By Jim MacKenzie
The story line of the day at the 16th Maine XC Festival of Champions was, “Be Fast in Belfast”. With dry conditions and temperatures in the 50’s, it was a perfect day to take full opportunity to run really fast. Concord, Nashua North, and Hanover made the 4 hour trip to the heart of the beautiful Maine coast and the site of the 2017 New England Cross Country Championships.
To start the day off right Concord’s Brayden Kearns ran a brilliant race to capture the title in the freshman race. He ran comfortably throughout winning in 16:31. Finishing in second place with a well-executed kick was his Concord teammate Eben Bragg 16:52. Hanover’s Daniel Frost placed 12th in 17:56. Concord’s Morgan Orcutt was the first NH finisher placing 13th 20:24 in the girl’s freshman race.
Defending champion Yarmouth Maine senior Luke Laverdiere missed the course record by 3 seconds to win with a sizzling time of 15:10. The record was set by Josef Holt-Andrews of Telstar Maine in 2013. Andrews went on to place 3rd in New Englands at Manchester’s Derryfield Park that same year with a 15:12, the third fastest time ever.
Concord Junior Forest MacKenzie ran another tactically smart race placing 3rd overall and first among NH finishers. His outstanding time of 15:45 makes him the 13th fastest boy of all time on this course. Nashua North’s David Vorbach hung tough with Laverdiere for about 1200 meters, but paid the price in the latter stages of the race. He still finished a respectable 5th in15:56. Max Ireland also of Nashua North placed 6th in 16:02 just in front of Concord’s Nate Nichols 8th 16:02, Concord’s Oliver Spencer was 11th in 16:05 and Nashua North’s Joseph Curran was the second fastest sophomore on the day in 16:15 good enough for 16th place.
In the first 150 yards of the race a few runners got tripped up and caused the “domino effect”, which led to about a 50 runner pileup involving several of the top Concord runners. Several of them were certainly tested in resiliency. In the end, it looked like a giant tsunami of Concord Crimson Tide rushed in and made landfall on the Belfast coastline by placing a total of 11 runners including the two aforementioned freshmen in the top 45 overall places on the day. The rest of the wave of runners were Matt O’Brien placing 23rd (16:32), Eli Boesch-Dining 25th (16:34), David Cook 32nd (16:47), Aiden O’Hern 36th (16:51), Ryan Devine 39th (16:51) and running almost the entire race with one shoe Alex Duncan 45th (16:55). Morgan Baughman of Hanover place 48th overall in a time of 16:57.
Concord easily won the team title which featured a field of 68 teams from all six New England States and teams from Canada. Concord’s team score was 58 points. Concord’s average time of 16:11 is a new meet record. East Greenwich Connecticut was 2nd with 123 points and Nashua North finished 3rd with 139 points.
Leila Trummel of Hanover was the top NH girl placing 9th overall in 18:59. Nashua North’s Arrianna Braccio placed 23rd in 19:21 and Concord’s Molly Bragg placed 52nd in 20:09. Concord girls placed 11th in the team competition, Hanover was 15th and Nashua North was 22nd.
To put things in perspective, Ben True’s fastest time on this course is 15:51 in 2003. He went on to place 2nd in New England that same year running 15:22 at Derryfield. True’s resume includes a 13:02 5k, 27:41 10k and a silver medal in the World Cross Country Championships. Will Geoghegan ran a 15:33 in 2009 and went on to place third at New Englands. He’s run 13:43 5k and a 3:57 mile. Levi Miller ran 15:36 in 2004 and went on to place 2nd in New Englands to go along with a 13:56. Riley Masters best was 16:12. He went on to run a 13:17 5k, 3:36 1500 and 3:56 mile. USATF Silver Medalist Isaiah Harris ran 16:13 on this very course before he torched the 800 meter to the tune of 1:44!