AUGUSTA — Individual efforts from Mt. Blue senior Tucker Barber and Maranacook freshman Molly McGrail led their teams to titles at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cross country meet Saturday.

Barber covered the hilly 3.1-mile course at Cony High School in 16:43.2, bettering the school record of 16:56 set by Aaron Willingham two years ago. McGrail finished in 20:40 to help the Maranacook girls to the Class B title. Waterville sophomore Nick Dall repeated as Class B conference boys champ while Cony’s Anne Guadalupi finished second in the Class A girls race.

Barber had no specific game plan entering the race and didn’t take charge until hitting a hill about a mile from the finish line.

“I had no idea how the race was going to go,” Barber said. “There were a lot of good people at the front and I could see them and I was just wondering how it was going to play out. By the hill, around the second time, I was just like ‘all right this feels right, I’ll just for it’ and I did. I just spent the rest of the race hoping I would hold on.”

Barber beat runner-up Jacob Gamache, of Edward Little, by 12 seconds. The Cougars placed five runners in the top 25 — Zack Robinson (12), Isaiah Reid (13), Emmett Trafton (16) and Sam Stinson (25) — to claim the team title over Hampden Academy by 19 points. The same teams will compete in the regionals next week at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

“We just needed to put it all together at the right time,” Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg said. “We went through a lot of different scenarios throughout the week knowing that there were a lot of good teams that were going to be close and we were going to be one of them. They knew what they needed to do.”

McGrail bettered her time from a few weeks ago on the faster course in Belfast.

“My strategy was to go out, have fun and try my best,” she said. “I got boxed in at the beginning but on the hill I made up most of my time. Then after the second hill I was leading it.”

McGrail edged Camden Hills’ Emma Trapani by six seconds. Camden Hills also finished second to Maranacook in the team competition, losing 35 points to 63.

Laura Parent (4), Maddie Taylor (6), Caroline Welch (15) and Lily Welch (20) rounded out the top five for the Black Bears.

“All seven of them, especially the top five, had really strong races,” Maranacook coach Roselea Kimball said. “Molly certainly had a good race. We obviously had our eye on Camden Hills and she passed them all.”

Dall repeated his Class B title in a time of 17:14.5, which was considerably faster than a year ago.

“I think I PR’d by over 30 seconds,” he said. “My training paces have been a lot faster and I have been running a little bit more mileage. In the summer I was hitting 30 (miles a week) but in the season I’ve gotten up to 35 or 40 on some weeks.”

Dall beat Lincoln Academy’s Sam Russ by 37 seconds.

“I stayed with the leaders and tried to not go too fast in the first mile,” said Dall, who finished seventh overall with the Class A runners factored in.

Guadalupi, who won this race two years ago as a sophomore, finished second to Mt. Ararat’s Katherine Leckbee in a personal best time of 20:09.7.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Guadalupi said. “I kept her in my sights. She eventually pulled away at the last mile. Last year I beat her but she’s come out of nowhere now and is killing everyone.”

Brunswick won the Class A girls title followed by Mt. Blue and Cony. Mt. Blue sisters Maeve and Maggie Hickey finished ninth and 10th, respectively, to lead the Cougars.

“We’ve been working all season on trying to stay healthy and get more girls to run together.” Cullenberg said. “We had a big discussion about what they could do to stay together and I think they really listened and took it to heart.”

The Maranacook boys finished second to powerful Lincoln Academy in the KVAC B boys race. Ruslan Reiter finished third for the Black Bears while teammate Luke Bartol placed seventh.


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