BRUNSWICK – A year ago, Oriana Farley went into the final stretch of the high school 800 at the New Balance Maine Distance Festival with a lead … then watched as an upstart eighth-grader from New Hampshire roared past to capture the win.
On Friday night, Farley watched the tape of that race and vowed to do things differently this year.
And on Saturday, she did just that: Hampden Academy’s Farley led the girls 800 from the outset, held off all mid-race challenges, and powered home with a decisive victory in 2 minutes, 16.34 seconds. The time was the eighth fastest in the nine-year history of the event. Maria Millard of Orono High was second in 2:18.28.
After battling undiagnosed health problems for much of her junior year, Farley entered the race with a reason for her struggles (exercise-induced asthma), and a medicinal regimen that has made a difference.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself because of the new diagnosis,” she said. “I was happy just to be able to pull it off and feel good.”
The Maine Distance Festival is noted as an elite-level meet, but the national- and world-class athletes share center stage with top high school athletes, who kick off the meet with boys and girls 800 and mile races.
The youngsters helped set the tone, as Nolan Fyfe of Edmonton, Alberta – the fifth-place finisher in Canada’s senior championships earlier this summer – captured the 800 in record time.
Fyfe, who had hoped to enter the open 800, found his qualifying time of 1:51 wasn’t fast enough. Instead, he took aim at Parker Pruett’s 1997 meet record and lopped 1.11 seconds off it.
Fyfe ran a sizzling 1:52.89 to hold off Russel Brown of Hanover, N.H. (1:54.14).
“I’m racing in Montreal next week (in a Can-Am series event), so this race was – it may be being a bit cocky – but to get my confidence up so I can race good in Montreal against the older guys.”
In the girls 1,600, last year’s 800 champ Chantelle Dron topped a three-runner field to win in 4:58.13. Dron, the indoor New England 1,600-meter champ, recently finished her freshman year of high school in Manchester, N.H.
Cassie Hintz of Stillwater, who will enter Old Town High as a freshman in the fall, followed Dron through a speedy 72-second first lap before finishing third in 5:28.48.
Dron was named the meet’s outstanding high school girl athlete while Fyfe won the boys award.
In the boys mile, Ellsworth standout Steve DeWitt and New England champ Jeff Alden of Caribou couldn’t find a way to top Jeffrey Englehutt of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Englehutt kicked away from DeWitt to win in 4:15.65, just one one-hundreth of a second off Ben Fletcher’s 1999 meet record.
DeWitt, who will attend Stanford University in the fall, finished in 4:17.65 while Alden was fifth in 4:27.72. Harry Norton, the son of former Orono resident Giles Norton, was third in 4:22.66.
DeWitt was pleased with his race.
“I’d had some good training for the last few weeks, and felt good, so I kind of wanted to surprise myself today. I thought I did all right. I didn’t really know what to expect, though, because I hadn’t run in like a month, in a race-race.”