All the mileage, all the speedwork, all the mile repeats that Maine’s cross country runners have put in for the last three months will lead up to one moment on Saturday in Belfast.
Six state champions – three boys and three girls – will be crowned on the Midcoast as the state’s best runners and teams gather at the Troy Howard Middle School for Saturday’s state championship meets.
Racing gets underway at 1 p.m. with the Class B boys, with the subsequent races to follow every 35 minutes.
Maine Principals’ Association officials moved the start of the meet up to the early afternoon hours due to the fact that Saturday is an SAT testing date.
The state meet was originally scheduled for last weekend, but inclement weather pushed North and South regional championship meets back to the final weekend in October.
The top six teams in the state, regardless of class, along with the top 20 individuals, will move on to next weekend’s New England championships in Rhode Island.
If their first two postseason confrontations are any indication, it’s clear the George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and Orono girls are in for another classic clash on the TMHS trails.
The Red Riots took the first meeting at the Penobscot Valley Conference championship meet, on a sixth-runner tiebreak, while the Eagles exacted revenge last weekend, nipping the Riots by a single point.
So who will take Round Three with the championship belt up for grabs?
Both teams have talented frontrunners in Kassidy Dill and Eliza Broughton, with the Riots’ Dill having earned individual wins in both the conference and regional meets.
Both teams also have pack power, and last weekend, it was GSA’s that was slightly better, with the Eagles finishing 2-3-4, compared to 1-5-7 for Orono.
Elsewhere in the girls’ meet, Mount Desert Island senior Tia Tardy will look to add to her growing trophy case, coming off a convincing individual win at regionals that helped lead her Trojans to a team championship.
MDI, along with North runner-up Camden Hills, will have some challenging competition from South winner Greely of Cumberland Center, along with Yarmouth and York. Expect a thrilling duel up front between Tardy and South individual champ Abigail Hamilton from Yarmouth.
North Class A champ Brunswick will be in the mix for a state title, along with South powerhouses Falmouth (regional champ) and Bonny Eagle.
For the boys, Orono cruised to a regional championship by placing six scoring runners in the top 10, but the Riots will be significantly challenged by Maine Coast High School, the South regional champ, and South runner-up Waynflete of Portland, along with North silver medalist GSA.
The Eagles feature an individual favorite in senior John Hassett, who won going away at the North regional meet.
In Class B, the regional champions, Caribou and Greely, used a similar formula – tight packs – to emerge from last weekend atop the podiums.
The Rangers’ top three runners all finished in the top 10 and all five scoring runners in the top 15 at regionals, and should be looked at as the team favorites.
Four of Caribou’s scoring runners earned top-15 finishes last weekend, and if the Vikings are going to make a run at a top-3 finish, their fifth runner will have to be closer to that pack.
In Class A, South teams have dominated state-championship competition over the last decade, with Lewiston the only North school (2007, 2013) to emerge as a state champion over the last 10 years.
Falmouth, which romped in the South regionals, appears to be the team favorite, but don’t sleep on North champ Mt. Blue of Farmington, which features regional individual champ Tucker Barber, who posted the fastest time among his northern Maine cousins last week.
Hampden, which earned a runner-up finish, has a talented 1-2 punch in Wyatt Lord and Paul Casavant, and could make a run at a top-three finish if the Broncos’ pack moves up closer to those two.