AUGUSTA — Mt. Blue senior Josh Horne has geared much of his training this summer toward Friday’s Scot Laliberte Invitational cross country race.

“I’ve been preparing so much for this race,” said Horne, who put in 50-mile weeks for the past five weeks.

The hard work paid off as Horne completed the hilly 2.4 mile course in 13 minutes, 21.95 seconds, beating teammate and runner-up Aaron Willingham by eight seconds.

“He’s new from Texas,” Horne said of Willingham. “It’s great to have him pushing me.”

The race, named in honor of a former Cony High School runner killed in a car accident in 2000, attracted 22 schools and nearly 400 runners. Boys and girls raced together and team scores were combined. Brunswick was the overall winner followed by Mt. Ararat, Maranacook, South Portland and Mt. Blue.

South Portland senior Shannon Conley won the girls race in 16:12:02, while Kents Hill sophomore Anne McKee finished second in 16:25.04.

“I went out faster than I expected myself to,” said Conley, who finished fifth in last year’s Class A state meet while competing for Cheverus. “But I kept a good pace the whole time.”

The race was shortened to 2.4 miles from the usual 3.1 because it’s early in the season and many runners weren’t prepared for the longer distance or Friday’s 80 degree temperature. Many of the first-year runners compete in a junior varsity race, shortened to 2.3 miles and run over a flatter course.

“It went off without a hitch,” Cony coach Shawn Totman said. “Everybody who contributed to make it run smoothly couldn’t have done a better job. And the best thing is, a lot of these kids are leaving with big smiles on their faces.”

Race director Tom Wells, who coached Laliberte at Cony, oversaw the event for the 14th straight year. He praised the sport prior to the race, emphasizing its sportsmanship and the dedication it takes to excel. Trudy Ellis, Laliberte’s mother, spoke prior to the awards ceremony and told the participants how much cross country meant to her son and how it affected his life.

Messalonskee senior Logan Moses finished third followed by Winthrop junior Ben Allen and Maranacook senior Jason Stevenson. The race was a good one for Maranacook runners who placed for boys among the top 32.

“I was pleased,” Maranacook coach Roselea Kimball said. “This is a good race for us because we usually have a pretty strong boys team and girls team. “I think both our teams are going to have a strong season, partly because we some really good depth.”

Messalonskee finished sixth followed by Monmouth Academy. McKee ran a solid race but was unaware of Conley because she ran for Cheverus last fall.

“I wasn’t sure who she was,” McKee said. “So it kind of took me by surprise.”

Mt. Ararat’s Eagan Ellis edged teammate Chris Cooper in the junior varsity race, finished in 15:42.26. Maranacook freshman Lexi Harriman won the girls JV race in 17:47.46, 10 seconds ahead of South Portland’s Serena McKenzie.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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