Ruth White of Orono crosses the finish line to win the girls race at the Festival of Champions on Saturday at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

BELFAST — Like she’s shown each of the past two years, Ruth White has an ability to blow past the competition.

On Saturday, the Orono junior did it again, breaking her own course record to win the girls race at the 21st Festival of Champions cross country meet at Troy Howard Middle School. The race had an estimated 1,400 runners from 80 schools throughout New England and Canada.

White finished with a time of 17:27.15. Her previous mark was 17:28.44 when she won last year’s race.

“It’s not so much about (winning the title), I’m just excited for my teammates,” White said. “Coming in, we had four freshmen (in the previous race). I’m just really proud of them and excited for my team.”

While overcast skies covered the course for much of the day, the sun broke and temperatures rose just before the start of the girls race. The change in temperatures did nothing to White, who jumped out to the lead from the start and never relinquished it. Shortly after crossing the finish line, White was shaking hands with fellow finishers and passing out cups of water.

“I just wanted to go out hard and hit pretty even splits,” White said of her strategy. “It’s always a goal to get faster… My goal is to just get faster and for my team to reach states. I got faster on this course, so that’s a good first step.”


Anna Robinson of Royals TC of Nova Scotia, Canada finished second (18:05.93), while Cary Drake of York finished third (18:27.11).

Bonny Eagle repeated as the girls team champion. The Scots were led by Addy Thibodeau, who finished fifth (18:38.07) and Kallie Warner, who finished 15th (19:28.56). Cumberland High School of Rhode Island finished in second (100 points), while Orono finished third (195).

Charlie Collins of Hampden Academy crosses the finish line to win the boys race at the Festival of Champions on Saturday at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

Charlie Collins of Hampden Academy (15:38.91) held off Nathan Blades of Portland (15:49.07) to win the boys individual title. Collins and Blades stayed close to one another in the early stages, but Collins had enough in the final kick to break off and race to victory.

“I thought it was going to be a lot closer, considering how that first mile and a half went with Nathan right on me,” Collins said. “He’s a phenomenal runner, he performed excellently today to have some great competition. I think (the win) proves I’m in pretty good shape.”

Garrett Dailey of Burrillville, Rhode Island finished third at 15:52.40.

Thanks to Collins’ victory, the Broncos won the boys team championship, with 116 points. Portland finished second (143), while defending champion Brunswick finished third (204).

“Our team doesn’t really plan to peak at festivals, but (instead) peak at the end of the year,” Collins said. “This is a little bit of the same deal as some of our regular season meets. We’re still trying to improve, but we still have gas in the tank, we can do more.”

Collins added the race is just as much a mental battle as a physical battle with so many runners participating.

“It’s all about your mindset,” Collins said. “It’s so mental in this game, you can give up at any point. Just about everyone in this race could have run incredibly fast, but it’s all about the mental aspect. It’s all about dealing with the pain, and there’s a lot of it (during a race). You have to be really strong mentally to do this.”

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