FOC Boys Preview: Fast Race Expected

65 Maine schools and 12 out-of-state schools will make the trip to Belfast on Saturday to run in the 18th 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 1147 males entered, they will be split across four different races, the unseeded A & B, the freshman and the seeded.

Brunswick took the boy's team title in 2017, and will be back to defend their title. The Dragons can expect stiff competition from other Maine teams, as well as a few out-of-state teams. Nine teams ranked in the most recent MileSplit50 Team Rankings are scheduled to compete including #1 Scarborough, #4 Kennebunk & #5 Bangor

The top returner from a year ago is Will Shaughnessy of Brunswick, ME who finished third a year ago as a junior. Eleven 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

Will Shaughnessy (Brunswick) senior Best FOC time 16:04.76  MileSplit50 #1

Shaughnessy is the pre-meet favorite based on being the top returner and how well he has performed to date in 2019. A year ago the senior from Brunswick finished third at FOC in a then personal best effort of 16:04.76. So far this fall Will has been outstanding starting off with a course record at the Laliberte Invitational at Cony where he took nine seconds off Luke Fontaine's 2016 mark. He followed that up with another course record at the Quabacook Relays as he broke Lisandro Berry-Gaviria's year old mark by 12 seconds. Last time out the MileSplit50 #1 ran a personal best 15:13.30 for 5k on a new course at Brunswick, the mark moved Shaughnessy to fourth fastest in state history.

Daniel McCarthy (Bangor) sophomore Best FOC time 16:56.08 (won freshman race) MileSplit50 #3

Last year's freshman champion Daniel McCarthy will get his first real test of 2019 on Saturday. A year ago he clocked a sub 17 effort at FOC to win the freshman race, on the same course at states he lowered his then personal best to 16:22.21. In 2019 the sophomore has raced four times, and won each time. Daniel's clocked a personal best 16:09.20 in his victory at Hampden Academy. Last time out he ran a strong 17:10 on a tough Cony course, and his primed to mix it up with some of the best in the state this weekend.  

Benjamin Potter (Falmouth) senior Best FOC time 16:48.89 MileSplit50 #4

Potter has had a tremendous fall that has seen him win three races to date. He comes in ranked MileSplit50 #4, and most certainly will shatter his best at FOC. Ben started off his year with a win at the SMAA Relays, he followed that up with strong 16:34 three mile clocking on his home course. At the Hoka Southern Maine Classic he blasted a new personal best 15:42.86 to win. Last time out he suffered his first defeat as teammate Ben Greene held him off as he clocked 16:25 at Westbrook. Look for Potter to continue his strong 2019 on Saturday.

Ben Greene (Falmouth) junior  MileSplit50 #5

Greene will be running in his first Festival of Champions on Saturday. He has made the successful transition from the soccer pitch to the xc trails this fall. At the Hoka Southern Maine XC Classic in his first ever xc 5k, he clocked an impressive 15:47.79 as he finished second. Greene secured his first win a week ago with as he sped past teammate Potter for the win at Westbrook in 16:24.01. He might not have the experience as others but Greene has proven he's capable of running fast, and expect him to do the same this weekend. 

Ethan Eickmann (Kennebunk) senior  MileSplit50 #6

Eickmann has never run at the Festival of Champions, but enters as MileSplit50 #6. He has had a great start to his senior campaign winning two races, and running under 16:51 in every 5k this seasob. Ethan's best effort of the year came at Hoka Southern Maine Classic where he ran a personal best 15:51.56 to place third. Last time out he set a new course record at Marshwood as he clocked 16:51 on a tough course. Eickmann has been in the mix all season long so expect him in the lead pack this weekend. 

Jack Bassett (Cape Elizabeth) senior Best FOC time 16:35.99 MileSplit50 #7

Bassett has established himself as one of the top runners in the state, and a slight favorite to win the Class B title. He'll get a chance to matchup with Class B title contender Jarrett Gulden for the first time this fall at FOC. So far this fall Bassett has secured four wins, his most impressive might have been the 16:54 effort he turned in at Twin Brook last week. His best win of the year came at Wells two weeks ago where he held off WMC rival Griffin Allaire by one second, in what could be a preview of the championship races to come later this fall.

Tristram Coffin (Scarborough) senior Best FOC time 16:06.22 MileSplit50 #8

 Coffin started the season off slow due to an illness but the last two weeks he has returned to form and enters this weekend MileSplit50 #8. A year ago the senior ran to a fourth place finish at FOC in 16:06.22. Tristram ran a course record and seasonal best 16:07 at Biddeford last week, the time was just off his lifetime best and sets him up well for a run at a sub 16 effort this weekend. 

