Play time is over. Now the serious work begins.

Cross country teams on both the boys and the girls sides of the ledger kick off championship season with a pair of conference meets on Saturday.

Mountain Valley Conference teams will compete at the University of Maine at Augusta beginning at 10 a.m., while Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference teams are at Cony High School for the girls race at 11 a.m. and the boys race at 12:30 p.m.

“This is where it starts to count,” Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg said. “Really, it’s great to have KVACs like this. What’s interesting for our league is that there’s no difference in any of our teams when we get to the regionals The only difference will be the venue.”

The Mt. Blue girls won the KVAC championship in 2015, while the Cougar boys could find a title of their own this season. Anchored by senior Tucker Barber, Mt. Blue won the Mt. Blue Relays on Oct. 7, a race in which Barber was the individual winner. He also placed 10th in the Festival of Champions in Belfast, where both the regional and state meets will be held later this month.

“(Winning) is always a plus and always a goal, but I think one of biggest things for us is we’re not taking anything for granted,” Cullenberg said. “Lewiston beat us at Festival, and they’ll contend (Saturday).”

Hampden’s Wyatt Lord was the top KVAC finisher at the Festival of Champions, finishing second overall. Messalonskee’s Zachariah Hoyle finished eighth in that meet and should be in the mix Saturday at Cony.

Cony senior Anne Guadalupi — who will compete on her home course — is the defending KVAC champion on the girls side and could very well repeat this time around.

In the MVC Preview Meet last month, Jacob Hickey was more than a full minute better than all of the runners he will race against on Saturday. In a meet earlier this season that was held on the UMA course, the Winthrop senior beat Wiscasset’s Brandon Goud by being the only runner to clock in at under 18 minutes.

“It’s the same field, so he’s lining up to have a similar result,” Winthrop coach Ed Van Tassel said. “There will be some kids that will want to take it out quick, and it will be good for Jake to have some company. He’ll be looking to make a move, but he’s definitely not thinking this is going to be easy.”

Hickey finished second in the MVCs in 2015 and the Ramblers placed third as a team.

For the girls, Boothbay sophomore Faith Blethen gave an early glimpse into Saturday in a dominant performance at UMA during the MVC Preview Meet. She covered the course in 21:055 — three and a half minutes better than the second place finisher.

The Monmouth girls placed third as a team last year in the MVCs and turned in good pack times in the Preview Meet. Winthrop could also surprise some people and be in the mix at the end. Maya Deming, a freshman, finished sixth in the preview meet.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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