READFIELD — Tom Menendez’s classroom has a newspaper on the wall from when the Monmouth Academy girls cross country team lost the Mountain Valley Conference championship last season.

On Wednesday, the Mustangs gave their coach some happier news to put in its place.

Led by race winner Alexa Allen, Monmouth rolled to victory in the MVC girls championship, totaling 23 points to finish ahead of Boothbay (56), Mt. Abram (64) and Wiscasset (78) on a damp day at Maranacook Community High School. The boys will compete on Saturday morning.

“I’ve had that newspaper from last October when we didn’t win MVCs plastered on my wall,” he said. “It’s been my focus for 12 months. It’s been on my wall, and now I can throw it out.”

The good news didn’t stop there for the Mustangs. The meet doubled as a qualifier for the Class C state championships, with bids going to the top three teams and two runners not on a qualifying squad. This group included host Maranacook, a Class C KVAC team, and Monmouth still finished first with 30 points to get the automatic spot. Berths also went to Maranacook (47) and Boothbay (79), while Madison’s Peyton Estes, who finished second overall, and Winthrop’s Sage Fortin (fifth) made the cut individually.

“They came in right where they needed to be, and it was a good effort. It was a great effort,” Menendez said. “Really strange not running with boys around here. It all focused on the girls, and I think they really enjoyed the heck out of that for a change.”

“After last year, when we weren’t able to win, we really were like ‘Next year, we want to do it,’ ” said sophomore Holly Hunt, who finished fourth overall and was one of four Mustangs in the top 10, along with Allyson Lewis (ninth) and Lydia Roy (10th). “We were like ‘We’re going to come here, we’re not going to come in expecting to win, but we’re going to come in aiming to win and working hard, and that’s going to be our goal.’ ”

Over the year, they got a boost in that endeavor. Allen played soccer her freshman and sophomore years, but changed to cross country as a junior. It didn’t take her long to get a feel for the sport; on Tuesday, she was trailing Estes late in the race, but passed her for good on the final hill with a half mile left to go en route to finishing at 20:40.

“It was a tough course, but we prepared for it on Saturday, we came up and practiced it,” she said. “So I was kind of prepared for it, I’ve been thinking about it all day, just wanting to win. I knew there was some tough competition.”

Monmouth Academy’s Allyson Lewis runs during the Mountain Valley Conference championship Wednesday at Maranacook Community School in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

No one tougher than Estes, who lost the lead late but still easily qualified for a return trip to the Class C championship, where she was 18th a year ago.

“I really wanted to get first though, I thought I had it,” Estes said. “But (on) that hill I had nothing left. … After every race I always feel like I could do better. I’m pretty happy with how this one went, though.”

Allen’s quick rise has grabbed the attention of her teammates.

“She has done so well this year,” Hunt said. “She’s just blown us away. She’s so good. And she makes all of us better because she pushes us to go harder.”

Maranacook was led by Lily Cannell, who was third, while Jenna Badeau (11th), Sophie O’Clair (13th), Lilly Mushlit (15th) and Claire Holman (18th) gave the Black Bears five runners in the top 20 and the trip to states.

“The main goal was just making it there,” coach Jay Nutting said. “We had a number of runners who ran quite a bit faster than our last and only other meet that we had here, and a few PRs as well. We had a couple off-days as well. That’s running.”

Winthrop’s Madison Forgue (603) and Marancook’s Sophie O’Clair (595) run during the Mountain Valley Conference championship Wednesday at Maranacook Community School in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Boothbay was led by Glory Blethen (eighth) and Emerson Harris (14th) as it got the last qualifying spot in a race that looked different from meets in previous years. Groups of no more than 11 went off every 30 seconds, which the runners said made for a different competitive atmosphere than they’re used to.

“I kind of liked it at first, but having people behind me that I know are coming up and passing me (from) different heats, it’s a little discouraging,” said Wiscasset senior Lily Yeaton, who was 26th but close in time to teammates Julia Truesdell (21st) and Emily Gilliam (22nd). “It’s a little misleading. It’s like ‘Oh, I’m doing so good,’ and then people from other heats are passing and it’s like ‘Oh. Maybe not.’ ”

Others liked the race within the race.

“It’s honestly really cool,” Hunt said. “Obviously, I would like to keep it normal, but it’s not terrible. You do have new competition. You’re like ‘OK, I’ve got to catch as many people in the first wave as I can.’ And once you pass them, you’re (thinking) ‘OK, who’s the next person I can pass?’ “

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