WMC XC Championship Preview

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The WMC Championships are set to go off Friday afternoon at St. Joseph's College in Standish. The York
girls' won the Division 1 title last year, while Falmouth, who is no longer in the conference, took the boys' title. In Division 2, the St. Dominic girls' and Wells boys' were winners. The WMC Championships have traditionally been an opportunity for athletes to get one final tuneup before the postseason but last season we saw some of the top teams rest its top runners, opting to re-charge for the postseason. Much depends on if the top teams decide to run at full-strength. We could see a tremendous team battle on the girls' side with Yarmouth (no. 2 in the poll), Greely (no. 5), and York (no. 10) going at it. It's more clear on the boys' side with no. 2 Greely and no. 5 Wells headlining the conference. There are a handful of runners who could win the girls race, while Yarmouth's Luke Laverdiere is the overwhelming favorite in the boys. Let's take a look at the top teams and individuals going into Friday.

Last year the Greely boys' rested its entire top five at the WMC Championships and finished fourth in Division 1. The decision paid off as Greely won the Southern Regional, then the Class B State Championships a week after. There's a chance the no. 2 ranked Rangers might do the same in 2017 but if they decide to run at full-strength, they are the heavy favorites to win the Division 1 title. Luke Marsanskis and Matthew Todd have been exceptional as their 1-2 runners, and the emergence of freshman Sam Wilson has elevated the Rangers as a true title threat in Class A. Greely is remarkably deep -- its entire top five run under 18:00 at Twin Brook last Friday -- and could win even if they chose to rest some of its top boys.

Wells was the top team in Division 2 last year and has come back even stronger in 2017. Mitch Libby is the top returner in Division 2, and has had an outstanding season for the no. 5 ranked Warriors. If Laverdiere chooses not to run like he did last year Libby goes in as the individual favorite, even when you combine both divisions. Their 1-4 is very strong as each of their top four has run 17:28 or better for 5k this season. Their fifth runner, Decovan Dufort, has run 18:01 this season, which should enough for Wells to take the D2 title on Friday.

The Clippers are hoping to challenge the Warriors for the D2 title. They are almost guaranteed a '1' next to their name in the first line of scoring with Laverdiere leading the charge, but Yarmouth doesn't have quite enough depth to hang with Wells. Odeh Rizkallah has been a solid second runner for them,many has run 16:57 for 5k. Sammy Potter and Ben Cox-Faxon have both run under 17:30 for 5k, but they fall of considerably after that. They will need a great race from fifth runner Justin Pietropaoli.

Freeport doesn't have the front-of-the-pack type of runner that Yarmouth has with Laverdiere, Wells has with Libby, or Greely with Marsankis and Todd, but they do have four runners who have run 17:35 or better for 5k this season. Alex Les and Martin Horne have been interchangeable for the Falcons and have PBs of 17:03 and 17:04, respectively. Their 5-7 runners have run in between 18:21-18:23 this season, which is very respectable, but one of those three will need a big race on Friday for Freeport to hang with the top of the conference.  Maine Coast Waldorf is another team to watch in Division 2. Their top five has run 18:24 or better for 5k this season, led by Nick Neveu who's run 16:52.41.

Luke Laverdiere (Yarmouth)
'Dominant' is one word to describe Laverdiere's season. The senior has yet to be challenged in 2017, and is coming off a remarkable 15:10.86 performance at the Festival of Champions back on September 30. He opted not to race last year, and we could realistically see that again this season. The last time he raced this meet was his sophomore season where he lost his shoe midway through the race, en route to a 16:34 win. If he races and runs hard, he'll most likely break the course record of 16:10 set by Silas Eastman back in 2012.

Mitch Libby Wells
As previously mentioned, Libby is the fastest returner in D2 and has had an excellent season in 2017. He ran to a third place finish at the Southern XC Classic back in September running 16:10, then became just the second runner in Maine to dip under 16:00 for 5k this season, running 15:59.26 at Freeport on September 29.

Luke Marsanskis Greely
Marsanskis didn't race last year, but has developed into one of the top individuals in Class A this season. He ran a PB of 16:11.93 at the Southern XC Classic, which ranks third conference, and ran to a 14th place finish at Festival of Champions, running 16:13.46. Look for hIm to be the favorite in D1 on Friday.

Matthew Todd Greely
Todd has been running in Marsanski's slip stream all season, and is a likely candidate for a high finish on Friday. He goes into the conference championship having run a PB of 16:13.05 this season (4th in the conference), and has posted two wins in 2017. He had an off race at Festival of Champions but responded with an impressive win at Twin Brook, covering the difficult 5k layout in 17:35.

What a difference a year makes. At the Conference championships last season Hendricks finished 35th in D2, running 20:59. Fast forward to this year and Hendricks has been arguably the most improved runner in the state. He's won four races this season and comes into Friday having run a PB of 16:19.94, which is the second fastest time among D2 runners this season.

Jack Bassett (Cape Elizabeth)
Bassett has been one of the top sophomores in the state in 2017, and comes into Friday having run 16:35.99. That time is the fastest in the WMC amongst the sophomore class. He's run under 17:00 twice this season and finished seventh in D1 last year, running 17:57. Look for him to break into the top five on Friday.

There are other runners who will look to make some noise on Friday. Caleb Thurston and Sam Wilson of Greely are other Rangers to watch. Thurston ran a PB of 16:51.41 at Festival of Champions. Wilson has been the top freshman in the state this season and comes in with a PB of 17:02. Henry Spritz of Waynflete is one to watch in D2. He has a PB of 16:43.16. Another one is Nick Neveu of Maine Coast Waldorf, who has run 16:52.41 in 2017.