Saturday, December 7, 2013
BELFAST -- When Aaron Willingham moved from Texas to Maine this year, the Mt. Blue High School cross country team gained a top runner and senior Josh Horne a valuable teammate and competitor.
"It's been really crazy," Horne said. "We've gone 1-2 every race so far."
Saturday, at the 77-school Festival of Champions, Willingham finished second and Horne third. Neither challenged Telstar's Josef Holt-Andrews who covered the 3.1 mile course in 15 minutes, 6.92 seconds, breaking the course record of 15:27 set last year by Nova Scotia's Mike Tate.
Willingham finished in 15:42.18 while Horne ran 15:54.21. Both times were personal bests. Willingham broke the 16 minute mark in a meet last week while Horne did it for the first time.
"The competition this year is so much crazier," Horne said. "It's really helped me. Breaking 16 was a huge barrier."
Willingham pulled away from Horne at about the mile mark, although Horne closed the gap at the end.
"My goal today was to run with (Ellsworth's) Dan Kurtz and Holt-Andrews. I did at first but they're really fast and very inspiring actually."
More than 1,400 runners from Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Canada competed on the same course which will host the state high school championships this year. Bonny Eagle's Kialeigh Marston won the girls race in 18:42.94, followed by South Portland's Shannon Conley and Kents Hill's Anne McKee. Lewiston claimed the boys team title while the girls championship went to Mount Desert Island.
McKee finished in 18:59.40, breaking the 19-minute barrier for the first time. She nearly caught Conley in a foot race to the finish line, losing by .19 seconds. McKee finished in 19:38 at the race last year as a freshman.
"It was a really fast start," McKee said. "We came out of the mile at 5:40. I was going a little fast so I knew I had to hold it. I was really happy actually."
Cony's Anne Guadalupi won the freshman race in 19:21.39, beating runner-up Tia Tardy by 35 seconds. Guadalupi's time placed her eighth overall.
"I was nervous before the race, but as I got on the line I said 'this is a race to be excited about,' " Guadalupi said. "And my adrenaline went up."
The Mt. Blue boys finished ninth overall, getting a 22nd-place finish from junior Dan Lesko. The Messalonskee boys placed 14th led by senior Logan Moses, who finished 21st. Freshman Owen Concaugh, who won the freshman race, finished 49th overall. Winthrop junior Ben Allen finished 30th while sophomore teammate William Vance won the unseeded boys race.
The Maranacook girls finished 11th while the boys placed 14th. Hannah Despres led the girls with a 25th-place finish while Austin Landry finished 52nd in the boys race and teammate Jason Stevenson 59th. Other central Maine top finishers included Waterville's Erica Jenson (51st), Winslow's Audrey Jones (53rd), Mt. Blue's Maggie Hickey (54th) and Messalonskee's Allison Fischang (58th).
Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638