Three local cross country teams ran well enough at Saturday’s regional meets at Twin Brook in Cumberland to qualify for the state championships this coming Saturday, back at Twin Brook.
The biggest headline came courtesy the Waynflete girls and their multi-talented star, senior Sofia Canning. Canning won the Western C race and the Flyers easily placed first as a team.
Also qualifying were the Cheverus girls and Deering boys, as well as a few individuals.
Waynflete’s girls came to Twin Brook having either won (2007, 2008, 2010) or finished runner-up in eight straight regionals. This time, the Flyers left with the hardware, tallying 37 points to easily outdistance runner-up Boothbay (101).
Canning, better known for her soccer and lacrosse excellence, was the star, winning the race in 20 minutes, 37.55 seconds, just her second competitive race of the season.
“It was really exciting,” said Canning, who admits she has an unorthodox approach to running. “I just kind of show up and run. I train pretty hard in soccer and that helps. I run on weekends and I’ve run at Twin Brook a few times to get a feel for the course.”
Canning had entertained the thought of running throughout her high school career and finally took the plunge this fall.
“As a freshman and sophomore, I ran with (former Waynflete standout) Martha (Veroneau) a few times, but I loved soccer and wasn’t willing to give it up,” Canning said. “I finally got up the courage to ask (soccer coach Todd Dominski) if I could do both. It’s all worked out.”
Waynflete coach Ziggy Gillespie wasn’t surprised that Canning showed up and stole headlines.
“Sofia is just one of those talented kids,” said Gillespie. “We talked about what she needed to do and she did it.”
Canning said she entered the race hoping to place in the top three, being well aware of North Yarmouth Academy’s Hannah Austin and Boothbay Region’s Sophia Thayer.
“Hannah is really hard to beat,” said Canning. “(Coach and I) made a plan to stay with her. I stayed with her most of the way and broke ahead going uphill. Uphill is my strength. Then, I just went for it.”
“It was a battle,” said Gillespie. “Sofia knew what she needed to do and she did it.”
Also scoring were Sophia Mayone (10th overall, but seventh for scoring purposes, 22:26.23), Phoebe Colvin Oehmig (eighth, 22:26.42), Gail Johnson (ninth, 22:33.3) and Ellie Chidsey (12th, 22:41.8).
“It felt really good to win and for the team to win,” said Canning. “They didn’t even need my points (Waynflete would have tallied 82 points without her). It was so fun to be a part of. It’s so different from soccer. It really is a team sport and something I’d be interested in competing in in college.”
Canning added that she’s looking at several schools, with Dickinson College in Pennsylvania her favorite at this point.
Gillespie was thrilled with everyone who contributed to the victory.
“It was a great day all the way around,” Gillespie said. “I was so pleased. We were under a lot of pressure to win or be second. We were ranked third going in, but that was misleading. Others’ times weren’t legitimate, while ours were legitimate because we ran at Twin Brook two weeks before. In the preseason, we went from being the favorite to hoping to qualify after losing three kids to soccer and one other to another school. Winning Saturday was pretty rewarding.”
McAuley had 302 points and was 12th of the 12 scoring teams. The Lions were led by Anna Dube, who was 45th (24:44.15). Also scoring were Lily Bergh (58th, 26:05.74), Adele Werner (59th, 26:16.5), Taylor Whaley (68th, 28:38.13) and Molly Lombard (72nd, 30:01.66).
In the Western C boys’ race, Waynflete tallied 212 points to come in eighth, but that was one point from finishing in the top seven, which was necessary to make states. Graham Chance (27th, 19:31.47) did make it as an individual. Also scoring for the Flyers Saturday were Julian Ireland (39th, 20:08.9), Peterson Silk (41st, 20:23.73), Max Rowe (50th, 20:44.07) and Booway Bikales (55th, 21:06.01).
“We just missed by one point,” lamented Gillespie. “We’re all freshmen and sophomores, so it’s amazing we did as well as we did. Our future is bright.”
The Cheverus girls and Deering boys qualified for the Class A state meet.
