There’s strong potential for several intriguing showdowns in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B this winter, particularly on the girls side.

The Winslow girls return as the defending league champion. However, injuries and departures have saddled the Black Raiders.

Still, the Black Raiders have plenty of talent to defend their title, led by sophomore Olivia Tiner, who is one of the top distance runners in the state. Tiner is the defending KVAC B champion in the mile and 2-mile events, but suffered shin splints during the cross country season.

“She’ll be in the (4×800 relay), and I’ll make her run the gamut,” Winslow coach Ken Nadeau said. “I’ll run her all the way from (200 to two-mile), basically. She can score in every single one of them.”

She will be joined by Sadie Irza (sprints) and Kaelyn Lakey, who broke the school record in the 40-meter run last season.

“(Lakey) was awesome, awesome, awesome to watch last year,” Nadeau said.

Waterville will chase Winslow after finishing fourth in the conference last year. The Purple Panthers will be led by Sarah Cox, the state’s best thrower. A senior, Cox will be involved in potentially the best rivalry in the area — and perhaps the state — in the shot put with Maine Central Institute’s Christa Carr. Carr, also a senior, has been the closest thrower in Class B to chip away at Cox’ dominance, and nearly beating her in the KVAC and Class B championships during outdoor track last spring.

Waterville will also have help from talented senior Jennasea Hubbard, who will be used in a variety of events, and Lauren Pinnette, who finished second in the 55 hurdles and the pole vault at the conference championships last season.

Lawrence will also be in the mix after finishing third in the conference last season. Senior Payton Goodwin returns as the defending champion in the long jump, as does junior Cheyenne Poulin, who placed first in the pole vault.

On top of Carr’s expected production, MCI head coach Jason Allen is excited about the Huskies’ potential. The team is veteran-loaded, but has also recruited a strong number of newcomers and could challenge for a top-three finish in the conference.

Due to numbers, Nokomis and Erskine may not challenge for a team title, but should still could contend in individual events. For the Eagles, Danielle Shorey (3rd in shot put) returns, along with hurdler Allison Roddy and distance runner Mikala McIntyre. Emily Eastman finished second at KVACs in the two-mile last season for Nokomis.

On the boys side, Winslow made a strong run at Belfast and finished second in KVAC B last year, but like the girls, the Black Raiders have been nicked by injuries as well as the loss of Max Spaulding, who transferred to Class A Thornton Academy. Winslow also lost senior Ben Dorval — a key jumper — to a knee injury during football season.

Winslow still returns an array of talent. The Black Raiders will be led by senior Nick Tiner, who placed second in the mile at KVACs last season. He’ll be joined by senior sprinter Isaac Lambrecht.

Several other teams are hurting in numbers, but have lots of individual talent that could help jump a team to a top-three finish. Waterville will be led by Ethan Nurick. A senior, Nurick had a strong run at the KVACs last year, finishing first in the triple jump and second in the high jump and long jump.

Nokomis, which finished third in KVAC B last season, returns Chance Graves and Sam Roy. Graves finished third in the 55 in the conference championship last season, while Roy was third in the 800.

Alex Mahon, a third-place finisher at KVACs in the high jump, leads Erskine. Lawrence has Alex Higgins (shot put) and Zachary Lawler (sprints) returning this season. MCI returns a small but veteran-heavy squad led by seniors Nick Clark (distance) and DJ Neal (mid-distance).

Belfast, the defending KVAC B boys champion and second-place finisher in girls, is expected to be in the top-three mix again this season.

“Belfast is always good,” Nadeau said. “MCI has some good kids that might surprise us. They always have a couple of kids that come out of nowhere and steal points. I think Leavitt is a big question mark.”

Two years removed from a KVAC A indoor title, the Messalonskee girls are reloaded to grab that title again once more in 2018-2019. The Eagles will be led by the Wentworths — Emma and Charlotte. Emma Wentworth is the defending KVAC A champion in the 55, while Charlotte is the defending 400 champion. They will be joined by distance runner Peyton Arbour, who is coming off a strong cross country season. Markiana Hewett, who finished second in the 55 last season, rounds out the squad.

“These girls are very driven,” Messalonskee coach Matt Holman said. “They come in and they work incredibly hard. They’re a tight-knit group.”

Skowhegan, led by junior jumper Jordan Boone, features a young squad.

Cony has grown in numbers in girls indoor track, and has one of the bigger teams in coach Kevin Russell’s tenure. Tess Towle should be in contention for a high jump title for the Rams.

The Cony boys won’t chase a team title, but have a strong returner in Alex Cousins, who finished fifth in the 400 at KVACs last season.

After a rebuilding season, Messalonskee is ready to make a run on the boys side in KVAC A. The Eagles have a more balanced mix of veterans, such as Damien Lewis (sprints), Jonathan Christopher (sprints) and Cameron Croft (utility).

Skowhegan lacks big numbers, but returns quality athletes in Jake Perkins (distance), Kyle Lee (jumps) and Leland Malyk (sprints).

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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