The Kents Hill girls cross country team is still basking in the afterglow of its history-making performance last Sunday when it won the New England Prep School Track Association Division 4 championship at Hyde School in Bath.

The title is the first for Kents Hill cross country and the third for any sport in school history.

Junior Anne McKee of Hallowell led the Huskies by defending her NEPSTA individual title with a new course record (19:53), nine seconds ahead of runner-up Elizabeth Pohl from Beaver Country Day School of Brookline.

But as is often the case in cross country, the race came down to the runners jockeying for position outside of the top 10, according to second-year coach Mike Toomey.

“I knew we had the front covered with Anne, and I knew we had the depth to have the back covered,” Toomey said. “The key was going to be our third runner. We were going to need someone up as close to our No. 2 runner (Anne’s younger sister, Kate) as possible.”

That third runner turned out to be junior Leila Alfaro, who finished one spot behind Kate McKee in 15th place overall.

“I knew Leila had it in her,” Toomey said. “Leila is not your typical cross country runner, but she’s a state champion in the 300 hurdles outdoors, so she has that championship mentality.”

Izzy Charland (27th) of Fayette and Aimee Sala (28th) also factored in the scoring.

They beat runner-up Chase Collegiate School of Waterbury, Conn., by nine points and two-time defending champion Millbrook School of Millbrook, N.Y. by 32 points.

“We’d been winning a lot of regular-season meets and doing well in our conference, but it was really nice to fortify that and show that we’re not just good in our conference,” she said.

On Halloween, the Huskies had seven of the first nine runners cross the finish line and cruised to victory at the Maine Association of Independent Schools Athletic Directors (MAISAD) championships. Anne McKee picked up her third consecutive individual MAISAD title.

Defending her state and regional titles was sweet for McKee, who battled a hip injury that forced her to miss or run conservatively in a number of big mid-season meets.

“She’s just tough,” Toomey said. “There was no other outcome for her but winning that race on Sunday. You could tell right from the gun, the way she went out. She’s just so competitive and driven.”

“It was a little different this year (going into the NEPSTA meet) because last year, I had no expectations. This year, I went into it with a clear goal, which was to win,” she said. “Having a team behind me that was working so hard this year really pushed me.”

The addition of Anne’s sister, Kate, a freshman, as a solid No. 2 runner strengthened Kents Hills’ hopes of picking up some hardware this season, Toomey said. The sisters and Alfaro all qualified to compete in the NEPSTA All-Star race this weekend. After that, Anne McKee will participate in her second Foot Locker Northeast Regional in the Bronx, N.Y., on Nov. 29.

“It’s going to be great. I’d really like to qualify for Nationals. Top 25 would be a good goal, I guess,” she said. “But mainly I just want to go in there and have a good race. It’s going to be fun racing with all of those great runners.”

With virtually all of their top runners expected back next year, the Huskies could very well find themselves enjoying similar success in the future. But for now, they’re content to bask in this historic season.

“This is one of the closest teams I’ve been around in all of my years of coaching,” Toomey said. “This is definitely a season we’ll remember for a while.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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