Festival of Champions’ cross country elite
Last modified Oct. 04, 2014, at 7:47 p.m.
BELFAST, Maine — Hannah Steelman made the most of her debut at the 13th annual Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions at the Troy Howard Middle School on Saturday.
The Orono High School sophomore, who missed the state’s biggest meet last fall before helping the Red Riots win the 2013 Class C state championship, used a strong final kick to place second overall among 693 finishers and lead coach Lin White’s team to a runner-up finish among 58 scoring teams from around Maine and beyond.
“It was really exciting because this was my first year running this race because I wasn’t in town last year,” said Steelman, who passed two runners during the final sprint to trail only Amy Laverty of Cumberland, Rhode Island, across the finish line.
“At the end the crowd was really pushing me, it was so exciting.”
Laverty, a junior whose triplet brother Sean finished second in the boys race, took the lead late in the race and finished with a personal-best time for a 5-kilometer cross country course of 19 minutes, 1.02 seconds in the final race of a damp, misty day.
“This was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever run,” she said. “I didn’t think I could win, not until the very last stretch of the race. I would have been happy with a top-five and that’s what I set for myself in my head, but something just came over me and I really wanted it at the end.”
Steelman also turned in a personal-best clocking of 19:03.65 to outlast Maddy Doyle of Marshwood of South Berwick (19:04.70) and fourth-place Tessa Cassidy of Brunswick (19:05.68).
“This is kind of a breakout meet for Hannah,” said White. “This year she’s been coming on and coming on and I think people have started to realize she’s a very talented runner. This is a great day for her, especially her finish because she came in so strong.”
Class B Cape Elizabeth used its quality depth to earn the girls’ team title with 137 points. The Capers were led by senior Rhoen Fiutak, who placed 13th overall and placed all five of its scoring runners among the top 41 finishers.
Liv Palma finished six seconds behind Fiutak in 16th place, followed by junior Sam Feenstra (37th) and sophomores Emma Shedd (40th) and Madori Kwan (41st) — with the latter three runners finishing just 0.9 seconds apart.
Senior Lily Koffman and sophomore Kassidy Dill backed up Steelman’s effort for Orono, finishing 1.2 seconds apart in 19th and 20th place overall, respectively.
Freshman Liza Gallandt added a 45th-place finish for the Red Riots, with junior Olivia Fandel capping off Orono’s team total of 166 points.
“The girls are running incredibly well,” said White. “They’re staying with the plan, they’re incredibly focused, they’re enthusiastic, they work hard every single day. They enjoy running with each other and they bring it to the events.
“They do what I ask every day, and I’m just fortunate to have such a great group of girls to work with.”
Yarmouth, with its top four runners placing between 24th and 31st place, tied Cumberland, Rhode Island, for third place with 175 points but won the tiebreaker by having the faster sixth runner.
Laverty was one of two top-five finishers for Cumberland, with senior Nicole Berger placing fifth.
Harwood Union High School of South Duxbury, Vermont, was fifth with 181 points, while three-time defending champion Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor was sixth with 273.
Finishing sixth through 10th in the individual standings were Betsy Dumais of Burrillville, Rhode Island, Anna Slager of Gorham, Casey Loring of South Portland, Anne Guadalupi of Cony of Augusta and Haley Lawrence of Ellsworth.
Defending race winner Kialeigh Marston of Bonny Eagle of Standish, jumped out to an early lead in the race but then dropped out for health reasons.