Jarrett Gulden (Lincoln Academy) senior Best FOC time 16:29.57 MileSplit50 #10

Gulden has run four races so far in his senior campaign and has won them all. Last time out he clocked a 17:21.14 on his home course at Lincoln Academy, while his fastest 5k of the season was a 16:33.20 effort at Medomak Valley. Gulden enters the weekend MileSplit50 #10, and will have a matchup with Jack Bassett of Cape who is one of the favorites to win the Class B individual title. Last year Jarrett hit his personal best 16:29.57 as he finished seventh.

Tyler Patterson (Brunswick) senior Best FOC time 16:52.09 MileSplit50 #11

Patterson didn't start racing until two weeks ago but in that time has clocked a 16:38, followed up by a personal best 16:10.50 on his home course at Brunswick a week ago. A year ago Patterson helped his Brunswick squad win the team title with his 16th place finish in the seeded race.

Erik LoSacco (Scarborough) junior Best FOC time 17:29.76 MileSplit50 #12

LoSacco has a breakthrough race at Hoka Southern Maine Classic earlier this fall where he dropped his personal best down to 16:10.31 placing fifth in the junior/senior race before that race his best was a 16:47. So far in 2019 has been consistent running in the top three several times including last time out where he ran a 16:53 to place second at Biddeford.

Zachary Barry (Scarborough) sophomore Best FOC time 17:15.47 MileSplit50 #13

Barry placed third a year ago in the freshman race at FOC, he returned a month later to help the Red Storm win the Class A title on the same course running 16:44.85. This fall he has turned it up a notch running under 17 minutes two times including a personal best 16:23.56 to win the freshman/sophomore race at Hoka Southern Maine Classic. Barry had last week off so he should be ready to push for a new personal best this weekend.

Out of State Contenders

Connor Murphy (Classical, RI) FOC best 15:51.12 from sophomore year, ran 16:25 for 6th last year as a junior.

Nicholas Gaitanis (Lincoln, RI) FOC best 17:30.90 from sophomore year, ran 17:48.39 as a junior.

Mitchell Dailey (Burrillville, RI) FOC best 17:10.54 - good for 26th in 2018.

Team Preview

With nine ranked teams entered the landscape of who the best teams are in the state should be a bit clearer after FOC.

MileSplit #1 ranked Scarborough will have the target on their backs, the defending Class A champions won at the Hoka Southern Maine Classic and they did so without one of their top runners Connor Coffin. Coffin is injured and likely not to return this fall so the Red Storm have had to rely on their depth. With Tristram Coffin back to full strength, along with Zach Barry & Erik LoSacco Scarborough might have the best top three in the state. One thing is for sure they will need three low sticks from there stars. Freshman Adam Bendetson came up big at Hoka running 17:18 and he'll need to repeat that success on Saturday where he is the second seed. After that it will be up to two a handful of runners to secure a fast time in the fifth spot.

MileSplit50 #4 Kennebunk will be looking to see how much they have improved over the last three weeks when they finished third 28 points back of Scarborough. They are paced by MileSplit50 #6 Ethan Eickmann who is an individual title contender. With Andrew Keene, Charlie Smith & Garrett Erickson-Harris they Rams have plenty of quality behind Eickmann. The key will be how well their fifth runner can perform, at Hoka that was 19 spots behind the Red Storm's 5th runner

Bangor MileSplit50 #5 has been running through the KVAC competition with ease, but on Saturday we will find out how they match up against the teams from the Southern part of the state. Daniel McCarthy leads the way for the Rams.

The most intriguing team may be the MileSplit #5 York Wildcats who were very impressive at Twin Brook last week with just a 39 seconds compression for their top seven. The real question will be can the Wildcats get any one under 17 minutes to get a low stick, senior Eli Hulstrom might be the one to do that for the defending Class B champions.

Watch for MileSplit50 #7 Falmouth with Ben Potter & Ben Greene both capable of winning the individual race. Defending FOC champion & MileSplit50 #8 Brunswick looks to be ready to make a run at a repeat especially with individual title threat Will Shaughnessy, and a strong supporting cast of Tyler Patterson & Joey Valliere. 

Also entered are MileSplit50 #9 Bonny Eagle and MileSplit50 #10 Cape Elizabeth.