After consecutive seasons as the runner-up in Class C, the Maranacook girls cross country team heads into the fall motivated and focused.

“I would argue it would make them hungry. I would say we are as good or better than last year. But I’ve been trying to instill in them that it is not a sure thing,” second-year Black Bears head coach Jay Nutting said.

Maranacook enters the season with a formidable one-two punch in senior Molly McGrail (Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B champion and 2nd in Class C) and junior Sophie O’Clair (2nd in KVAC B and 6th in Class C).

Maranacook’s Jenna Badeau runs during the Laliberte Invitational on Aug. 30 in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“I think (McGrail) is right where she needs to be. She has a stride that is rare. You could place a glass of water on her head and would not spill a drop when she’s running,” Nutting said.

McGrail said she is ready for the season.

“I’m definitely a lot wiser when it comes to running,” she said. “I’m just listening to my body and last year I wasn’t.”

O’Clair added that she enjoys the healthy competition on the team.

“Molly definitely pushes me to be a better person and a better runner. We do really well working together,” O’Clair said.

Mt. Blue also returns a formidable pair of runners in Kahryn Cullenberg, who was sixth overall (19:08.49) in the Class A championship meet last October and is poised for a strong season, and Emma Charles.

“I’ve definitely become more aware of what I’m capable of since last season,” Cullenberg said. “It’s good to have that in the back of my mind.”

Charles, a sophomore, is coming off a strong season, in which she finished third at the KVAC A meet.

Coach Kelley Cullenberg, who is in her 27th season, called Charles “fierce and competitive.”

“It is not often we have someone in their freshman year that you can say that about,” Coach Cullenberg added.

In KVAC B, Gardiner will be led by junior Fiona Ladner-Hudson, who qualified for the Class B state meet last season.

Second-year Winslow coach Nickolas Shuckrow is looking for his team to return to the Class B championships and become one of the top teams in KVAC this season. Junior Olivia Tiner and sophomore Vanessa Norris lead the Black Raiders.

Junior Kali Thompson is Waterville’s top returning runner, coming off a 10th-place finish last season at the KVAC B championship meet.

In the Mountain Valley Conference, Monmouth longtime coach Tom Menendez is optimistic his Mustangs can defend their crown. Seniors Amber Currie and Kaitlyn Hunt, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, at the MVC meet last season, lead a strong group. Junior Lydia Roy (8th in the MVC meet) adds some important depth.

Winthrop coach Ed Van Tassel said its been about 40 years since the Ramblers last won an MVC title, a drought that is motivating the team this season. Senior Maya Deming (7th at the MVCs) and junior Madison Forgue lead the Ramblers.

“They have come in looking to end that drought. We’re going to have to get through Boothbay and Monmouth,” Van Tassel said. “My pack from one through four is going to be close and they are equally matched.”

Richmond continues to develop their program under second-year Libby Ladner. Junior Leah Wescott finished fourth at the MVC meet and the junior Ericka Dickey came in 13th.

Olivia Cough (16th in the MVCs) is the lone Madison senior this year.

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