Check out our team and individual preview of the Maine Festival of Champions. We look at the top teams in Maine, as well as out of state participants. Then we examine the top individual girls from Maine and beyond.
Teams to Watch from Maine
For a school with 340 kids, I would say they are doing alright for themselves…
After losing Lily Koffman to graduation last spring, Tia Tardy has stepped right in and given the Red Riots another outstanding athlete to replace her with. The trio of Tardy-Steelman-and Dill has been nothing short of dominating this fall, sweeping the first three places in all of their races so far. Although they will face their toughest challenge of the year, Orono is still one of the team favorites coming into this race. Not only do they have three of the top 10-15 runners in Maine, but their #4-#5 combo of senior Olivia Fandel and freshman Camille Kohtala are not far behind, giving them the best 5 of any team in the state. Camille Kohtala, a freshman, is an intriguing athlete to watch for a variety of reasons. Kohtala will be racing in the freshman race, and should be one of the favorites to compete for a top spot. Her middle distance speed (1:05 400m and 2:45 800m from 8th grade) will serve her well on this type of course, and this is usually a PR parade for young runners like her. If all five of these ladies are on their A-game this weekend, they could put together one of the more impressive FOC performances by any team in a long time.
Scarborough has picked up right where they left off, taking their first 3 regular season meets with ease. Bethany Sholl has been everything and then some as their # 1. Sholl's dominating presence in the lineup has been good for three consecutive wins by a considerable margin. Not only will she be in contention for a top 5 spot this weekend, but look for her to challenge for some individual hardware at the end of October. This Red Storm crew is coming off their best outing of the season, putting four girls under 20:30, and another three under 22:20 at the speedy Thornton course. The first 4 athletes were only 44 seconds apart, while their #5, sophomore Hannah Griffin, hit a pretty sizeable PR of 21:46 to give Scarborough a very legitimate 5th runner. Coming off of that performance, Scarborough will have all the confidence they need to compete for a top spot this weekend, and should given their great experience in big situations like this. If Laura Volan, Sam Saraceno, and Marissa Carbone can repeat or improve on their performances from last week, The Red Storm will prove to be a tough challenge for all teams in the field.
After missing the state meet in 2014, Bonny Eagle has been burning through the SMAA this fall. Winners of three straight contests, the Lady Scots have gotten some outstanding races out of their freshman this year, who figure to be some of the top seeds going into the rookie portion of Saturdays event. Christine Toy, Kayla Raymond, and Ami Beaumier have all had excellent starts to their high school careers, with all running 21:06 or faster so far this season. Beaumier broke out last week with a 20:51 mark on a challenging Biddeford course, while Kayla Raymond was a few seconds ahead at 20:49. Although Toy sat out last week, she has two wins to her name from week #1 and week #2. This trio gives Bonny Eagle an excellent chance to compete for the title, given that Kialeigh Marston and Elisabeth Redwood will be running in the seeded section. If the Scots are at full strength, they will certainly be in contention for the victory.
The Capers have been getting hot over the past few weeks, and had their best team showing of the season last week. The quartet of Samantha Feenstra, Liv Palma, Emma Shedd, and Alicia Lawrence all ran 20:32 or faster for three miles last week. With those four girls running at that level, they will most likely be in the mix to score a top 5 finish. The key to the success of Cape Elizabeth will be the continued development of their #5 runner. Over the past 3 weeks that spot has been held by junior Anna Friberg, and freshman Kelsey Kennedy. Kennedy is really starting to come around, running between 23:00 and 25:00 through the first 3 weeks of the season, and then popping out a 21:25 to be the 5th runner last week at York. This improvement comes at a perfect time, and will give the 1st year runner all the confidence she needs to run towards the front of the freshman pack at FOC. If she can improve on last weeks performance then the Capers are in business and could even repeat their team title from a year ago.
Falmouth has started off the season well and has shown off their excellent depth. Mira Wyman has been a strong as ever, finishing as the Yachtsmen's #1 runner two times this year, and has led the team to as many wins. Her strong start has been even more important given that Falmouth's star freshman has been on the shelf since week 1 when she (Malaika Pasch) ran 20:57 at their home course. Pasch is expected to run this weekend, which will make the freshman race that much more competitive, given her excellent talent level and pre-high school résumé. With that strong 1-2 punch going and the 3-7 pack running better than almost any other in Maine, expect Falmouth to make some noise this weekend.
