Cross country's postseason begins in earnest this weekend, with conference supremacy up for grabs.
Approximately 19 teams will be vying for Penobscot Valley Conference bragging rights at Hermon High School on Saturday afternoon in that conference's championship meets.
The league will crown large and small-school team and individual champions. Ellsworth, Caribou, Presque Isle, Mount Desert Island, John Bapst, Old Town, Washington Academy, Hermon and Foxcroft Academy make up the large school field while Bangor Christian, Bucksport, Calais, Central, Fort Kent, GSA, Lee, Mattanawcook, Orono and Sumner will vie for the small-school crowns.
Racing gets under way at noon with the girls' varsity race. The varsity boys will run at 12:40, with the junior varsity girls (1:20) and boys (2:10) wrapping up the day.
The small and large school teams will race together, but the competitions will be scored separately to crown four team champions and four individual champions.
The MDI girls and Ellsworth boys are favored to return to the top of the podium in the large-school races.
The Trojans, who ran away with the team title at the Festival of Champions earlier this month, boast one of the state's deepest packs.
Senior Maggie Painter leads the Trojans' pack, and she'll be one of the contenders for the individual crown as well. The Trojans outdistanced their nearest competitor by nearly 90 points at FOC, and have been ranked No. 1 in the Milesplit polls throughout the year. MDI recorded a perfect score at the Hancock County championships last week.
Ellsworth's Aleta Looker will be a contender for the individual crown as well, along with Amanda Haney of John Bapst and Chelsea Haney of Caribou.
The Ellsworth boys haven't missed a beat since FOC despite missing top runner Dan Curts due to injury, as the Eagles cruised to victory at the Hancock County championships behind Braydon Beardsley's first-place effort.
Robert Looker, Frank King and Cooper Holmes make for a solid pack, and they finished 2-3-4 at the Hancock County meet. John Bapst, MDI and Presque Isle are shaping up to be contenders as well.
In the small-school meet, Mattanawcook Academy's Tia Tardy, a freshman who won the individual crown at the Pendale Invitational last weekend, is shaping up to be an individual favorite while the Lynx and Orono are expected to battle it out for team honors.
For the boys, John Hasset had a strong race for George Stevens Academy in the Hancock County meet, while Orono sophomore Tristan Butterfield looks strong as well. The Red Riots are a team favorite.