Former Waterville standout runner Hannah Bard inherits a strong program at her alma mater and will look to help the team improve on its seventh place finish in Class B last fall after winning Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Eastern Regional Class B championships.

“The whole team has been training over the summer and it shows,” said Bard, who will share the coaching duties with Aaron Greene this season. “It’s an interesting dynamic with a very connected team as a whole.”

Waterville always seems to be battling Maranacook for conference bragging rights and last season was no exception. The Purple Panthers ran past the Black Bears 52-75 in the championship race. Bard will have a tough time replacing the winner of that race, Lauren Brown, who has since graduated, but returns senior Cecilia Morin (2nd in KVAC Class B) and sophomores Ella Ruehsen (10th) and Merline Dwyer (14th).

Several other new coaches will take over area teams this season, including Kirk Robinson (Carrabec), Vanessa Holman (Messalonskee), Jim Goodwin (Skowhegan) and John Salvato (Winslow).

Entering her 24th season as the Mt. Blue cross country coach, Kelley Cullenberg has fielded a number of outstanding teams during her tenure, with the Cougars beating Brunswick by a point (71-72) to win the KVAC A championship last season.

With standout senior Maggie Hickey (5th at KVAC Class A), junior Meghan Charles (11th) and sophomore Meave Hickey (12th) all returning, along with another large turnout, the Cougars will likely be the team to beat this fall in KVAC A.

Cony is poised to nip at the heals of the Cougars. The Rams had an excellent third place finish in the KVAC A race last year. As she has done the three last seasons, senior Anne Guadalupi will lead Cony this fall. A two-time KVAC A champion, Guadalupi will look to improve on her fifth-place finish at the Class A championship race last October.

“I feel strong going into the season,” she said. “I really want to kill it on the course because my mindset is that it is my last season. Guadalupi’s younger sister, freshman Cecilia, has been impressive as well in the preseason, according to Cony coach Shawn Totman.

Cony sophomore Talia Jorgensen also is poised for another strong season. She placed sixth at the KVAC A race last season and had a top 10 finish at the Class A championship two weeks later. Her sister, Tara, enters her junior season and gives the Rams the necessary depth to perhaps make a run at Mt. Blue this fall.

“It’s nice to know that you have a strong team behind you,” Guadalupi said.

Maranacook coach Rosalea Kimball, along with Cullenberg and Totman, has coached her respective team for over a decade. She enters her 12th season leading the Black Bears with juniors Laura Parent (4th in KVAC Class B) and Maddie Taylor (6th) expected to again be counted on for strong finishes this fall.

It is not an understatement to say that Monmouth coach Tom Menendez pulled off one of his best coaching jobs in his 15 seasons last year, when he led the Mustangs to a seventh-place finish at the Class C championship races despite having to scramble to find enough runners to field a team. Menendez will be doing the same this season but will be able to rely on juniors Abbie Hunt and Danielle Parker, who both finished in the top 15 at the Mountain Valley Conference championship race last October.

“With the graduation of 11 seniors on both teams, the team has been cut in half and the girls numbers are at an all-time low,” he said.

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