AUGUSTA - Lewiston High School boys’ cross country team knew it would take a near-perfect day to pull away from Mt. Ararat and Bangor at the KVAC championships.
When you’re a runner, not being able to breathe is, well, far from perfect.
One of the Blue Devils’ top runners all season and throughout his career, Kevin Lavertu used up most of his strength just to fill his lungs to capacity and cross the Cony High School finish line.
It wasn’t enough to put him among Lewiston’s five scorers, and the Blue Devils settled for a distant third-place finish, falling shy in their quest for a third KVAC title in five years.
“I think it’s a combination of exercise asthma and allergies,” Lewiston coach T.J. Niles said of Lavertu‘s malady. “I’ve had to deal with it myself. It happens. It creates big sways in times from one race to the next.”
Andy Reifman-Packett finished third in the boys’ race and led Mt. Ararat (80) to the title over Bangor (89). Lewiston (119) edged Hampden (126) for third.
Mt. Blue was third in the Class A girls’ meet, which Brunswick won by a single point over Mt. Ararat.
The Camden Hills girls and Maranacook boys captured the Class B crowns.
Mohamed Barre led Lewiston in sixth place out of 86 runners. Barre finished in 18:17.7, 49 seconds off the winning pace of Messalonskee’s Harlow Ladd.
“I took it out fast and I guess I died in the last mile,” Barre said. “I wanted to take out the first mile in 5:30 and go with whatever happened the last two miles.”
Barre teamed up with Mt. Blue’s Justin Tracy in a strategy that he hoped would push himself past Bangor’s Jonathan Stanhope.
Instead, both Stanhope (fourth) and Tracy (fifth) left him behind in the home stretch.
“I tried to just kind of work with him. He was (ahead) most of the race.” Tracy said. “I focused more on taking it easy on the hills. I didn’t really care if people passed me. After the hills, I just poured it on. They are terrible if you don’t know the course. If you go out too fast, then the hills will kill you and you’ll have a terrible second half of the race.”
Sully Jackson, in Tracy’s footsteps as the second half of Mt. Blue’s one-two punch all season, took seventh for the Cougars.
Lewiston also got a solid race from Mohamed Awil, who cleared the 19-minute barrier and finished 13th.
Mohamed Mohamed (29th), Matt Chouinard (34th) and Jordan Balsamo (37th) gave the Devils a lift in the middle of the pack. Lavertu labored his way to 57th.
“He’s upset, of course, because we had that chance to win the team title,” Niles said. “I hope he gets beyond it and realizes it’s just one race. He had this problem in indoor track and he got beyond it.”
The Devils competed against Mt. Ararat during the season and saw Bangor at Belfast’s Festival of Champions earlier this month.
Running against them together was an eye-opener that Niles hopes will prove valuable when the same teams convene for the Eastern Class A regional next week, again on the Belfast sod.
“I was happy with the way six of my guys ran,“ Niles said. “It’s hard to have seven guys hit on the same day. I don’t think there’s any magic. I think it’s sheer luck in some cases. You do the training and if it happens on the same day, great. Then you’re in high spirits.”
“We just had a bad day today,” Barre said. “Hopefully we can pick up where we started and get better for regionals."
Justin Leclair of Edward Little finished eighth in the Class A boys’ race. Jesse Newcomb was Oxford Hills’ top runner in 19th.
Tim Enos earned all-conference honors for Leavitt, chalking up 13th among Class B boys. Nick Shuckrow of Winslow was the Class B individual champ.
Mud and mental toughness were the theme of the Mt. Blue girls’ race.
Senior Addie Cullenberg (eighth, 22:24.4) and freshman Katherine Gunther (22:54.4) fought through conditions that were strikingly familiar to the Cougars.
“Last week at Mt. Blue Relays people were literally sinking into the mud,” Cullenberg said. “Times are not something to think about today. It was definitely just try to go out there and finish the race and keep a positive attitude, but it’s really hard to do.”
The Leavitt girls landed fifth in the Class B girls’ sweepstakes. Maddie Wiegman and Lucy Knowlton each registered a top-10 run.
“It went great. This was probably my best Cony race ever,” said Wiegman, who was seventh. “I passed girls like Addie Cullenberg and Lauren McNett (of Mt. Ararat) and I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m going fast.’ I like the mud and the rain and the cold and the wind, so I think these were perfect conditions for me.”
Erzsebet Nagy of Lawrence (Class A) and Bethanie Brown of Waterville (Class B) won their respective races.
Faith Shaw of Lewiston (18th) and Crystal Labonte of Edward Little (31st) led their teams.