It was a great day of racing on Saturday in Belfast as we saw the Cumberland, RI girls' and the Falmouth boys' take the team titles at the 15th Festival of Champions. The Greely girls' were the top Maine team finishing second overall. Dry conditions led to some very fast times as we saw MDI senior Tia Tardy and Yarmouth junior Luke Laverdiere take the individual title in the seeded races.
Tardy kicked her way to a win, while Laverdiere took control of the race midway through to win comfortably. Both athletes put in top ten performances in event history. Wyatt Lord of Hampden Academy (15:51.75.15) and Jeremiah Sands of Falmouth (15:58) both dipped under 16:00 to break into the top-15 fastest performances in meet history. On the girls' side, Tardy (18:32), Malaika Pasch of Falmouth (18:36.49), Anneka Murrin of Yarmouth (18:36.83), and Katherine Leggatt-Barr (18:37.74) and Caroyln Todd (18:45.94) of Greely all broke into the top-15 of fastest female performances ever in event history.
Quite a performance from Luke Laverdiere If there was ever any doubt, Yarmouth junior Luke Laverdiere proved he is the best runner in the state on Saturday running 15:33.84 -- the fourth fastest time in course history, and nearly a 30 second PB. Going into Festival, Laverdiere was indeed the favorite, but it was expected that it would be a close battle with Lord and Hassett -- the top runners in Eastern Maine. Laverdiere changed his racing tactics on Saturday. He stayed patient through the first mile as the leaders pass through in 4:55, and took over just before the 1.5 mile mark. He hit two miles in 9:56 and kept his foot on the gas to come out with an 18 second victory over Lord. It was one of the more dominating performances we've seen in FOC history. Now Laverdiere will shift his focus towards the postseason where he is gunning for that elusive state championship.
Tia Tardy gets it done The MDI senior used her devastating track speed on Saturday kicking to a win and running a state leading time of 18:32, which is now the seventh fastest time in course history. In gauging Tardy's results this year, it seems the senior is taking a different approach to this season than in previous seasons. Rather than blowing away the competition, Tardy has seemed to take a more relaxed approach, doing whatever necessary to win. It's a smart approach as it will save her in the postseason and further as she will look to contend for a top five finish at the New England Championships in early November, and perhaps make some noise at the Footlocker Northeast Regional later in the month.
This was a great race for Wyatt Lord Lord joined rarified air on Saturday as he became the only sophomore in FOC history to break 16:00 as he ran a huge PB of 15:51.75 finishing second to Laverdiere. The time is now the 11th fastest in meet history. If he wasn't the individual favorite in Class A before FOC, he is now as he pulled away from fellow Class A compatriot Jeremiah Sands of Falmouth in the latter stages of the race, beating Sands by seven seconds. He has yet to lose a regular season meet this season, and has provided the low stick the Bronco's expected this season before Casavant got hurt. Fortunately for Hampden Academy, they received some great news in that Casavant has been cleared to return. He was available to race on Saturday, but his coaches elected to wait another week for his return. They key for Hampden Academy now is getting Casavant into race shape. He likely won't return to the form he was in 2015, but if he can come back and be a reliable no. 2 runner, the Broncos chances in Class A will increase significantly. The Broncos finished 22nd on Saturday while getting a 26th place finish from Will Webb who ran 16:53.
Yarmouth girls' still had a very good day without Abby Hamilton The Clippers were without Abby Hamilton, who was out with a non-running related injury, but still managed to finish third overall and were the second Maine team behind rival Greely. Yarmouth got a huge run from Anneka Murrin, who finished third running a PB of 18:36.83. They also got big runs from Grace Cowles (24th, 19:56.34) and Georgia Giese (36th, 20:21.49), and were only 47 points behind the Greely Rangers for second place. The Rangers were led by Katherine Leggatt-Barr and Carolyn Todd, finished fourth and fifth running 18:37.74 and 18:45.94 respectively. They got a big run from Chloe Waldrup, who finished 34th in 20:17.44, and got two top 60 performances from Kate Curran (58th, 20:37.7) and Chloe Smith (60th, 20:40.9) to round out their top five. Based on the results on Saturday, Yarmouth and Greely are incredibly evenly matched when both teams are completely healthy, which will make for a thrilling post-season coming up in the next few weeks.
Falmouth boys' looked very impressive Led by Jeremiah Sands' third place finish the Falmouth Yachtsmen left no doubt on Saturday scoring 127 points to win the meet. Each of Falmouth's top five had their best race in what was the Yachtsmen's most complete performance of the season. Connor Piers and John Auer, who have battled to be the Yachtsmen's no. 2 runner, put in top 20 finishes and the return of Ben Wyman, who ran a PB of 17:03, was a huge boost. But perhaps the most surprising run of the day for the Yachtsmen was the performance on no. 5 runner Charlie Henning. Before Saturday he had been consistently running in the high 18:00/low 19:00 range, but he had the race of his life running 17:29. It was the second time of Henning's career where he broke 18:00 (coincidentally, the only other time was at Festival of Champions last year). Saturday was our first chance to get a glimpse of the landscape for the team competition in Class A, and Falmouth took round one in what is expected to be a three-way battle between them Scarborough and Deering (Maybe Hampden Academy if Casavant can get back to 100%). The Red Storm finished second overall with 177 points with Shamus Malia leading the way with his 12th place finish running 16:34.42. Andrew Goodwin was 15th in 16:37.97, with Connor Coffin in 22nd in 16:42.37. He was the top freshmen in the field. Even in a supposed down year for the Red Storm, they always find a way challenge for a title. The Rams of Deering finished third scoring 203 points and were led by Yahya Nure and Alec Troxell, who finished 13th and 14th running 16:36.62 and 16:36.76 respectively.
A very good day for the George Stevens Academy girls' The George Stevens Academy girls' were on the outside looking in on the Sacucony Flo 50 team rankings, but that will likely change this week after their sixth place showing on Saturday. They beat Class C rival Orono, and were led by Eliza Broughton's 19th place finish running 19:53.02. Zeya Loria was just four seconds back finishing 26th, while Mary Richardson was 52nd in 20:33.61, which gave GSA a very good 40 second split between no. 1 and no. 3. More importantly for GSA, their no. 4 and 5 runners (Mary Brenna Catus and Tess Williamson) finished ahead of Orono's 4-5, which will be an intriguing sub-plot going into the post-season for team landscape in Class C. In finishing sixth GSA finished ahead of Bonny Eagle, Falmouth, Camden Hills, Cape Elizabeth, and Scarborough, who were all recently ranked in the most recent Saucony Flo 50 team rankings.