READFIELD — Tom Menendez couldn’t stop smiling, and with good reason.

His Monmouth Academy team ran away with the team title at the Mountain Valley Conference boys cross country championships Saturday afternoon at Maranacook Community School. It’s the first conference title for the boys since 2001, according to Menendez.

The Mustangs were paced by senior Joe Crocker, who finished second overall with a time of 17:08. Sophomores Brosnan Comeau (5th overall at 17:56) and Ostin Smith (9th overall at 18:46) rounded out Monmouth’s top-10 finishes.

“I’m just over the moon,” Menendez said. “The kids ran outside their heads, stuck with the strategy. Joe (Crocker) stuck with the first Lisbon (runner), Brosnan (Comeau) stuck with the second Lisbon (runner). If they stay right on their shoulder, we give away two points. All my three, four and five (runners) finished in front of Lisbon… They kept to the script. I can’t ask for anything more.”

The win completes a clean sweep of the conference titles for the Mustangs, who also won the MVC girls meet on Wednesday. Monmouth finished with 40 team points, while Lisbon (66 points) finished second and Boothbay (71 points) finished third. Those three teams will move on to compete at the Class C championships, as the MVC meet also served as a Class C meet qualifier.

“It’s awesome, I’m very proud of the guys,” Menendez said.

Lisbon junior Aidan Laviolette finished as the top overall finisher, with a time of 16:55. Laviolette, who had just recovered with a bout of strep throat, was happy with the result.

Another wave of boys gets ready to start during the Mountain Valley Conference championship meet Saturday at Maranacook Community School in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“I didn’t feel too good before the meet,” Laviolette said. “But once I got to the starting line, I felt quite a bit of an adrenaline rush. Off  the start there were a few other kids that were going pretty fast, so I just decided to let them lead until we got to the hill. Once we got there, I just really tried to push up that and keep that (pace) throughout the race.”

Winthrop sophomore James Cognata finished third with a time of 17:41.

“I felt pretty good,” Cognata said. “I was really just trying to stick with (Laviolette), because I was pretty sure he was going to win, I was pretty sure, at least. They really killed me on that first mile, but I stuck with him, tried to tough it out. Felt pretty good about my performance overall, because last year I ran 18:26 here, and I think I got 17:41, so I’m happy on that for sure.”

To keep social distancing, seven waves of runners were spread out at the starting line, with a new wave beginning every 10 seconds at the start of the race. Though it’s a practice runners have become used to this season, it can still be mentally taxing during a race.

Madison’s Kyle Bean, left, strains as he gets outkicked in a sprint to the finish line by Winthrop’s Pat Bellemare during the Mountain Valley Conference championship meet Saturday at Maranacook Community School in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“You just have to run your own race,” Cognata said. “I have my watch with my time and stuff, so that’s a big help. But I don’t think they should do it by each team (starts) with their first guy. (Lisbon’s Hunter Burkhardt) finished fourth overall, and he was in the second wave. I think that’s just kind of unfair. Hopefully, it’s just a one year thing.”

“It’s all knowing that you don’t have to look at the person in front of or behind you,” Crocker said. “You just have to know mentally that you’ve always got to push. It’s a bit different in waves, so if you can catch a person in the first heat, that’s fantastic. But you’ve got to know, if you catch somebody, (push and) go for the next (runner). Keep it going.”

Cloudy skies and crisp fall temperatures made for perfect running conditions on a tough Maranacook course.

“If you go out too fast, you’re going to burn out, and you’re going to have a rough time,” Crocker said. “But if you’re smart — and Coach told us how to run it — you take it and you let everyone else burn out, and that’s when you pass them.”

“(With cooler temperatures) you’re not tired, but you’re also running, so your body is staying warm,” Comeau said.

 

Dave Dyer – 621-5610

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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