AUGUSTA — Jacob Hickey had a feeling he’d be running by himself at the Mountain Valley Conference championships Saturday morning.

The Winthrop standout was right. So, ever resourceful, he thought up a buddy.

“I started running with a watch today,” he said. “Try to basically have another person next to you.”

The tactic worked. The watch was the only thing near Hickey as he crossed the finish line in 16:35 to take the boys’ individual title at the University of Maine-Augusta course. Boothbay rolled to the team title with 28 points, followed by Carrabec (61), Lisbon (71), Madison (112), Winthrop (120), Hall-Dale (141) and Oak Hill (179).

Boothbay’s Faith Blethen (20:57) took the girls’ title, but she was followed soon after by a fleet of Monmouth Academy runners. The Mustangs packed five runners into the top 13, led by third-place finisher Kaitlyn Hunt (23:17), to total 39 points and take the team championship after finishing third a season ago.

Boothbay (64) was second, followed by Madison (68), Winthrop (89) and Oak Hill (91), which had the second-place overall finisher in Haley Gunn (23:00).

“They were nervous as anything, but we ended up ‘mission accomplished,’ ” said Monmouth coach Tom Menendez, whose team was eyeing the top spot in the conference all season. “That’s it. That’s our No. 1 goal. … It brings tears to my eyes. It’s great. I’m so happy for those kids.”

Racing in her first conference championship as a freshman, Hunt thrived. Eager to net a high finish for her team, she got off to a fast start and soon saw herself separated from the pack.

“I just wanted to show that I could do it,” she said. “It was just really scary because I was the only one in the woods and I was alone. I just kept remembering what coach said, he gives us tips all along to relax and remember that the faster you run, the faster it’s done.”

“She had the race of her life,” Menendez said. “More than I expected. I was hoping for a top-seven, she came in top-three, so that was just superb.”

Abbie Hunt (sixth, 23:41) and Bea Stewart (10th, 24:07), another freshman, followed in the top 10.

“Last year I lost 11 seniors, and this year I picked up three freshmen,” Menendez said. “It was just a question of meld, meld, blend, blend, and I had two freshmen up in the top 10. … It was all just coming together at the right time.”

Danielle Parker (11th, 24:10) and Elliott Sharples (13th, 24:28) rounded out the scoring finishes for the Mustangs, who Menendez said triumphed after enduring a grueling training period leading up to the race.

“It’s the training and it’s mental,” Menendez said. “We do a lot of things differently than other teams, and I beat on them mentally all the time. Race, race, race, don’t worry about anybody else, do your thing. And then I’ll get out in the woods at every point I see them starting to flag a little.

“It’s hard training and focus. … This is the easiest day of the week.”

Gunn finished 17 seconds ahead of Hunt, giving the Raiders a sparkling individual finish while teammate — and Gunn’s friend — Isabella Coulombe came in ninth at 23:59.

“My goal was to get inside in the top five. I was just pacing myself,” she said. “(Coulombe) usually finishes ahead of me or we’re around the same pace. I wanted to beat her this race.”

In the boys’ race, Hickey didn’t have to worry about beating anyone. Even Boothbay coach Nate Scott, whose team had five runners in the top 13 and was led by Kyle Ames (18:21) and Blake Erhard (18:31) in second and third, respectively, knew an individual title was off the table.

“Today was one of those days where things just all came together. … Really, the best-case scenario unfolded for us today,” Scott said. “We don’t worry about Jacob Hickey at all. He’s a machine.”

It looked that way, partly because Hickey made sure from the starting gun to extinguish any upset hopes. Runners often pace themselves early to save a burst for the finish, but the Winthrop senior eschewed that plan for a harder clip at the beginning.

“I think it helped a lot, getting out (ahead) in the first mile and sustaining that,” Hickey said. “My training has been based on long runs. I’ve been trying to get my cardio up so I can sustain my speed. I think I did that pretty well today.”

The finish sets him up well for next week’s regional championships, and then the states after that.

“You’re never going to have your best race week to week to week,” he said. “You kind of pick your spots, when you want to peak with certain races. I think the conference race is a good race to peak at.”

Carrabec got scoring from Brody Miller (eighth, 19:13), Jacob Atwood (12th, 19:31), Jackson Sidell (16th, 20:02), Evan Gorr (17th, 20:05) and Cole Rugh (19th, 20:23) en route to the second-place finish, a drastic improvement from last year’s sixth-place showing.

Knowing Boothbay would be a longshot to catch, Cobras coach Kirk Robinson had his team focus on personal objectives.

“I gave them what Boothbay had for runners … and I gave them these 30-second goals to try to get, which was faster than what they have been running,” he said. “I said ‘If we can get in there, we’ve done what we needed to do.’ For the most part, my guys hit them.”

In the boys race, Winthrop also got scoring efforts from Zakary St. Germain (24th), Jasper Williams (33rd), Caleb Fortin (45th) and Cody Machado (49th). Madison got points from Jack Babin (14th), Josh Linkletter (21st), Luke Harper (23rd), Nathan Hartley (30th) and Luke Perkins (39th), Hall-Dale got scores from Drake Chase (26th), Adam Scovil (29th), Brian Mcdougal (38th), Colby Gardiner (42nd) and Anthony Romano (44th) and Oak Hill got points from Chris Mcgeoghan (31st), Matt Bell (43rd), James Greenwood (50th), Hunter Spencer (54th) and Tyler Desmarais (55th).

On the girls side, Madison got points from Olivia Clough (fourth, 23:29), Jennifer Dean (eighth, 23:54), Kynsey Hubbard (23rd), Helen Lin (29th) and Brianna Kanagy (30th), Winthrop got points from Maya Deming (seventh, 23:46), Sam Allen (21st), Kelly Stratton (31st), Sam Moody (32nd) and Kathryn Ross (33rd). Oak Hill got scores from Gunn, Coulombe, Emma Curtis (38th), Chloe Pinard (41st) and Maggie Garyson (42nd).

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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