The Mustangs have been the states most consistent program since 2007, and have shown no signs of slowing down this year. Coming off of a weekend at Manchester, Massabesic is looking to use their recent big meet experience to make a statement this weekend. Emily Wasina is following up her strong 2014 campaign with a fast start here this fall, and has been the leader of the pack so far. If she competes this weekend, look for her to be one of the top individual finishers, which will give Massabesic a great start to their team scoring. Maquila Dimasrantonio had her best outing in two years, running 20:56 last weekend finishing as the teams #1 runner, while freshman Kylie Johnson finished 7th in the 2-mile freshman race hitting a nice 6:40 per mile clip (20:40 5k pace). With those two really starting to heat up, Massabesic has a lot to be excited about going into this weekend, especially with their strong pack improving as the season nears championship time. With so many of these girls returning from last years runner-up squad, look for them to use their veteran experience to shoot for a top 10 finish.
The Blue Blazes of Westbrook have continued to climb the ranks of Class A West this fall, and are coming off of their best performance of the season, a 16-point effort at Smiling Hill Farm. Going into the FOC, the Blazes are in a good position to compete for a top 10 spot, and will be well represented in all 3 races. Zoe Popovic and Emma Lombardo have been among the states best freshman and some of Westbrook's top runners this fall. With the freshman race field shaping up to be a very competitive one, Popovic and Lombardo should find themselves in the thick of it as they look to get the Blazes off to a fast start on the day. Senior ace, Gabbi Pabst, has continued to climb back from an injury she suffered last winter, which restricted her for all of indoor and outdoor. Coming off of her first win of the season last week, Pabst is looking to lead the Blazes and return to form here this week and beyond. If this team can continue to improve like they have for the past few weeks, look for them to make a run at a top 10 finish.
Teams to Watch from Away
Last years 4th place finishers are reloaded and ready to go here this Saturday, coming off of a dominating performance two weeks ago at the Northern Division Dual Meets. Last years champion is back after running 19:01.02 in 2015, and will look to defend her title against a strong field of Maine athletes. With their 2-5 runners all running between 20:10 and 20:50 two weeks ago, this group is most certainly a team that could improve on their top 5 showing from last year. Keep an eye out for this talented team, as they make their annual trip to Belfast, ME on Saturday.
Harwood Union, VT
After finishing 5th at FOC a year ago, Harwood Union is back with almost the same exact squad. For Maine folks, this team is comparable to Greely, having lost to them by only two points last week at the Manchester Invitational. Erin Magill finished 2nd in the Freshman Race and 11th overall last year and should figure to be one of the top runners here in 2015. Teammate Anneka Williams was not far behind, finishing 17th, with their 3-7 runners running less than a minute apart. While they will face a stiff challenge against teams they have not seen in a year, it is very possible that they contend for the title. Expect to see a lot of Black and Gold up towards the front of the pack.
Phillips Exeter, NH
Phillips Exeter is coming off of a great weekend down at the Codfish Bowl at the tough Franklin Park course, where the 1-2 punch of Christine Hu and Yoshiko Lynch hit 19:34 and 19:37 for top 10 finishes. After running that well on such a tough course, you have to respect what they could do on a course like Belfast in a big field, so look for those two ladies to run towards the front of the pack. Their 3-4 and 5-6 runners also ran close together with gaps of 14 and 10 seconds between them, and all running under 21:40. Phillips Exeter adds yet another strong team to an already crowded field of strong teams, so look for them to compete for a top 10 spot this weekend.
Girls to Watch from Maine(*based off of results from 2015)
Anne Guadalupi, JR Cony- Guadalupi has been among the states best since she stepped onto the scene as a freshman. Now in her junior year, she has won 4 out of 5 races, and has turned out a 19:34.20 season best at Medomak Valley. Look for her to use her extensive knowledge of the course to her advantage, having run it 5 times in her career. Expect her to run with the lead pack, and make a run at the individual crown.
Augusta Stockman, FR Camden Hills- Stockman has been impressive through the first portion of the season running 20:00.30 at Medomak Valley as a season best. She has finished 2nd 4 times, and even won a race at Belfast running 20:13.02. Look for her to be in the running for the Freshman Race win, as she makes a bid at breaking 20:00.)
