Bangor High School’s Dan McCarthy (865) runs to the finish line as he takes first place in a cross country meet at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

When all is right, fall in New England is nearly perfect.

Leaves fall from trees in a spectacular display of colors. A cool, crisp autumn air is often around to greet you. The temperature is not too warm, but not too cold.

It’s the type of weather that brings throngs of tourists to Maine. It’s also ideal conditions for runners.

But what happens when conditions, or the terrain, are far from ideal?

OAKLKAND, MAINE- SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 Hampden Academy Natalia Charles hits the sloppy part of the trail during a cross country meet at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2021. (Staff Photo by Michael G. Seamans/Staff Photographer) Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It’s an adjustment cross country teams throughout the state make during the course of a season. In central Maine, elements have already played a hand in at least two meets: The Scot Laliberte Invitational in Augusta — where temperatures climbed into the 80s during the Aug. 27 race — and a 13-team race at the Quarry Road Trails in Waterville last Friday, where runners competed in swamp-like conditions after a hard rain doused the area on the previous day.

Last Friday, teams walked through areas of the course — a 2.9-mile trek — before the race to get a feel for the conditions. Though it was a home meet for Waterville, the race proved challenging because it was a different Quarry Road course than the Purple Panthers were accustomed to.

“It  was intimidating, because it was my first time (running the course for a race) and everyone else’s first time,” said Waterville’s Abby Williams, who finished third in the girls race (18:46), behind Bangor’s Megan Randall and Jenna VanRyn of Camden Hills. “But I had been practicing here for a while. When I’m here on the weekends, that’s where I run, on that course. So, I felt pretty confident.”

For Randall, who won the girls race in 17:55, mental preparation was needed to get used to the course conditions.

“It’s definitely tough to get into the right mental place,” Randall said. “We knew coming in to the course that it was going to be pretty wet, there had just been a ton of rain. Our coach warned us about the conditions.”

Williams said adjusting to conditions is par for the course for cross country runners.

“It’s so the opposite (of perfect),” Williams said. “It’s either super, super hot and it feels like a summer day, or it’s really, really cold and you’re in sweats until the very start of the race. It’s never always perfect. (On Friday), the weather was OK. It was very cool because of the rain, it was good.”

Bangor’s Dan McCarthy won the boys race with a time of 14:12 (three Bangor runners finished in the top four in the boys race). McCarthy, who had mud all up the back of his uniform after the race, jumped out quickly and finished the race with a hard kick to the finish.

“I went out a little hard and did something stupid like 4:30 at the first mile,” McCarthy said. “After that I was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to to hold onto this (lead) for another two (miles).”

McCarthy said wet terrain can play a factor for a runner during a cross country season, but he also credited the tough Quarry Road course as a challenge on the way to his win.

Winslow High School’s Lyndsay Moulton (138) runs through the mud puddle on the course at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It does take away from your time when the ground is soft,” McCarthy said. “It sucks the energy out of you. You’ve got to be extra careful going around corners. This course is about 95 percent hill. It wasn’t like old Waterville (course) going up the side of a ski mountain, but it was arguably worse with all the rolling hills. It sucked all the energy out of your legs going up them. Going down them, (the hills) are too short to use as any sort of recovery, because you have to go up them again.”

The Laliberte Invitational, hosted at Cony High School, provided a challenge on the other end of the weather spectrum. While the ground was firm, runners had to deal with heat and humidity. Trees on the trail did provide runners some shade.

Monmouth Academy runner Alexa Allen won the Laliberte girls race in 16:13.70. Still relatively new to running — Allen made the transition from soccer to cross country last year — she took the weather in stride.

“With conditions like this, everybody feels the same way, everybody is in the same conditions,” Allen said. “We just try to push through it and just know that others are in the same place, not let that get in your head and just keep running.”

More than the weather, Allen was simply happy to compete.

“This is my first normal look at a season,” Allen said. “Last year was my first season (in cross country), so I never had a start like this. I’ve been sent out in waves last year, the whole season. It was a different experience. It was good.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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