Coach Chris Poulin hopes his Hall-Dale boys cross country team has saved its best race of the season for Saturday’s state championship meet at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. The Bulldogs will probably need it to win their first Class C state title since 1988.

The course is a good fit for his team, Poulin said.

“They all ran personal records there four weeks ago at the Festival (of Champions),” he said. “They haven’t repeated that since then. I think they’re excited about running on it again.”

Hall-Dale won the Mountain Valley Conference meet two weeks ago in Augusta as well as last week’s Western C regional meet in Cumberland, but both races were fairly close. At the Festival, the Bulldogs were better than all the other Class C teams.

“I don’t think they’ve had their best races the last couple of weeks,” Poulin said. “I talked about approaching this meet with a different strategy. It’s different for each runner.”

Poulin expects strong competition from last week’s Eastern Maine winner Orono and runner-up Bangor Christian. Waynflete and Boothbay, from the West, will also contend. In last week’s regional, Orono placed all five of its scoring runners among the top 13 finishers.

“I think this race could be very, very close,” Poulin said. “I’m telling them all to run their hardest and not give up until they cross the finish line.”

Boys and girls team championships will be decided in three classes with the three state champions and the next three highest scoring teams advancing to the New England championships on Nov. 10 at Twin Brook Recreation in Cumberland. Individual state champs in each class plus the next fastest 22 finishers also qualify for the New England meet.

The Maranacook boys and girls teams have qualified in Class B while the Winthrop boys and the Monmouth boys and girls are among the Class C qualifiers. Individuals on those teams with a shot at qualifying for the New England meet include Winthrop’s Mark Hachey and Ben Allen along with Hall-Dale’s Josh Ringer. Messalonskee’s Olivia Poulin and Cony’s Courtney King finished ninth and 10th, respectively, in last week’s Eastern A meet and also have a chance at finishing among the top 25..

Waterville’s Bethanie Brown, in Class B, and Lawrence’s Erzsebet Nagy, in Class A, each won at the Eastern regionals last week and are favored to win Saturday. It’s been a year since Brown finished second at the Class B state meet. Since then, the Waterville senior has pulled away from the pack, bettering her 5K times of last year by more than a minute this fall.

Brown has not only set her sights set on an individual state title this Saturday but on a course record. A lot of that will depend on course conditions. Brown won last week’s Eastern B race by more than a minute on a course that had been saturated by rain most of the preceding week and quickly turned to ankle-deep mud. A week of sun and wind should make course conditions much better Saturday.

“If the conditions are good I’ll probably be looking (to break) the course record,” Brown said.

The girls course record is 17 minutes, 48 seconds, set by Old Town’s Cassie Hintz in 2004. Brown set a meet record of 17:56.69 on the course earlier this season at the Festival of Champions, finishing more than a minute ahead of her time in the same event last year.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” she said. “I feel pretty good where I am this year.”

Nagy will be the individual favorite in the Class A girls race. Like Brown, Nagy finished second a year ago. Her training has been slowed by a hip injury this fall but she did place third at the Festival of Champions in 18:33. She won last week’s Eastern A title in 20:10.33, saying afterward that she went out too quickly.

“I’m going to go out more conservatively,” Nagy said. “I just want to have a good race and I want to feel strong in the race, that’s my main goal.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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