Even though the cross-country season is in its early stages, early-season meets can be of significant importance as teams gradually prepare for the championship season.
The University of Maine men took an important early-season step on Saturday at the UMass Invitational in Amherst, Massachusetts, against six other East Coast teams.
Coach Mark Lech’s Black Bears tucked four runners in the top 10 and came home with an impressive early-season win, tallying 35 points, six ahead of runner-up Connecticut.
Rounding out the men’s field were Vermont (93), Amherst College (110), Sacred Heart (121) and UMass (125).
Leading UMaine’s pack was Jesse Orach, as the Gorham native earned his second first-place finish in as many races, completing the 6K (3.72 miles) course in 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
Orach was joined in the top 10 by Levi Frye in fifth place, Jacob Johns in seventh and Aaron Willingham in eighth.
Josh Horne rounded out the Bears’ scoring runners in 14th place. More importantly, Horne finished four spots ahead of UConn’s fifth runner, and the Black Bears’ pack time – or difference between Orach and Horne – was an impressive 41 seconds.
Two other Black Bears – Lucas Bourget and Simon Powhida – also cracked the top 20, finishing 16th and 17th, respectively.
The UMaine women finished 6th among 7 teams with 175 points, with Boston College dominating the field with a 30-point effort.
Leading the Black Bears was cross-country newcomers Kaitlin Saulter, who finished 19th in 18:31 over a 5K course.
UMaine returns to action Friday in the Coast to Coast battle at Boston’s Franklin Park.
Also in the collegiate ranks, Husson University’s squads hosted its lone home meet of the fall on Saturday at Bangor’s Saxl Park.
Six men’s teams and four women’s squads wound up scoring in the meet, with the University of Southern Maine men and Saint Josephs College women leaving the Queen City with team titles.
The Husson men went on to finish fourth while the women were third.
Winning individual crowns were Josh Shanks of the University of New Brunswick for the men, and Callie McGuire, also of UNB, for the women.
Penobscot Valley Conference teams were busy over the weekend with a pair of invitationals in Caribou and in Bucksport.
The Orono boys and girls swept the Caribou Invitational, with the girls’ squad winning for the second time in as many weekends.
The Caribou Invitational uses an unusual format, as seven different varsity races are contested.
Each team’s first runners compete against each other, then the second runners, all the way up to 7, with the top 5 finishes comprising of a team’s score.
When it was all said and done, the Orono girls swept the field with five points, with Caribou finishing second with nine. Orono’s boys wound up with six points, while Caribou was right behind with 10 points.
Recording the day’s top times over 2.8 miles were Hannah Steelman of Orono (18:13.70) and Matt Keresey, also of Orono (15:59.17).
Meanwhile in Bucksport, the George Stevens Academy boys and girls swept the Bucksport Invitational, held over a 2.9-mile course.
The Eagles wound up compiling a perfect score in the girls’ race behind Eliza Broughton’s first-place effort. Mattanawcook Academy wound up second and Lee Academy third.
GSA and Lee were the only two scoring squads in the boys’ race, and individual winner John Hassett paced the Eagles to an 18-point effort, while Lee scored 37 points.