Soccer is not only king in Richmond but prince, duke and count. With an enrollment of 150 students, many of whom play soccer, there’s rarely room for another fall sport.

This year, the Bobcats are fielding a full boys cross country team for the first time in several years. There’s also a possibility of a full girls team of five runners before the season is done.

Jeff Orth, who has coached the sport on and off at the middle school and high school level for eight years, returned three years ago after a couple of years off.

“When I came back it was a struggle to build it back up again,” he said. “I worked out a deal with the basketball coach (John Spear). He wants the team to be more athletic. He said ‘if you want to be a starter, you have to be in shape when you come to camp.’ “

Sophomore Travis Robbins is the team’s top runner. He finished 11th in a seven-team meet at Medomak Valley last week.

“This is his fifth year running,” Orth said. “He dropped almost a minute off his time from (the previous) Wednesday. He started late and didn’t do much persuasion training.”

Sophomores Alex Parson and Jason Patterson and seniors Julian Leavitt and Aaron Miller round out the current competing five runners. The Bobcats will also pick up soccer-first runner Cameron Emmons for a meet or two and he is listed on the Maine Principals’ Association roster, making him eligible for the Class C state meet.

Charity Winokurzew, Maggie Robbins and Brittany Davidson are competing for the girls team. Elsie Winokurzew is on the roster but currently injured while senior Sydney Choate, a member of the soccer team is also on the roster. The Bobcats will compete in a meet this Friday at Lincoln Academy. Orth, a teacher at the school, is always trying to recruit new runners.

“I try to talk it up with people who aren’t doing a sport,” he said.

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The Hall-Dale boys have one of their stronger teams in the past few seasons and could compete for a Mountain Valley Conference championship this fall. They’ll get a good indication when all the MVC teams converge on the University of Maine at Augusta course Thursday.

“I think we have a chance of winning it, but so do two or three other teams,” coach Chris Poulin said. “In my four years of coaching this is our best chance of winning the MVCs.”

The Bulldogs won a meet by five points last week that included Boothbay and Monmouth, two of the top contenders in the conference. Hall-Dale junior James McAuliffe finished second while teammate Matt Plourde took third. Both runners have been pleasant surprises. McAuliffe, who takes a couple of classes at Hall-Dale and is partially home schooled, has never run cross country before.

“The kids had told me he planned to join (the team) and he was pretty good,” Poulin said. “He just has one of those classic long-distance runner’s builds.”

Josh Ringer, last year’s top runner at Hall-Dale, didn’t plan to run this fall but has recently rejoined the team while senior Harry Cheung, another of the team’s top performers, is off to a slow start but expected to run well. Fifth runner Chris Pomerleau has made big gains, Poulin said.

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The 2012 Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions will be held Sept. 29 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. This year’s field is the largest ever with 68 confirmed schools from Maine entered and another six from out of state.

“That will be a good mid-season checkpoint to see where everybody is,” Waterville coach Rob Stanton said.

Last year’s individual champions, Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk and Matt McClintock of Madison have moved on to Division I collegiate careers, Leonardi at the University of Oregon and McClintock to Purdue.

• • •

The Erskine boys team is off to a promising start, thanks to a couple of returning veterans and two newcomers. Erskine edged Lincoln by two points in a seven-team meet at Medomak Valley last week. Junior Erik Dodge and Ethan Bronson finished third and fourth for the Eagles.

“Dodge and Bronson will both go to the states, no doubt,” Erskine coach Scott Minzy said.

Sophomore Camrin Portela placed 17th for the Eagles in a vast improvement of his times and finishes last season.

“He grew a foot,” Minzy said. “His times weren’t that good last year.”

The two wild cards on the team are identical senior twins Robert and Stephen Soohey, who are running cross country for the first time. Both are members of the wrestling team.

“I’ve been riding them (to run) for the last two years,” Minzy said. “Last year the captain of the wrestling team ran cross country and came into wrestling in real good shape. I think that says a lot.”

Robert finished 12th in the meet at Medomak while Stephen placed 18th.

“It was Stephen that won it for us,” Minzy said. “He passed a Lincoln Academy kid who had beaten all year. He had a great race.”

Qualifying for the state meet as a team will be a daunting task since they bounced up to Class A last year despite a small enrollment.

“It’s tough to compete against schools that have twice our enrollment,” Minzy said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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