FARMINGTON — It’s been a season of revelations for the Mt. Blue boys cross country team this fall, beginning with an early season meet at Leavitt in which senior Tucker Barber broke the 17-minute barrier for the five-kilometer race.

“Knowing that we had a frontrunner made a big difference,” said senior and fellow co-captain Isaiah Reid. “We were surprised in the beginning. We didn’t expect that much.”

The Cougars have taken off from there, winning the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A title before taking the North regional title last weekend in Belfast..

They’ll compete on the same flat course Saturday at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast for the state meet against Southern Maine powers Falmouth, Scarborough and Deering, among others. A repeat performance of a week ago could land the Cougars among the top three — if not higher — and qualify them for the New England meet as well.

“The top six guys all ran their fastest times last week,” said Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg, now in her 24th season.

Barber won the race in 15:57.44 seconds followed by Zeke Robinson in 13th, Emmett Trafton (19), Sam Stinson (21), Reid (22) and Todd Gunther (33).

Cullenberg says the team hasn’t peaked too early, at least not based on this week’s workouts that have focused on the speed necessary for the course.

“Obviously Falmouth is going to be the team to beat,” she said. “Do I believe we can be there with them? Yes I do. No matter what happens at the state meet, nobody can take away their KVAC and regional championships. What happens the rest of the season is icing on the cake.”

Reid agrees the titles have already exceeded expectations for the team, but added, “We’re not going to be running scared.”

Barber was the team’s top runner last fall but admits he used cross country more as a preparation for Nordic skiing in which last winter he finished second in the skate race at the state meet and first in the classic.

“Skiing has been my main discipline,” he said. “This year I got into running.”

After finishing sixth a year ago at the KVACs, Tucker easily won the race a couple of weeks ago. He placed 15th at last year’s state meet and his best posted time for 3.1 miles was 17:06, well over a minute from last week’s time. He said placing first Saturday would be nice but that it wouldn’t “make or break my season.”

Added Cullenberg: “He’s just in a good spot right now, mentally and physically.”

So is the rest of the team, which has come together in a sport that recognizes individual achievement.

“It comes down to being friends with everyone and knowing that everyone on the team is important,” Reid said.

The team holds captains’ meetings before each meet and Cullenberg recently became privy to what is discussed.

“I had no idea what they had talked about,” she said. “They talk about not putting a whole lot of emphasis on being champions, just focusing on running good races. I think they really have become a team.”

Cullenberg has coached a number of state championship teams in her tenure at Mt. Blue, the last in 2002. She sees a parallel between this year’s team and the one she coached in 2004 that won the Festival of Champions, the KVACs and regionals before finishing third at the state meet except for one thing.

“This year we have a 17:10 average,” she said. “The ’04 team was not anywhere near that fast.”

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