BELFAST — Mt. Blue senior Aaron Willingham ran scared Saturday.

It turned out to be a winning strategy.

In the closest finish of the six cross country state championship races at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, Willingham held off a spirited challenge from Falmouth senior Bryce Murdick to win the Class A boys race by half a second in 16 minutes, 0.62 seconds.

“I had the lead up until 600 (meters) to go,” Willingham said of the 5-kilometer race. “Then Bryce Murdick came and got me and I was like, ‘No, I don’t want this to happen.’ I got him at the end, but he really scared me.”

Murdick was second in 16:01.12 with Western Maine champion Iid Sheikh-Yusuf of Deering third in 16:01.73. It was the third of six races Saturday, and ended just before rain began falling steadily on a raw day with temperatures in the low 40s.

“It was really good conditions except for there were some places it was really slippery,” Willingham said. “I feel sorry for the people in Class B.”‘


Scarborough in Class A, Freeport in Class B and Merriconeag in Class C won boys team titles. Scarborough in Class A, Greely in Class B and Orono in Class C won girls team titles.

Willingham wound up with the fastest time of the day, regardless of class. Cape Elizabeth senior Mitchell Morris won the Class B race in 16:13 and Fort Kent senior Matthew Toussaint took the Class C crown in 16:28. Waterville’s Chris Cote was sixth in Class B with a time of 16:43.38.

Mountain Valley Conference champion Ben Allen, of Winthrop, finished third in the Class C race with a time of 16:56.98.

Individuals with the 25 fastest times, regardless of class, qualified for next weekend’s New England Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn.

Westbrook senior Halee Phelps in Class A, Greely sophomore Katherine Leggat-Barr in Class B and Orono sophomore Hannah Steelman in Class C won girls individual titles. Cony’s Anne Guadalupi finished third in Class A with a time of 19:18.90. Lauren Brown, of Waterville, was fifth in Class B with a time of 19:47.24. Hannah Despres of Maranacook was seventh in Class B (19:58.26).

Phelps, who had placed fifth in Western Maine last weekend, turned in the fastest time of the day, 19:10.


Six teams also qualified to run at New Englands. For boys, they are Scarborough, Falmouth, Massabesic, Freeport, Windham and Merriconeag. For girls, the teams are Orono, Yarmouth, Greely, Scarborough, Massabesic and Cape Elizabeth.

In the Class A boys race, Willingham led a pack of four that included Murdick, Sheikh-Yusuf and Scarborough senior Jacob Terry for much of the race. All four finished within five seconds of each other, and 17 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

Not that Willingham noticed.

“I’m not sure,” he said of the other competition. “I didn’t want to look back, I was so scared.”

Earlier in the day, when the course was still fairly dry, the Orono girls dominated the Class C meet and Scarborough surprised regional champion Massabesic 92-96 in Class A.

“I had a really good race last week,” Phelps said. “I expected to get Top 10 (Saturday), but not first, at all. I just did not expect to win.”


With half a mile remaining, however, Phelps found herself jockeying with Doyle for the lead and threw caution to the brisk wind that kept temperatures in the low 40s.

“Something just hit me,” she said. “I just felt so good.”

Scarborough, runner-up in Western Maine by 11 points a week ago, rode a wave of momentum built up by its Class A boys victory minutes earlier as well as news that the Red Storm field hockey team had won a state title earlier in the day.

“That was really encouraging,” said freshman Samantha Saraceno, who placed 18th as Scarborough’s fourth runner to beat every other school’s No. 3 finisher, “knowing they did it so we really could.”

Junior Morgan McKeown (46th) finished off the scoring for Scarborough, which earned its first state title since 2008.

Orono, the two-time Class C state champion, wound up on top of every school when all three meets were scored as one. Sophomore runner-up Kassidy Dill, junior Olivia Fandel, freshman Liza Gallandt and senior Lily Koffman all finished among the top 11 runners.


Waynflete, led by the 5-6 finish of sophomore Ellie Chidsey and senior Phoebe Colvin-Oehmig, finished second in Class C.

The top six teams — Yarmouth, Massabesic and Cape Elizabeth joined the three Class champions — advanced to the New England Championships next Saturday in Manchester, Connecticut along with the top 25 individuals, regardless of class. Every girl who finished faster than 20:08 qualified.

MDI, the three-time defending Class B state champion, wound up fourth Saturday behind three Western Maine Conference schools: Greely, Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth.

“We trained hard through regionals,” said Dowling of Greely, which finished six points behind Yarmouth a week ago, “then rested them this week with lower mileage and higher intensity. They were a little stale last week and so we took the staleness out of their legs.”

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