Before the start of the high school cross country season, Josh Horne set a couple of goals. One, he wanted to win the big championship meets at the end of the season. Two, he wanted to break the 16 minute barrier.

Horne, a Mt. Blue High School senior, accomplished both. He swept the championship meets, winning the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, Eastern Maine Class A, and Class A state championship meets. Before that, Horne broke the 16 minute mark at the Festival of Champions in Belfast.

For his successful season, Josh Horne is the Morning Sentinel Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

“We’ve never had a male cross country runner ever win all three (championship races),” Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg said, “and we’ve had some really awesome runners. There was always somebody else in the state who took a spot.”

In the big three races, Horne held off all challengers, and it began with an increased workload in the offseason. Horne and his workout partner, teammate Aaron Willingham, would sometimes run more than 70 miles a week training.

Horne was slowed by shin injuries throughout last year’s indoor and outdoor track season, and that led Cullenberg to cautiously approve his intense offseason workout plan. Aside from injury concerns, Cullenberg didn’t want Horne to burn out.

“I needed to be in communication with (Horne) about he was feeling. I don’t let just anybody do that,” Cullenberg said. “They have to give me feedback every week on how they’re feeling. Rarely did I have to ask. He would volunteer it.”

Added Horne: “I got up into the 70’s a few weeks. It helps to have a good workout partner (Willingham). He definitely pushed me.”

Horne’s injury history led Cullenberg to eye his goals cautiously.

“I never want to squelch another’s desires. Who am I to say? But I want them to be realistic,” Cullenberg said.

Horne’s success at the Festival of Champions meet in Belfast in early October set the tone for his victories at the end of the season. The race features the top runners in the state, along with some from other New England states and Canada. Horne placed third with a time of 15:54.21.

“I just felt like I was in total control. I went out with the leaders, and I just knew I could stay with them,” Horne said.

Two weeks later, Horne won the KVAC A title with a time of 17:05.4, nearly two seconds ahead of Hampden’s Caleb Lord. On Oct. 26, Horne won the Eastern A meet in Belfast in 16:12.94, seven seconds ahead of Bangor’s Jonathan Stanhope.

The state meet in Cumberland was Horne’s most dominant race of the three. There, he won with a time of 16:43.79, well ahead of second place Isaiah Harris of Lewiston (17:01.27).

Horne called the Cumberland course “the hilliest I’ve ever ran in the state,” and still, he attacked it, taking the first mile at nearly a five minute pace. Near the end of the course, there’s a climb Horne said is known as Killer Hill. When he crested the hill, Horne has a view of the course.

“I knew I had some sort of lead, but I hoped nobody would come up on me in the last 400 meters,” Horne, the only runner in the Class A race to break the 17 minute mark, said.

Horne placed 38th at the New England championship in Manchester, N.H., with a time of 16:14.2. Horne will run the mile and 2 mile for the Mt. Blue indoor track and field team this winter. Among the colleges he’s considering are the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242[email protected]Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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