The Winthrop girls cross country team looks to add a little more to an already historic season.

The Ramblers will be among the teams to watch Saturday during the cross country regional championships. Southern Maine conferences in Classes A, B and C will be running at Twin Brook Recreation Park in Cumberland, while northern Maine conferences will be competing at Troy Howard Middle School. Winthrop is coming off a successful weekend, winning its first Mountain Valley Conference championship since 1979, according to head coach Ed Van Tassel.

“It was certainly one of the goals we set as a team at the beginning of the season,” Van Tassel said. “Then, as the season unfolded, we certainly saw and realized that we were a much better team this year than we had been the previous year, when we had finished third (at MVCs)…The girls ran fantastic on Saturday, they did exactly what they needed to do. Looking at the results, I told the girls ‘I know that you know that (the results) were close, but it was really close.’ Two or three seconds here, two or three seconds there, we would have been on the other side of that outcome.”

Senior Jillian Schmelzer led the way for the Ramblers, finishing second overall with a time of 22:13.7, about 14 seconds behind winner Bailey Coates of Spruce Mountain. Winthrop had four runners finish in the top 12, with Madison Forgue finishing fifth (22:50.8), Maya Deming 11th (23:57.8) and Sage Fortin 12th (24:11.8).

“Our goal is to qualify for states,” Van Tassel said. “My records are not complete, but I’ve been digging through a lot of old yearbooks and results. I can’t find a Winthrop girls team that has qualified for states. The only other time we won MVCs was 1979, and I know that team did not qualify for states. That’s our focus, to take care of business. We don’t talk too much about the outcomes we’re looking for during the week, we just kind of talk about what we need to do as a team to have the races we want to have. If we have the races we want to have, hopefully the results will take care of themselves.”

Winthrop will not be alone in challenging for the Class C South title, however. The Ramblers will have to overcome last year’s regional champion — Maranacook — to take home the title. The Black Bears have had continued success this season even while battling injuries. Without top runner Molly McGrail — who is out for the rest of the postseason with an injury — Maranacook still finished second last weekend at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championships.


“We feel optimistic,” Maranacook coach Jay Nutting said. “We feel prepared. We like to say ‘The hay is in the barn.’ We’ve made the deposits, so now it’s time to start withdrawing. We did that a little bit last weekend. Obviously the stage is bigger and the competition is greater, so it looks like we’ll have to withdraw some more. But that’s the goal, to hopefully put that work in to have some of the better races we’ve had individually this weekend.”

The Black Bears were paced by junior Sophie O’Clair, who finished third (21:51.9). Two of her teammates also had finishes in the top 10, as Dana Reynolds finished ninth (23.08.0), while up-and-coming freshman Lina Martinez Nocito finished eighth (23:05.4).

“She’s been a wonderful addition to the team this year,” Nutting said. “It’s her first year ever running competitively…She’s had a tremendous year and has just come along really strong. I think she’s really got a really good future ahead of her. She’s still learning how to race, but she’s made incredible strides. From the beginning of the season until know, she’s a whole different runner and a lot smarter.”

Mt. Blue will be expected to be among the teams to watch in the Class A North girls race. The Cougars have been paced all year by senior Kahryn Cullenberg and sophomore Emma Charles. Both had successful times at the KVAC A championships last week, as Cullenberg finished fifth (20:56.4) and Charles ninth (21:20.3). Brynne Robbins also rounded out the effort, finishing 14th (22:11.3).

Olivia Tiner of Winslow will be among the runners to watch in Class B North. The junior won the KVAC B race last week, finishing with a time of 21:27.4. She could face a battle on the course with Waterville freshman Abby Williams, who finished second at KVACs with a time of 21:31.6 — just four seconds behind Tiner.

The Gardiner girls could put together a solid day as a team. The Tigers finished third in the KVAC B race, paced by Fiona Hudson-Ladner, who finished 11th (23:48.4) and Emmerson Leach, who finished 12th (23:52.3).


Winthrop freshman James Cognata will be the top male runner to watch this weekend. Cognata finished third last week at the MVCs with a time of 17:56.5, 29 seconds behind winner Will Perkins of Boothbay/Wiscasset. The Ramblers could have a good outing as a team, with Loal Vance finishing eighth at MVCs (19:08.02) and Zak St. Germain finishing 10th (19:13.3)

“James has been, for a freshman, unbelievably consistent,” Van Tassel said. “Loal and Zak have come on super strong at the end of the season. I was not necessarily anticipating the two of them being in the top 10… To put three in the top 1o, when you only have six on the roster, is pretty impressive.”

Cognata should receive competition in the Class C South race from Monmouth’s Joe Crocker, who finished fourth at MVCs (18:26.5), along with Mt. Abram’s Jacob Butterfield, who placed sixth (18:48.9).

In Class B North, Josiah Webber of Lawrence will be a runner to watch, after placing fourth (18:25.7) in the KVAC B race last week.

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