Coffey & Matson Shine at Festival of Champions
"No, I didn't think I was going to win, not at all." Bangor senior Gabe Coffey said after crossing the line first at the 17th annual Maine XC Festival of Champions on Saturday afternoon at the Troy Howard Middle School course in Belfast.
Coffey was the only harrier in the field to break the 16 minute barrier with his winning effort of 15:54. He didn't follow the fast early pace set by out of state runners Joe O'Rourke (Classical, RI) & Andrew McClure (Burrillville, RI) instead opting to run in a pack of familiar runners from Maine.
The patience payed off for Gabe as he came through the mile in 8th place running comfortably. By two miles he was ready to make his move to front as he caught O'Rourke, and was joined by Brunswick's Will Shaughnessy at the front.
Coffey continued to push the pace from the front opening up a six second lead with about 800m to go, Shaughnessy lead the chase pack that included John Auer of Falmouth & Tristram Coffin of Scarborough.
Gabe continued to extend his lead all the way to the line as his winning margin was just about eight seconds over Auer. Shaugnhessy (16:04.76) would hold on for third over Coffin (16:06.22).
O'Rourke despite the fast early pace held on for a strong 5th place in 16:17, behind him was teammate Connor Murphy 16:25.08. Murphy was the fastest returner from a year ago when he placed 4th overall.
Bonny Eagle junior Aiden Willey in his third race back from an earlier season setback ran his personal best 16:32.35, as he held off the early pace setter McClure by a nose.
On the team side Brunswick came into the meet ranked MileSplit50 #7 but didn't let that get in their way as the Dragons pulled the surprise of the day easily winning the meet other a host of schools ranked ahead of them.
The Dragons got the low stick from the top junior in the race Will Shaughnessy as he popped a huge 39 second personal best grabbing third. Sophomore Tyler Patterson put in a big performance as well as he ran under 17 minutes for the first time nabbing top honors for the class of 2021 with his 16th place effort. Brunswick did an excellent job of pack running as senior Cam Ashby (29th) was followed by junior Andrew Chingos (32nd) & Sophomore Aiden Simmons (37th). Simmons ended up the 6th runner as freshman Joseph Valliere clocked a 17:23 in the freshman race was the 5th runner. Brunswick totaled 121 to outdistance runner-up Bangor by 15 points.
Bangor who came into FOC as MileSplit50 #4 showed they will be a team to contend for the Class A team title in a month as the Rams had there best performance of the season. Led by individual champion Gabe Coffey, they also got strong runs from freshman race winner Daniel McCarthy (17th overall) & senior Dwigth Knigthly (19th overall) while 4th runner sophomore Gordon Doore was 24th overall.
Pre-race favorite MileSplit50 #2 Scarborough had an off day as they finished third overall 53 points back of Brunswick.