AUGUSTA — Maranacook coach Jay Nutting knew the outlook was good for his girls cross country team going into the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships. But he also knew that that was far from a guarantee.

“We were going into it cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I try to remind the kids that it’s important not to think of hardware and places. If everyone races to their fullest potential both physically and mentally, everything else is going to fall into place.”

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Marancook’s Molly McGrail heads out of the woods at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet Saturday at Cony High School in Augusta.

And once again, it did. The Maranacook girls won for the third straight year in Class B, getting first- and second-place finishes from Molly McGrail and Sophie O’Clair, respectively, on their way to 35 points at Cony High School. Medomak Valley (92) was second, followed by Morse (97), Waterville (108) and Lincoln Academy (113).

“It shows that we’re in a good place. We’ve worked hard to get to this point in the season,” Nutting said. “Going into the season of larger races, it’s the first one, and we certainly pay a lot of attention to it.”

The Lincoln boys, the defending state and KVAC B champion, defended its title by putting three runners in the top four — including defending race winner Sam Russ in first — for 33 points and first place over Morse (47), Maranacook (67), Belfast (115) and Erskine (116).

“When you have 1, 2 and 4, you’re usually going to be pretty good in the standings,” coach Garrett Martin said. “Our guys have had an up-and-down season, and we’re focused on the postseason. I think today was a good step in the right direction.”

In the Class A boys race, Bangor scored 45 points to edge Brunswick (55), Hampden Academy (69), Mt. Ararat (76) and Cony (179). Bangor had a second-place finish from Gabe Coffey, and he was followed on the team by Daniel McCarthy (fifth), Dwight Knightly (seventh) and Gordon Doore (12th). Lisandro Berry-Gaviria, of Mt. Ararat, won the A boys race.

“Brunswick’s an exceptional team, they beat us at the Festival of Champions. They were certainly our target,” Bangor coach Roger Huber said. “We did just start race-specific training last week. We had a couple of exceptional workouts on Monday and Wednesday. I think the performance of those workouts gave them a bit of confidence coming into today’s race.”

Camden Hills repeated as Class A girls champion, totaling 48 points to top Mt. Ararat (90), Mt. Blue (122), Bangor (136) and Brunswick (145). The Windjammers were led by Augusta Stockman (fourth), Elsie Hildreth (sixth), Claire Wyman (eighth) and Miranda Dunton (14th).

“They’ve been sick, and they had a hard time today,” coach Helen Bonzi said. “They did not race as well as they wanted to, but as a team, they’re super strong. … They stuck with it, and they really worked hard to get to where they were today.”

The Black Bears’ standouts showed up on a cold, wet and muddy day. McGrail won the race — and, with A and B runners going together, was second overall — at 20:32.3, while O’Clair was second, Dana Reynolds took fifth and Madelyn Dwyer was 11th.

“I was actually running down a hill and stepped in a little bit of mud, and did the little slide forward,” McGrail said. “I was like ‘Well, this is what’s going to happen now.’ … Our coach said to use lighter steps, try to stay on the ground for as least long as possible, so I just took that advice.”

The A winner was Edward Little’s Jillian Richardson, who pulled away from the pack and whose time of 19:27.8 was more than a minute better than anyone else’s. Mt. Blue took the next two spots, with Kahryn Cullenberg finishing second at 20:37.4 and Emma Charles finishing third at 21:02.1.

“Because of the conditions, I was hoping I would still be able to do what I wanted to. I definitely was,” Richardson said. “The straightaway was all big mud ditches and stuff. … For me, it was fun. I like it. I like different conditions.”

Mt. Blue’s Jesse Dalton, left, and Brunswick’s Andrew Chingos run during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet Saturday in Augusta.

There weren’t many surprises in the boys’ race, with Mt. Ararat’s Berry-Gaviria, the defending state champion, pacing the field on the muddy trail with a time of 16:33.5 — a mark 32 seconds faster than his KVAC-winning time last year.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better race,” he said. “It’s tough, for sure. It takes some getting used to. But when you train all through the winter and the mud season, you get more adapted to it.”

He had a challenger throughout in Bangor’s Coffey, who was on Berry-Gaviria’s heels much of the way before finishing at 16:45.4.

“The race went OK, I think, for about three miles of the 5K,” Coffey said. “I had a mental lapse after, like, two miles. I let him go from me.”

Lincoln had Russ (17:26.8) and Jarrett Gulden (17:39.0) in the top two spots in the B race, and teammate Jojo Martin (18:12.3) took fourth. Maranacook’s Luke Bartol was third at 18:06.9.

“This was, I felt, my best race of the season,” Russ said. “I’ve had some disappointing performances leading up to this, but I came into this race this week really hoping to turn things around, and get back on track for the championship season. I’m pleased with how I did, how the team did, how everyone ran.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5618

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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