Experienced Maine high school cross country runners and their coaches don’t need to be told what to expect once the postseason arrives.

The vast majority of those heading to Cumberland for the Western Maine championships and Belfast for the Eastern Maine championships on Saturday already know that they’re going to encounter a muddy course. They also know that with six races covering three classes and hundreds of runners at each venue, conditions will quickly deteriorate.

Unless they haven’t been paying attention to history, they shouldn’t be surprised, or worried, beyond some variables in the scheduling.

“The only reason for any concern is we run last, and the course will get progressively messier,” said Maranacook coach Rosalea Kimball, whose Black Bears will be taking part of the Western Maine meet’s grand finale, the Class B races. “Otherwise, everyone is dealing with the same conditions.”

If all other things besides the conditions are equal, Kimball expects Maranacook’s boys and girls teams to qualify for next week’s state championship meet in Belfast. One-half of the teams in each class who compete in regionals advance to states. The top 30 runners in each class from each region also earn a trip to Belfast.

The Western Maine championships at Twin Brook begin at 10 a.m. with Class C, followed by Class A at noon and Class B at 2:30 p.m.

The Eastern Maine championships at Troy Howard Middle School start at 11 a.m., followed by Class A at 12:10 p.m. and Class B at 1:20 p.m.

The boys race will be first in each class, with the girls race scheduled to start 35 minutes later.

The Maranacook boys hope to follow up their Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship with a regional title. They will likely have to overcome Western Maine Conference representatives Fryeburg, York and Greely.

Kimball said going against Western Maine schools is a challenge for the Black Bears, who typically face Eastern Maine competition during the regular season.

“It’s different for us going against the West. It varies from year to year, but this year, it looks like the West is the tougher competition,” she said. “Basically, we just want to make it to states, because at states, we should be in pretty good shape.”

WMC girls champion Cape Elizabeth is the favorite for the title. The list of contenders for the individual championship includes Hannah Despres of Maranacook, who captured the KVAC championship last week, .

In Class C, Mountain Valley Conference champions Ben Allen of Winthrop and Emma Wilson of Hall-Dale are eyeing their first regional boys and girls titles, respectively. Allen was the runner-up at last year’s regionals, while Wilson finished fourth.

Merriconeag Waldorf of New Gloucester will try to unseat defending regional and MVC champion Boothbay for the boys team title. The Monmouth girls, fresh off winning their MVC team title last week, will have to contend with St. Dominic for the regional crown.

Anyone planning to attend the Western Maine championships will not be allowed to park on-site at Twin Brook. There will be a shuttle service departing from Greely High School available for spectators.

The Eastern Maine championships are held at the same site as the Festival of Champions, which many of the runners competed in three weeks ago.

Among those returning to Belfast will be the Messalonskee boys, who are coming off a solid third place at last week’s KVAC championships. Coach Sara Rushton hopes to keep her team in contention with KVAC champion Hampden and runner-up Mt. Blue by putting her runners through some speed work in practice while also tapering in preparation for the meet.

“We’ve been focused on being ready for regionals and states. We tapered for KVACs so as not to have to peak three weeks in a row,” Rushton said. “We’ve been doing some speed work because Belfast is a relatively flat course and we want to take advantage of that.”

Rushton expects her top two runners, sophomores Owen Concaugh and Zach Hoyle, to once again turn in top-12 times. The key will be getting the next three, Carson Bessey, Natale Cardillo and Anthony Amalfitano, to move up as a pack.

“I believe we’re going to be in contention,” Rushton said.

KVAC champion Aaron Willingham and runner-up Dan Lesko, both from Mt. Blue, are the favorites for the boys individual championship. Cony’s Anne Guadalupi is the defending girls champion and won the KVAC title on her home course last Saturday by holding off Hampden’s Elizabeth Labun and Brunswick’s Tessa Cassidy.

Waterville’s Chris Cote and Lauren Brown, who finished second in the KVAC Class B boys and girls race, respectively, will be seeking Eastern B individual titles.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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