Bethany Sholl, SO Scarborough- Sholl has improved steadily since the start of her freshman year, and now she is one of the many favorites to win the Class A title this fall. She has won the first 3 races of the regular season with ease, and has shown no signs of taking her foot off the gas. Sholl hit a personal best of 19:46.00 last week at Thornton, which should give her a great deal of confidence as she shoots for a top finish this weekend.
Tessa Cassidy, SR Brunswick - Cassidy comes in as one of Class A's top returning runners. She finished 4th in this meet last year, and has won 3 of her 4 races this fall, including last week running her fastest of the season a 20:19 on her home course. Tessa is a big meet runner, she won the indoor 2mile state title and then followed it up outdoors with another title in the 3200m
Christine Toy, FR Bonny Eagle- Toy has been a tough competitor all year, and won her first 2 high school 5k's. Toy has a lot of speed, having run under 2:40 and 5:40 in the 800m and 1600m respectively last spring. Her ability, and mental toughness should put her in the mix to win the Freshman Race this weekend, and look for her to throw down a fast time as well.
Faith Blethen, FR Boothbay Harbor- Blethen has quietly put together one of the best starts to any freshman in Maine so far this year. In the first meet of the season at Medomak Valley she blitzed the field hitting 19:56 to win by a large margin. Most recently she won the MVC preview meet, pulling away in the last mile for a convincing 48-second victory, which happened to be her 4th win of the year. Look for her to run well in the Freshman Race, and be in the mix for the win.
Hannah Steelman, JR Orono- Steelman, the defending Class C champion, has looked great in the early going, running 18:18 for 3 miles last week at the Sectional Invitational. She is a part of the best trio in Maine, and will have teammates to work with at the front of the pack, which will help her towards a top finish this weekend. Steelman is one of a few girls in the field who has the potential to break 19:00 if the course is in good condition, so keep an eye on her. A year ago Hannah was the runner-up in this race.
Kialeigh Marston, SR Bonny Eagle- A girl who has 6 State Titles to her name is nobody to overlook. Marston has looked like the old Kaileigh Marston, with her most impressive work coming at the SMAA Relays where she ran 8:38 for 1.5 miles. Being a winner of this meet in 2013, there is no doubt that she has the ability to do it again but will face an excellent field in her attempt to take away 2 Festival crowns in her high school career.
Kassidy Dill, JR Orono- It is not often that a teams #3 runner will make a short list like this, but that is the kind of talent we are talking about coming out of Orono. Dill is the Class C runner up and was a top 20 finisher at this event last year. Coming off of an 18:35 performance for 3 miles last week, look for her to compete for a top 10 finish and a pretty hefty 5k PR.
Lauren Brown, SR Waterville- Brown has built a pretty impressive résumé over her high school career, and has a statewide reputation of being one of the tougher runners in Maine. After winning 1 race in her first 3 years of high school, Brown has won 3 in the first 4 weeks of her senior year. Brown enjoys running on this course, with 3 of her 5 fastest times coming from Belfast, so expect her to be in the mix for a top 10 finish.
Tia Tardy, JR Orono- Every runners' worst nightmare is to have a 2:14 800m runner hunting you down in the last stretch of any race. Tardy takes it one step further and adds 27.80 200m speed and 58.x 400m speed to the mix. After coming off of an 18:05 3mile effort last week, Tardy is primed to have a big day at FOC this weekend. Being the big favorite coming into this race, she has the potential to hit a very quick time given that this course is built for track speedsters like her. Keep note that the female meet record is 17:56.69.
Runners to Watch from Away
Amy Laverty, JR Cumberland, RI- Last years champion is back for her senior year, and should give Maine's elite runners a great race. Laverty has posted great finishes in each of the three previous year, and even won the Freshman Race in 19:30 back in 2013. After nearly breaking 19:00 last year, look for her to make a bid at sub 19:00 this weekend.
Erin Magill, SO Harwood Union, VT- Magill was only 12 seconds down to Maine freshman Anna Slager last year in the Freshman Race, and hit 19:27.65. Coming off of her 19:25 from last weeks Manchester Invitational, you have to believe that she will be ready to go after a top 5 or 10 finish this week.
Tori Fitzpatrick, JR Colonel Gray, PEI- Fitzpatrick was the 19th finisher in last years race, hitting 19:41.88. It is worth noting, that en route to her top 20 finish, she out kicked top Class C finishers Lily Koffman, Kassidy Dill, and the Class A State Champ Halee Phelps. This runner has some great finishing speed in her legs, so watch out for her especially in the later stages of the race.