GSA cross-country teams set high hopes for state meet

Eliza Broughton

Eliza Broughton was the top GSA scorer on the girls team at Searsport. Photo by John Richardson

Blue Hill—The Eagles cross country program may be smaller than last year, but has been posting the same impressive results despite graduating a number of runners, including seven boys, off the teams in 2015.

The numbers are down, but the advantage lies in more individual coaching, Coach Erich Reed recently said, and the girls and boys teams have set high goals for the state championships on October 29 in Belfast.

“For both teams, the one day we’re really focused on is the state meet,” Reed said. “The boys last year won the states and are very competitive. It’s just a matter as to how they shape up these last three weeks to be competitive for the title. They are optimistic that they will be in the top three.”

Junior and 2015 state Class C champion John Hassett leads the boys team and has won every meet he raced in this season apart from the Festival of Champions in Belfast two weeks ago. In a pool of 345 seeded runners from more than 70 New England schools, Hassett ran his fastest time and finished sixth. But Reed said the junior had been hoping “for a stronger race,” and his result has motivated him for the states.

George Steven's John Hassett

George Steven’s John Hassett places sixth out of 345 seeded runners at the Festial of Champions in Bucksport on October 1. The boys team was 19th out of 76 coompeting schools. Photo by John RIchardson

“The more competition he can get, the better. Individually, he has a different goal than the rest of the team. He’s looking to be competitive in the Footlocker regional championships in November.”

Senior Ollie Dillon pushed himself to a second-place finish in the Hancock County Small School Championships in Blue Hill last week, running his best time yet. “He came into the season fit,” Reed said.

The boys team also boasts two new runners in junior Max Mattson and freshman Caden Mattson, who consistently have placed in the top 10 at the fall meets. Reed said they joined the team, in part, to train for the basketball season but “they’re both very competitive and they bring that to the meets.” Seniors Beckett Slayton and Tyler Varnum and sophomore Sean Schweizer contribute to the team’s success, where the top five runners’ scores contribute.

Girls looking for top finish

The girls team has kept their focus sharp all season and would like to bring home the first girls state title in any sport at GSA, Reed said, although they’re taking the long view towards 2017 as a possibility.

“They’re still a relatively young team; in theory they might be strong or stronger next year,” Reed said. “There’s never been a girls team at GSA that’s won a state championship, but they’re going against some strong competition. They have some hopes—if not this year, next year.”

The girls finished with a strong second-place win at the 2015 state championship, and they have been performing well throughout the season. They placed sixth at the Festival of Champions, and have cornered one of the top two spots in every local meet this season. One runner short at the county meet last Friday, they placed second behind Mount Desert Island, but it is the Orono team who is their biggest competitor among Class C teams.

Eliza Broughton and Mary Richardson took the numbers two and three spots, while Tess Williamson and new team member Mary Brenna Catus and Bella Cimeno finished in the top 15. Emma Larson-Whittaker and Zeya Lorio, who was out with a tweaked muscle, round out the girls championship roster.

Unlike other sports, cross-country runners have to contend with different courses, so conditions vary from meet to meet, Reed said, which affects a runner’s time.

The 10 runners from the boys and the girls teams with the best times qualify to race in the state championships, and likely seven will compete, said Reed, who is in his fifth year coaching GSA’s resurgent cross-country and track teams. “Right now, as a team, we’re adding some intensity in our speed workouts…. Everyone’s progressing really well.”

The teams compete in the Penobscot Valley Conference Championship on October 15 in Old Town and the Eastern Regional Championships on October 22 before heading to the states.

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