Vikings defend regional title in cross country

8 years ago

Squad has now won six regional championships in the last eight years

     BELFAST, Maine — An impressive pack time of 33 seconds separating the team’s top six runners helped the Caribou Vikings defend their boys’ regional championship Saturday.

     In the newly-named North (formerly Eastern Maine) regional, Caribou tallied 28 points to overwhelm the competition. Waterville, led by freshman and overall champ Nick Dall (16:42.84), was the only other team in double digits in points with 85 and claimed runner-up honors. Twelve other teams competed.

     The Vikings’ top six runners were among the top 11 overall out of a field of 105 competitors. Senior Chathu Karunasiri led the way by placing third on the 5K (3.1-mile) course in 17 minutes and 5.73 seconds. Tsion MacLeod, another senior, was fifth in 17:19.36 and sophomore Evan Desmond was one position back in 17:26.16.

     Not far behind were Vikings’ Elijah Verhoff (eighth in 17:29.75), Caleb Hunter (10th in 17:37.6) and Daniel Randolph (11th, 17:38.76).

     “The focus was there today,” said Caribou coach Roy Alden, who noted MacLeod “showed a lot of courage running with the leaders the first half of the race” and Karunasiri “had an outstanding second mile, ran extremely strong in the second half of the race and held off various challenges from Waterville athletes.”

     “They believed in the race plan they had and went out and worked extremely hard on the course,” he added. “It was an exciting day for the young men that make up this year’s team.”

     Gabe Massey, Caribou’s No. 7 runner, was 29th overall in 18:25.1. The top 30 finishers in each of the divisions also qualify for States as individuals.

     Caribou made it back-to-back regional titles and the squad has now won six such championships in the past eight years. It was Alden’s eighth regional championship since he began coaching the team in 1990.

     Now it is on to the state competition, which takes place this coming Saturday in Cumberland. Alden said it is going to take an outstanding team effort to win the Class B event for the first time since the Vikings’ initial title in 2010.

     “The same focus and sense of purpose must possess each of the seven young men that will be running in the meet,” he said. “We will need to continue to have the courage it takes to race with the top 20 runners in Class B and reduce our pack time another five to 10 seconds.”

     Greely of Cumberland, Freeport and York are all very solid squads from the South region, according to Alden.

     The Caribou girls also had a successful day by placing second out of 12 teams. The only team to beat the Vikings were the Waterville Panthers, who had the first-place and third-place runners to score a meet-low 66 points.

     Caribou followed with 92 points, just ahead of third-place Presque Isle with 94.

     Junior Julia Page bounced back from an injury-riddled past few weeks by pacing the Vikings with an 11th-place finish out of 90 runners. Her time was 21:24.09. The winning time was 19:01.29, turned in by Lauren Brown of the Panthers.

     Caribou featured three others, all juniors, in the top 20. Simone Michaud came in 17th in 21:47.76, Emma Belyea was 19th in 21:51.82 and Madeline Gudde 20th in 21:54.03.

     The fifth runner for the Vikes was freshman Emily Austin in 22:00.73, good for the 26th spot. Sarae Greenier, a sophomore, was one position back in 22:02.96 and also qualified for the individuals by being in the top 30.

     “We have never had five girls under 22:06 and Saturday we had six under 22:02,” said Thomas Beckum, coach of the Caribou girls. “The girls did an outstanding job running together and pushing each other to run down the runners ahead of them.

     “This was the most focused I have seen the girls run and next week we want to continue to run together and have our frontrunners place high in what will be a deeper field of fast runners,” he added, adding that a top-five team placement is possible if everything comes together.

     The team’s other racer, sophomore Sheridan Blackstone, was 51st.

     In Class C, the Washburn boys’ and girls’ teams both qualified for the state meet. With the top five teams in the field advancing, the Beaver boys placed third and the girls fourth.

     “We are very pleased as both teams exceeded expectations,” said second-year coach Andy Churchill. “Our success this year is very much attributed to the strong Aroostook County cross country environment as the quality of teams is strong and the coaches are very invested in their sport.

     “Meets are becoming events, not just races,” he added, and the buy-in from our athletes and fans is evident.”

     Senior Derek Baker came in ninth place out of 87 runners in 17:34.48, while sophomore Devon Maynard took 20th in 18:27.62. Junior McCall Turner (34th), senior Noah Caron (41st) and senior Kevin Jordan (49th) were the other scorers.

     Orono and George Stevens Academy were first and second, respectively, with 29 and 32 points. Washburn was a distant third with 122 points, ahead of Fort Kent, Lee Academy, Washington Academy and four other schools. John Hassett, a junior from GSA, had the fastest time of 16:20.09.

     Limestone-MSSM did not have a full team, but senior Keith Languet qualified for the state meet with his 25th-place performance in 18:50.61.

     The girls’ team from Washburn posted 129 points, which was behind Orono (19), George Stevens Academy (36) and Mattanawcook Academy (97) and ahead of Lee Academy (160), Limestone-MSSM (165), Washington Academy (171) and Machias (187).

     The top finishers for the Beavers were freshman Kassie Farley (19th, 22:06.88) and senior Emilia Churchill (22nd, 22:15.99). They were the only team members in the top 30. Kristen Sarmiento, a junior, was 35th in 24:31.93, while freshmen Mollie Clark (44th) and Samantha Churchill (55th) were the other scorers.

     “We hope to continue with our momentum coming off the Belfast race, and our goal is to finish both teams in the top half of the field for both boys and girls,” Churchill said. “We are also pushing our seniors to achieve personal records for this course, with a final sustained effort to end their successful high school careers.

     “If we continue to tighten our pack, I expect great results,” he added.

     Junior Tia Tardy of Orono was the winner in 18:34.19 out of a field of 80 runners.

     Allison Johnson of Limestone-MSSM came in 23rd place with a 22:23.88 clocking, earning the right to race again this Saturday.