FOC Boys Preview: Competitive Race Expected in 2018

65 Maine schools and 9 out-of-state schools will make the trip to Belfast on Saturday to run in the 17th annual Festival of Champions at Troy Howard Middle School. Since its opening year in 2002, the meet has served as an opportunity for runners to compete against teams from all classes, as well as the chance to run a personal-best. The meet has grown from 241 finishers on the boys side in year one, to a record 933 in 2017. For the 2018 edition there are 999 males entered, they will be split across four different races, the unseeded A & B, the freshman and the seeded.

Concord from New Hampshire took the boy's team title in 2017, while they won't be back there is plenty of  stiff competition from the top Maine teams, as well as a few out-of-state teams. Eight teams ranked in the most recent MileSplit50 Team Rankings are scheduled to compete including #2 Scarborough, #3 Falmouth & #4 Hampden Academy. Falmouth was the top Maine school a year ago finishing 4th

The top returner from a year ago is Connor Murphy of Classical, RI who finished 4th a year ago as a sophomore. The top Maine returner is senior John Auer of Falmouth who is the top seed based on times run in 2018. A year ago Auer finished 7th. 8 of the top 15 runners ranked in the MileSplit50 Boys' Watchlist are entered so there will be plenty of talent on display.  Let's take a look at the top teams and individuals.

Boys Individuals

Connor Murphy (Classical, RI) junior Best FOC time 15:51.12

Classical, RI junior Connor Murphy is the top returning harrier from the 2017 FOC. A year ago he placed 4th in a strong time of 15:51.12. Murphy finished 13th in the Rhode Island State XC meet a year ago & was 32nd in the New England which was run at Belfast. The layout at Belfast is suited for the speedster who ran 1:54.30 for 800m last spring. His only effort on the trails this fall was a 6th place finish at the Injury Carnival race where he ran 16:45.

John Auer (Falmouth) senior Best FOC time 16:02.72 MileSplit50 #2

Auer has been on fire in his senior season. He has won four times already this fall, and clocked a personal best 15:49.70 for 5k at the Hoka Southern Maine XC Classic where he was second. John ripped a 16:00 for 5k on the Bonny Eagle course last Friday, and is ready to go for the win on Saturday. The course at Belfast is one he has excelled on, a year ago he placed 7th at FOC running a then 16:02.72 best.

Gabe Coffey (Bangor) senior Best FOC time 16:08.93 MileSplit50 #3

Senior Gabe Coffey has been one of the best runners in Maine to this point in 2018. Coffey has run three races so far winning two, and running 16:23.21 as his slowest effort. Coffey clocked a personal best at the Hoka Southern Maine XC Classic three weeks ago breaking the 16 minute barrier for the first time with his 15:53 effort. He placed 12th at FOC in 2017, and is primed to take a run at the individual title on Saturday.

Jeffery Waters (Massabesic) senior Best FOC time 18:27.48 MileSplit50 #5

A year ago Jeff Waters ran a best of 17:02 for 5k, fast forward to this fall and his best entering FOC is 16:06.50. Last weekend Waters continued his excellent running as he was the top Maine runner at the Manchester Invitational, where he finished 20th overall in 16:35. He missed FOC in 2017 with an injury so this time out he'll be chasing the sub 16 barrier which based on how things have gone so far not out of reach.

Wyatt Lord (Hampden Academy) senior Best FOC time 15:51.75 MileSplit50 #7

Lord comes into the 2018 FOC with the fastest time of anyone in the field, he clocked 15:51.75 two years ago as sophomore finishing second. Wyatt is off to a a strong start this fall with two victories, and two second place finishes. Lord's best effort is a 16:33 on his home course two weeks ago. The only runner he has lost to is Gabe Coffey of Bangor. Last time out he picked up the win at Cony.

Benjamin Potter (Falmouth) junior Best FOC time 18:19.22 MileSplit50 #8

Potter is one of the most improved runners in the state this fall. A year ago as a sophomore his best 5k was 17:39.99, already in 2018 he has surpassed that time in all three races. Potter shattered his personal best at the Hoka Southern Maine XC Classic with his 16:01.60 6th place effort. Last time out he clocked his second fastest 5k a 16:26 at Bonny Eagle. Look for Potter to continue his strong running on Saturday.

Tristram Coffin (Scarborough) junior Best FOC time 16:51.03 MileSplit50 #9

Coffin has had a strong start to his junior campaign, including two victories and a personal best. The personal best came at the Hoka Southern Maine XC Classic where Tristram finished 10th running 16:06.50. A year ago in his first xc season Coffin clocked 16:51.03 at FOC, he's certainly has the fitness to lower that best by a large margin on Saturday. He tuned up with a strong 16:30.82 win at Kennebunk last week.

Will Shaughnessy (Brunswick) junior  MileSplit50 #11

Injuries plagued Shaughnessy a year ago, but now that he has put those behind him we are seeing the real talent. Will has been near the front of every race this season finishing no lower than third, this includes two victories. He added a personal best 16:43.90 at Hampden Academy two weeks ago and is primed to lower that personal best on Saturday.

Jack Bassett (Cape Elizabeth) junior Best FOC time 16:35.99 MileSplit50 #12

Bassett returns to FOC this year looking to improve on his personal best 16:35.99 which he set in last year's race. Jack has had a strong first half of 2018 that has seen him win four times. In his only 5k of the season he clocked 16:54. Look for Bassett to make a run a new PB on Saturday.