The Rams boys came in seventh with 182 points (Scarborough won with 60). Cheverus (254) was ninth and Portland (263) placed 10th and failed to qualify (only eight teams made the cut).
Deering was led by a pair of top 10 runners, Yahye Hussein (ninth, 17:12.73) and Iid Shiekh-Yusef (10th, 17:14.16). Also scoring were Hanry Ramadan (45th, 18:41.29), Ismail Diini (56th, 19:02.94) and Matthew Bernier (62nd, 19:08.82).
Cheverus qualified Parker Montano (13th, 17:29.9) as an individual. Also scoring were Mike Macaluso (53rd, 18:57.01), Kevin Hall (61st, 19:08.29), Scout Tucker (63rd, 19:15.01) and Josh Veroneau (64th, 19:15.56).
Portland’s Ben Allen made it as an individual, finishing 16th in 17:35.31. He’ll be joined Saturday by teammate Jake Morrow-Spitzer (28th, 17:59.54). Also scoring were Brad Ravenelle (52nd, 18:56.67), Pat Sheils (76nd, 19:55.78) and Charles Winkelman (91st, 20:58.59).
The Western A girls’ race was won by Bonny Eagle with 59 points. Cheverus placed fourth with 125. Failing to qualify were Portland (11th with 294 points) and Deering (13th with 309 points).
The Stags were sparked by Kiera Murray, who had the fourth-fastest individual time (19:52.57). Kaitlyn Dostie was solid as well, placing 10th in 20:48.06. Also scoring were Georgia Caso (18th, 21:15.6), Anne Veroneau (41st, 22:26.71) and Sarah Mount (52nd, 23:03.86).
Portland scorers included Darcy Hinck (49th, 22:59.74), Lizzie Landry (51st, 23:01.92), Meghan Suslovic (59th, 23:20.51), Elizabeth Block (66th, 23:45.65) and Bea Hesselbart (69th, 23:59.55).
Deering was paced by Lizzy Fowler (33rd, 22:08.75). Also scoring were Eleanor McClure-Chute (44th, 22:46.09), Maddy Bennett (62nd, 23:30.5), Alexis Porter-Fitzsimmons (83rd, 24:46.73) and Lucy Tabb (87th, 24:51.95).
The Waynflete girls compete in the Class C state meet Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Flyers like their chances to capture their first championship since 2009, but know that the likes of Eastern C champion Orono and runner-up Washburn will be daunting.
“I’d love to win states,” said Canning, who play in a soccer quarterfinal and hopefully a semifinal Friday before running Saturday. “It will be hard, but it would be amazing. I hope to be in the top three.”
“We’ll compare well, since it’s at Twin Brook,” Gillespie said. “No one from upstate has run here. We have to patient. We’ll take the race in three segments. The first, we’ll be conservative. The second, aggressive, and the third, hopefully hang on. It will come down to a few points. Sofia has a chance to win. She’s like (Martha Veroneau). She just responds to the challenge.”
The Class A girls begin at 2 p.m. and the Class A boys’ race brings the curtain down on the day at 2:45 p.m.
The New England championships are Saturday, Nov. 9, in Manchester, N.H. State championship teams from each class and the next 22 finishers in the three combined classes will earn the honor of running at that meet.
Cheverus’ Parker Montano was 13th in the Western A boys’ race and qualified for states as an individual.
Cheverus’ Kiera Murray had the fourth-best time in Western A and helped the Stags to a fourth place team finish, advancing them to states next weekend.
Deering’s Yahye Hussein came in ninth and helped the Rams qualify for the state meet for the third year in a row.
Deering’s Lizzy Fowler had the 34th-best time in Western A.
Portland’s Ben Allen qualified as an individual in Class A, but his team did not advance to the state meet.
She might be better known for her soccer and lacrosse prowess, but Waynflete senior Sofia Canning stole the show as a runner at Saturday’s Western C cross country regional, winning the race in 20 minutes, 37.55 seconds.
John Jensenius photos.
More photos below.