READFIELD - It was Aidan Laviolette's "Flu Game."
The Lisbon junior practiced just twice during the week leading up to the Mountain Valley Conference championship on Saturday at Maranacook Community High School. Sickness kept him off the trails, but when it mattered most, Laviolette was ready, winning the MVC boys championship with a time of 16:55.
"I only went to practice twice this week because I was kind of vomiting all week," Laviolette said. "I wasn't feeling too good. I was shocked by the finish because I didn't think I really went that fast, I was just racing for placement."
Monmouth's Joe Crocker finished in second with a time of 17:08, followed by Winthrop's James Cognata, 17:41.
Laviolette took off relatively early from the pack as the MVC was a wave-start meet. The junior misses the group start and the extra adrenaline rush but is getting used to the new way of starting races amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The game plan was to make it up the hill and just carry it out until the ending then push harder then," Laviolette said. "I was a little nervous near the end because the second-place runner, kind of caught me near the end so I was getting really nervous but I pulled through and started picking it up near the end. Once we got right up to the hill I knew I had to take over and I felt pretty good going up there."
Just as Laviolette raced for a place, Monmouth Academy's boys' team was strategic in its approach as well.
"We came expecting and wanting to win," Monmouth coach Tom Menendez said. "The plan was to match my one with Lisbon's one which I knew would be behind him and match my two with Lisbon's two which I knew would be behind, but to be right there with no one in between so it would be a one-point difference."
"The game plan was not to go out too fast, make sure I didn't die on the first hill, and make sure I had his eyes on his back the whole race," Crocker said. "Coming up over the last corner I got pretty close to him on that downhill."
Hills have been the focus recently at Monmouth, running practices sometimes on consecutive days. So once MVC's crept onto the schedule, the Mustangs were ready.
"For the last few weeks we have been practicing hills, doing a lot of hills," Crocker said. "Multiple, one after another, one lap, two laps. Multiple practices in a row to prepare us for this. Just be smart about it, don't kill yourself on the hills and pass them when you can."
"We are told don't go hard until you have to, let everyone else slow down and then pass them," Comeau added.
The grueling hill workouts paid off Saturday with PR's across the board - from Laviolette to Crocker and Comeau.
"I don't let you have low expectations," Menendez said. "If you come in running at 25 (minutes), we set an expectation that you can do better. We look at the expectation for the next year after. I'm old-school and I put expectations on the kids that I think they can achieve... This (course) I put a little harder than UMA. And yet, I had two kids that hadn't broken 18:30 all year and one of them went 17-low and one went 17:30-ish. It's all put the expectations on, this is what you have to do to help the team and all seven, not one kid was off."
Monmouth's top-five runners, the amount needed to score for a meet, finished before Lisbon's third runner, helping the Mustangs run away with their first crown since 2001.
The Monmouth girls team won the MVC title on Wednesday.
Menendez has trained his Monmouth squad the same way he would any other year, blocking out all other distractions that 2020 has thrown teams so far.
"I haven't allowed it to be (different)," Menendez said. "It could have been totally different but I told them, 'One day at a time.' If we have regionals, we will be ready, if we have MVC's, we will be ready. Train like it's your last day, race like it's your last race and let's go for that."
Heading into the Class C state meet, location TBD, Monmouth, and the Mustangs are ready for anything.
"We've got the big schools, Orono, George Stevens, we will go in with expectations, see what you did this week, do better next week," Menendez said. "That's all you can do."
"If there is a course change, I don't know where we are going to be running now," Crocker said. "If it's like that then a lot of teams up north if they just ran at Belfast then that's a lot flatter than UMA. They may not be ready for the hills."
As for Laviolette, states will hopefully be better prepared for than MVCs.
"I feel really good, trying to get a good time also," Laviolette said. "Just trying to have a good race."