Runners take off from the starting line for the Laliberte Invitational on Aug. 26 in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It’s a line right out of the sports cliche playbook: the only thing harder than winning a title is defending one. Several central Maine cross country teams and runners face that pleasant dilemma in 2022.

Start with the Maranacook girls, who bring back five of their top six runners from a team that captured the Class C South championship last fall and placed third behind champion Orono and runner-up Houlton at last year’s state meet. Fifth-year Maranacook coach Jay Nutting  had admitted visions of a repeat have danced in his runners’ heads.

“We’ve talked a little about it as a team, and how we need to do a little more now that the season has started,” Nutting said. “Certainly, the discussion of bringing home hardware again is at the top of everyone’s minds. I think the feeling is if we stay healthy, we can repeat our successes from last year and hopefully improve on them.”

Senior Lina Martinez-Nocito, who was ninth in last year’s Class C state meet, sixth in C South and fourth in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference B meet, leads a talented group of returning runners. Martinez-Nocito also is coming off a stellar outdoor track season in which she posted strong finishes in 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter events at the Class C meet.

Juniors Lilly Mushlit (13th C South), Elsa Bergdahl (30th) and Olympia Farrell also return, as does sophomore Emma Roesner, who raced sparingly at the start of the season, but was a strong No. 3 runner by the end of the season, Nuttnig said. She finished 12th at the C South meet.

The Maranacook boys, who placed eighth at last year’s Class C meet, have a greater turnout than in recent years, Nutting said. Junior Silas Bartoll and sophomore Cooper Tarbuck look to be in the mix, while Nutting hopes freshmen Jeffrey Lemieux and Nick Harper can make an immediate impact.


Elsewhere in Class C, the Winthrop boys are coming off a sixth-place finish at the state meet. Juniors Chris Pottle and Teddy Wagner, who had strong spring track seasons, return. So, too, does James Cognatta, who was 13th at the state race before transferring during the school year, —only to return to Winthrop this fall, 11th-year coach Ed Van Tassel said.

“I feel like we have the pieces in place to qualify for the states, but the margins are going to be a little thinner,” Van Tassel said.

The girls return Haley Williams, who was second at the C South race and sixth in the state meet to earn a trip to the New England championships.

Monmouth, which won the Mountain Valley Conference girls title and was second in the boys’ race, also figures to be in the Class C mix. Brosnan Comeau returns as the defending Class C champion and is poised for another standout season.

In Class A, Mt. Blue also features a championship team with repeat aspirations. The Cougars bring back eight girls from last year’s Class A North championship squad, led by senior Bridget Reusch (10th place) and sophomore Nora McCourt (11th). Senior Moriah Reusch; juniors Lucinda Carroll and Natalie McCarthy; and sophomores Addie Colello, Cassidy Hardy and Brielle Tinker also return. The boys, who placed fifth at the KVAC A meet and sixth at regionals, are led by senior Cyrus Evans (sixth A North, 17th state meet) and sophomore Henri McCourt (14th A North). Senior Kodi Quimby; juniors Daniel Dalton and Owen Heseltine; and sophomores Noah Civiello and Eli Hoeft should also see action.

“The majority of our athletes have done some good summer training and are excited to start the competitive phase of the season,” 30th-year coach Kelley Cullenberg said in an email. “We are very excited to make steady progress and try to improve upon last season’s performances.”


In Class B, the Cony boys return six runners from a team that took the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title last fall. Senior Sam Coffin and junior Sam Goldey turned in top-10 finishes at last year’s KVAC B meet, while juniors Eben Buck, James Mooney, Matthew Dos Santos, Brandon Mastriano and Kyle Mastriano and freshman Connor Poirier round out the lineup.

Monmouth’s Brosnan Comeau wins the Class C boys individual state cross country title in 16:43.78 last season in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“There is a vibe of anticipation and excitement around this boys team for our upcoming season,” coach Shawn Totman said in an email. “I love it and can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.”

The Cony girls, who last year were just two points shy of a Ram sweep at the KVAC meet, return seniors Sage Fortin and Emma Brown, who placed in the top 20 at the KVAC race and will join with sophomore Loralie Grady to form what Totman said should be a “formidable” top three. After losing talented seniors Grace Kirk and Bri Harriman from last year’s team — both were top-10 at the regional race and Kirk was fifth in the Class B state championships — Totman hopes to find some newcomers to round out the roster.

While the Waterville girls finished third in the KVAC and B North races, fifth-year coach Ted Brown is looking to see who will fill the 3-4-5 spots behind senior Abby Williams, who won the KVAC title last year, and junior Beatrice Beale-Tate (fifth). The boys, who have had a hard time scoring as a team in the past, hope to have a full roster the next few years thanks to a host of freshmen and sophomores. Senior Andrew Turlo was 10th at the KVAC meet and 18th at the regional.

“We’re very excited about the future,” Brown said.

Maranacook’s Lina Martinez Nocito competes during the Class C girls cross country race last season in Belfast. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Erskine returns its top three boys from last year’s team, which finished third at the KVAC B race. Senior Nick Choate was eighth at the KVACs last fall and also won the 3,200-meter race at last spring’s KVAC outdoor track meet. He is joined by classmate Zephyr Lani-Caputo and sophomore Wynn Pooler, who is also a state champion wrestler. Scott Rollins, who also is the Eagles’ indoor and outdoor track coach, is in his first season guiding the boys cross country program, while Roxanne Manley remains the girls’ coach. Sophomore Daphne Allen is the lone returnee for the girls, who welcome newcomers Bianca Dostie and Jessica Pumphrey.

Lawrence has dealt with numbers issues recently, but veteran coach Tim Alberts brings back sophomore Paige Goodwin and junior Hallie Firmage, who both competed in last year’s Class B regional meet. The boys, whose roster last year consisted of all seniors, start with a clean slate. Alberts hopes to recruit some newcomers to join sophomore Noah Young, a race walker for the outdoor track team.

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