Runners take off from the starting line for the Laliberte Invitational on Aug. 26, 2022 in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The race is on to see which runners rise to the top this fall.

With the graduation of several longtime standouts — Mt. Blue’s Cyrus Evans and Waterville’s Abby Williams to name a few — there’s an opening for others to rise.

Despite the loss of Evans, the Mt. Blue boys returns several strong runners to potentially make them a Class A contender.  The Cougars will be led this season by junior Henri McCourt, who finished sixth at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A meet, 11th in the Northern Class A meet and 10th at the Class A championships.

“Although we lost a couple of key individuals to graduation, the team has more depth than we had before,” Mt. Blue head coach Kelley Cullenberg said. “A lot of the returning kids worked pretty hard this summer. They’re in better shape, I would say, than they were at this time last year. That is really exciting.”

Seniors Luke Doscinski and Ben Hatch follow McCourt as Mt. Blue’s top returning male runners.

“We do different areas of (training) mileage, depending on where kids are at,” Cullenberg said. “In order to do the highest mileage, the kids have to ask permission and then we monitor that very closely. I have four boys who have asked to do that, where I didn’t have any do that last year.”


Slightly surprising, at least by Mt. Blue standards, are the numbers on the girls team. The Cougars will enter the season with just seven runners. However, Mt. Blue has a top returner back in junior Nora McCourt, who finished seventh at last year’s KVAC A meet and 10th in the Northern A meet.

“Numbers are not in our favor (on the girls side) this year,” Cullenberg said. “But the girls that we have, five of them were on the team last year, and that team did quite well. We did lose a couple of key people, but we’ll see what happens.”

Natalie McCarthy, Lucinda Carroll, Brielle Tinker and Elizabeth Strickland follow Nora McCourt in the girls lineup.

Messalonskee junior Pierce Coughlin also has an opportunity to rise in the Class A boys ranks this fall. Coughlin was 11th at the KVAC A meet last year and ninth at the Northern A meet.

Messalonskee’s Pierce Coughlin crosses a bridge during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cross country championships last season in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Winthrop, the defending Mountain Valley Conference boys champion and girls runner-up, has a chance once again to contend in Class C.

“We’re very excited,” Winthrop head coach Ed Van Tassel said. “We had a great summer as a team, the fall has been equally as good. Kids are motivated and training well and we’re having fun as a team.”


The Ramblers graduated a longtime cross country and track standout in James Cognata, who won the MVC boys title last year. But senior Christopher Pottle — who finished third at the MVC meet, second at the Class C South meet and fourth at the Class C championships — returns, along with most of last year’s boys roster.

“I’m super senior-heavy on the boys side,” Van Tassel said. “From our top seven, we only graduated one from last year… We’ve got everyone else back and have some promising newcomers, so we’re certainly excited and hoping we can build off the great year we had last fall. (Pottle) has been smart all summer (with training), put in a ton of mileage and looks really good.”

Winthrop senior Haley Williams could be the top female runner in central Maine this fall. Williams is the defending MVC champion, finished second at the Class C South meet and then fourth at the Class C meet. To win a state title, Williams will have to run down Orono senior Ruth White, the top female distance runner in not only Maine but New England as well.

MCI’s Addison Verrill races during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cross country championships last season in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“(Williams) has done the most running this summer that she’s ever done,” Van Tassel said. “We’re building toward the end of October (for the postseason meets), but they’re trending in the right direction.”

Richmond’s Benjamin Fournier has a chance to be a standout in Class C, as he finished sixth at the MVC championships and fifth at the Class C South meet. Maine Central Institute’s Addison Verrill finished seventh at the KVAC B meet last fall and 13th at the Class C championships. Maranacook, the girls runner-up in KVAC B meet and the Class C South meet last year, will have to make up ground with the graduation of top runner Lina Martinez Nocito.

In Class B, the Cony girls hope to duplicate their success from last fall. The Rams finished third at the KVAC B meet and runner-up at the Northern Class B meet. Cony will have to make up some ground with the graduation of Emma Brown. Waterville is in a similar position with the graduation of Abby Williams, who won the KVAC B title, was runner-up at the Northern B meet and finished third at the Class B championships last fall.

The Cony boys could see big improvement in Class B, too. The Rams finished fourth at the KVAC B meet last year, with several underclassmen — including Sam Goldey and Brandon Mastriano — leading the charge. Cony also finished fourth at the Northern B meet.

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