The Monmouth cross country team poses for photos at the top of Mt. Pisgah in Winthrop on Wednesday after running to the top as a sign of unity after the state championships were cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: The Maine high school cross country state championship races, which were supposed to be held this week, were canceled, so over the next few days the Sun Journal will be recognizing the area runners who qualified.

Monmouth Academy junior Alexa Allen traded in her soccer shoes for a pair of running sneakers back in June — with no regrets.

“It was a good decision for me to switch this year,” said Allen, who won the Mountain Valley Conference state qualifier and helped guide the Mustangs to an MVC team crown.

She added there were a number of reasons why she joined the girls cross country team, which didn’t lose a meet. She — along with teammates Lydia Roy, Chloe Dwinal, Holly Hunt, Allyson Lewis and Mackenzie Grant — all qualified for the state meet, which was canceled this week due to the rise in COVID-19 cases across Maine.

“We all knew it wasn’t an easy decision for the Maine Principals’ Association to make,” Allen said. “We knew it could go either way. We were ready for anything.”

Lydia Roy climbs the publicly accessible fire tower at the summit of Mt. Pisgah in Winthrop with the Monmouth cross country team on Wednesday. The group ran to the top of the mountain together as a sign of unity on the date the canceled state championships that had been scheduled to start. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We’ve been like each other’s family the whole year because families couldn’t come and support us in any meet,” Allen explained. “We’ve been working together and helping each other out. It has been a very team-orientated year.”

Allen, who also runs outdoor track and plays basketball, said her best meet was against Maranacook. She finished with an impressive time of 20:40 in a 3.1-mile race.

Madison’s Peyton Estes (591), Maranacook’s Sophie O’Clair (595) and Monmouth Academy’s Alexa Allen (593) were off to an early lead during the Mountain Valley Conference championship at Maranacook Community School in Readfield on Oct. 21. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo Buy this Photo

“The girls did very well,” said Monmouth cross country coach Tom Menendez. “They haven’t lost a meet. Every race that Alexa ran, she won, and they captured their 14th conference title in 20 years.

“Alexa came off an injury earlier in the season. She was having some foot problems. Her first race, she did a very good job in it and just continued to develop from there. Holly Hunt was a big improvement from last year. I think all of the girls improved overall. They melded together as a team and didn’t lose a race all year.”

Menendez said Allen turned in an eye-opening performance in the MVCs.

“I told Alexa to stay on (Madison’s Peyton Estes) for that two and half miles, and if she felt good, just nail it and put the hammer down,” Menendez recalled. “She got to about 600 meters from the finish. You come down that long hill (at Maranacook) and you make that left-hand turn along the driveway and she planted her right foot and she took off, and at 500 meters, she opened up a lead of 17, 18 seconds and ended up breaking the course record out there.

“Alexa is extremely coachable. She is a very intelligent athlete. You could put her in any sport and she would excel because she has studied, she knows what she has to do to get prepared and goes out and does it.”

Menendez also pointed out that the boys team had a shining season and didn’t lose a meet either.

“They won the MVC title for the first time since 2001,” he said. “My first coaching year was 2001 and 20 years later, we win it again.”

Like the girls team, the entire boys team qualified for states and they include: Joe Crocker, Ben Story, Hayden Luce, Brosnan Comeau, Osten Smith, Ethan Nagle and Trevor Bauer.

“The thing with them is when we did the qualifying race up at Maranacook. My No. 5 runner, Hayden Luce, was ahead of every No. 3 runner on the other eight teams…and my No. 7 runner, Trevor Bauer, as ahead of everybody’s No. 5 runner except the guy from Boothbay. So they all had a phenomenal race. Every one of them had a season’s best.”

The girls and boys cross country teams caught Menendez off guard after he told them the state championships were canceled.

“We had the kids out practicing Tuesday,” he said. “Before I gave them their workouts, I said, ‘You’ve got only two choices here. You can do the workout like I had planned or you can all go home because the state meet has been canceled and you can do whatever you want.’

“And 16 kids said, ‘Coach, do the practice. Let’s do the workouts, but can we do it as not as hard you planned.’”

After Tuesday’s practice, the team wanted to continue holding practices the rest of the week. 

“I had tears coming down my eyes,” he said. “What a great group. We are going to practice the rest of the week.” 


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