AUGUSTA — The cross country running season hasn’t officially started yet, but Lisandro Berry-Gaviria, last year’s Class A champion, knows things are going to be different.

“I wasn’t the favorite last season,” the Mt. Ararat junior said. “It’s going to be a new challenge for me. I’m just trying to get ready for it.”

If Friday afternoon was any indication, he already is. Berry-Gaviria won his second straight Laliberte Invitational at Cony High School, taking the 19th running of the annual event with a time of 13:34.65. Brunswick’s Will Shaughnessy (13:49.83) was second, followed by Mt. Ararat’s Grady Satterfield (14:02.96), Brunswick’s Tyler Patterson (14:14.53) and Maranacook’s Luke Bartol (14:24.29).

“I’ve missed a lot of preseason practices because of work commitments, so I haven’t been doing any real workouts with the team yet,” Berry-Gaviria said. “I wasn’t sure if my legs were really prepared for a 2.4-mile race.”

The events runs both genders together, rather than hold separate races. Gorham’s Katie Tugman was the highest girls finisher at 25th overall, coming in with a time of 15:44.94. She edged out Edward Little’s Jillian Richardson (15:48.22), the girls runner-up last year, by fewer than four seconds, while the other top five girls finishes went to Mt. Blue’s Kahryn Cullenberg (16:40.98), Winslow’s Olivia Tiner (17:05.53) and Maranacook’s Molly McGrail (17:43.06).

“I had a race on Tuesday, where I tied with a girl to win, so I kind of felt like I had a lot of pressure going into this one,” Tugman said.

Mt. Ararat (531) had the best team score, followed by Maranacook (649), Gorham (707), Cony (708), Brunswick (714) and Mt. Blue (716).

Berry-Gaviria’s repeat had its moments of doubt, particularly when he and Shaughnessy traded the lead back and forth midway through the race. Coming down the last hill in the latter half of the race, however, the Mt. Ararat standout surged in front for good.

“I didn’t want to count him out, but I felt pretty confident,” Berry-Gaviria said.

Bartol was satisfied with his top-five showing, which had him keeping pace with some of the fastest runners in the state.

“Some of these guys that I’ve never been anywhere near with, I was reasonably close to them, which was a great feeling,” the Maranacook senior said.

After coming out too fast last year, Bartol applied the lesson this time and kept plenty of energy stored for the final stretch.

“Last year I was the first one (out), got that great photo-op at the beginning,” he said. “I went way too fast and kind of burned out. This year I held back, I stayed with the front pack but stayed back there. … I climbed person by person. It was a great race for me.”

Cony’s Caleb Richardson (14:29.40), running his final Laliberte race on his home course, beat his time from last year and took sixth, then watched teammate Myles Quirion come in 20 seconds later in 11th.

“We put up a pretty good showing for how we’re at right now,” Richardson said. “For me, it’s more about racing with people and against people than the times.”

One of those runners he was going against was a friend in Mt. Blue’s Jesse Dalton, who was seventh at 14:32.05. The senior tried to chase down Richardson, with whom he attended Acadian Running Camp, but ran out of room before the finish.

“I was not quite as fast as I was hoping for, but I was pretty excited with it,” he said. “As we were getting toward the end, I would say I was getting closer. I don’t know how close, maybe 20, 25 feet.”

Tugman had to work for her finish, as she and Jillian Richardson passed each other for the lead throughout the race. While running on the football practice field with the finish line in sight, she went in front to stay.

“Pretty much the whole second mile was me trying to catch her,” Tugman said. “I caught her again, she caught me back before the finish, and my coach was saying ‘You can still catch her, you can still win it.’ I passed her again and just sprinted as fast as I could.”

Cullenberg was happy with how her body held up during her run, having already seen what happens when it doesn’t.

“In previous years it’s been a really hot race, and it’s been hard to deal with hydrating and what not. Even though it was still hot today, I felt like that was better than it had been in the past,” she said. “My freshman year, I ended up in an ice bath. I think I’ve improved since then.”

Tiner, who was the KVAC champion and a top-10 runner in the Class B state meet last fall, found the key to a fast time to be focusing on her own pace and running rhythm, rather than trying to keep up with fastest girls in the pack.

“Instead of going for a place, I went for my time,” she said. “I looked up my time from last year and I knew I could do better. … I kind of went in there thinking ‘I’m not versing these people, I’m versing myself.’ I just raced myself until the finish.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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