BELFAST — After studying up a little on cross country runners from La Salle Academy (Providence, Rhode Island), a late addition to Saturday’s Festival of Champions, Waterville’s Lauren Brown wondered if she would be able to keep pace with some of the elite runners in the nation.

“I wasn’t sure I could do that,” Brown said. “They run pretty fast times in Rhode Island. I got a look at their seed times and I was, like, ‘Whoa.’

Brown and her coach had the same reaction to her new personal best time after she finished sixth overall at the state’s biggest cross country race on a blustery Saturday at Troy Howard Middle School.

The La Salle Academy girls dominated the team portion of the girls race, placing four of the top five finishers to tally 30 points, nearly 100 ahead of runner-up Orono High School (128),

In the boys race, Scarborough ended Cumberland, Rhode Island’s bid to make it three titles in four years, 120-162.

La Salle, which is ranked in the top-10 nationally, swept the top three spots in the girls race, led by winner Eliza Rego (18:05.58). Teammate Karina Tavaras finished second, 24 seconds back, followed by Grace Connolly. Orono’s Tia Tardy was the top Maine runner, finishing fourth, followed by another La Salle runner, Emily Kane.

La Salle was originally scheduled to race in a meet in North Carolina this weekend, but that was canceled mid-week due to Hurricane Joaquin. Race director Glendon Rand said he heard from school officials on Thursday asking if he could fit them into the Festival, which drew over 1,400 runners from 77 schools scattered around New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

Brown literally emerged from the weeds to keep La Salle’s lead pack in her sights for the first half of the race.

“It was a pretty chaotic start. I ended up behind this gigantic pack, so I had to run a little bit through the weeds to try to get past them just because it was so tightly-packed,” she said. “But once I got in front, I just started to try to pick off people.”

Keeping that pace, Brown shaved 47 seconds off her personal record, set on the same course last year, to finish in 19:00.65.

“It was definitely hard at the end. My legs weren’t feeling too good in the last little bit,” she said.

Other top central Maine finishers included Cony’s Anne Guadalupi (11th) and Waterville’s Cecilia Morin (20th).

“I think Cecilia might have knocked almost a minute-and-a-half off of her PR,” Waterville coach Rob Stanton said. “Her and Lauren have been improving steadily so far this season. I will say, though, they exceeded my expectations for today.”

Osman Dorrow of Lewiston won the boys race in 15:50.05, ahead of runner-up Paul Cassavant of Hampden Academy (16:04.95).

Zachariah Hoyle of Messalonskee was the top area runner, finishing 12th.

A junior, Hoyle, overcame a slight cold and getting cut off by another runner about halfway through the race to cross the finish line in 16:41.93. He and other competitors also had to deal with some strong gusts which may have affected times on what is widely considered one of the fastest courses in the state.

“There’s a straightaway that’s an incline, and being on that with the wind, it was pretty bad,” he said. “My time was a lot faster. I feel like I can go faster, especially on this course. This is a really good course. Regionals is coming up here (Oct. 24 on the same course), so I’m hoping I get another chance.”

Winthrop’s Jacob Hickey and William Vance were 14th and 17th, respectively.

Vance, a senior, played football last year to be with his older brother, Otis, for his senior year. Cross country helps him improve for his favorite sport, track and field, so he returned to the trails this fall.

“I’m very excited,” said Vance, who shattered his personal best with Saturday’s 16:55.08. “I did the best with what I could today. I didn’t really have super-high expectations. My main goal is to try to break the school record. I really wanted to break 17 (minutes) today, and I did.”

Vance and Hickey, a junior who finished in 16:49.84, emerged from the stampede at the starting line to join the fastest runners early in the race.

“We talked a lot about having a great start and then settling into your race pace,” Winthrop coach Ed Van Tassel said. “They followed that to perfection and just gutted it out.”

Led by Andrew Sholl and Connor Doherty, who finished fourth and fifth overall, Scarborough placed three of the top seven to take the team title from Cumberland. Falmouth, Phillips Exeter Academy of New Hampshire and Harwood Union High School of Vermont rounded out the top five. Mt. Blue and Waterville, 17th and 18th, respectively, were the top area teams.

Carson Bessey of Messalonskee (36th), Tucker Barber of Mt. Blue (38th) and Monmouth’s Luke Thombs (49th) posted top-50 times.

For the girls, Anne McKee of Kents Hill (29th), Talia Jorgensen of Cony (36th), Mt. Blue’s Maggie Hickey (39th) and Messalonskee’s Avery Brennan (45th) finished in the top 50.

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