, which helps a lot.”
Horne is far from the only Maine runner participating. In fact, a total of 101 Maine runners (52 male, 49 female) will run in Manchester. Joining Horne is teammate Dan Lesko, who finished 11th last week at the state meet.
The trio of Horne, Lesko and Aaron Willingham, who is unable to run due to a stress fracture, pushing each other during practices throughout the season has been a reason that Horne has been so successful.
“It’s really awesome to always have those training partners there,” Horne said. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without Aaron and Dan there. In practices, we’re always training together, we’re always right with each other. None of us are ever ahead, we’re just always in a pack. If you’re not feeling well that day, that really helps you when you have those people to run with.”
“They’re all perfectionists,” Cullenberg said of the trio. “Which we have to work with. I think the hardest piece is to remind them on easy days, you can’t be competitive. You have to take those easy days easy. I know I’ve had to have conversations with them sometimes during the season when they’re taking their easy run and how they ended their last mile at whatever pace and I tell them âNo you guys, that’s not what an easy run is.’ But as you get faster, your easy run is all relative. They got to the point to where they could go sub-seven (minutes) on their easy run even though I tried to tone it down.”
Cullenberg said Horne and Lesko will work on strategy today as they walk around the course.
“They filled out planning sheets (Wednesday), we’ve talked a little bit about it,” Cullenberg said. “But I think the big plan is going to come when we get them on the course (today), so they can see how they can implement the strategy. You can look at the map, but there’s only so much you can tell from that.”
One piece of strategy Horne has planned is to work with some of his fellow top runners from Maine during the race.
“I know I’m going to work with other Maine guys,” Horne said. “I know Liam Simpson (of Cape Elizabeth) runs around the same times as I do, I’m hoping to run with him.”
Two other area runners, Messalonskee’s Logan Moses and Waterville’s Chris Cote, will also run Saturday. Six Maine teams — Bangor, Boothbay, Cape Elizabeth, Ellsworth, Lewiston and Scarborough — will each send seven runners to the meet.
“We really have a lot of great runners in Maine right now,” Horne said. “I know Lewiston and Cape Elizabeth will both do really well.”
Anne Guadalupi of Cony will be the lone central Maine runner in the girls race. Guadalupi, a freshman, finished 10th at the state meet with a time of 20:15.42, about 45 seconds off from winner Kialiegh Marston of Bonny Eagle. Guadalupi almost won the KVAC A title back on Oct. 19, but breathing problems forced her to fall back down the stretch. Guadalupi was passed by Teresa Murphy of Brunswick, who went on to win the race. Five Maine teams — Bonny Eagle, Falmouth, Freeport, Massabesic and Mt. Desert Island — will send teams of seven.
Dave Dyer — 621-5639
Follow Dave Dyer on Twitter @Dave_Dyer