After the Old Town girls cross country team qualified for the New England Championships at the state meet in Turner on Oct. 29, coach Rod White headed to the history books, trying to figure out the last time an Old Town girls team in any sport qualified for a New England championship.
The answer: Never.
“I told the girls they’re history makers. I’m almost sure this is the first girls team from Old Town [to qualify for New England competition],” White said.
Old Town, along with Penobscot Valley Conference rival Mount Desert Island, was among the six girls teams and six boys squads that will take to the Thetford Academy (Vt.) course Saturday.
Other girls teams who qualified are Brunswick, York, Freeport and Cape Elizabeth while the Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, York and Lisbon boys will represent the Pine Tree State.
By winning their class at the state meet, the York and Cape Elizabeth boys and girls as well as the Scarborough and Lisbon boys and Brunswick and Freeport girls earned automatic berths.
Qualifying teams were decided by combining the results of all three state championship meets from classes A, B and C. The champion from each class qualified – as well as the next three highest-scoring teams regardless of class.
Last spring, the Maine Principals’ Association agreed to send cross country teams to New Englands, a move White favors.
“I like it as a coach,” he said. “It’s not the same when you see other states walking around the course with seven to 10 kids.”
Maine was last allowed to send teams to New England’s in 1973. Two years ago, the Deering of Portland boys qualified five individuals and fielded a team score.
White’s lineup includes sophomores Hilary Maxim, Ashleigh Madden, Rebekah Wheaton and Lauren Keane, junior Eliza Tibbits and freshmen Tara Nitardy and Kate Goodness.
“They’ve all said they want to go down there and do their best,” White said. “There’s not a whole lot of pressure.”
The girls field from Maine looks strong from top to bottom. When all three meets were combined to determine the New England qualifiers, Class C champ Freeport came out on top.
“Cross country is a sport where it doesn’t matter if you’re a school with 1,200 or 300 kids,” White said. “The Maine [girls] teams could finish in any order.”
State runner-up Mount Desert Island, led by coach Bruce Merrill, also will represent the PVC and Maine. The Trojans are led by seniors Emily Farley and Taylor Kelley and freshman Heather Spurling, who was MDI’s top runner at the state meet.
The MTCCA polls had MDI and Cape Elizabeth ranked at the top for the entire season, with Class C Freeport close behind. Like Old Town, Freeport is fairly young, with only one senior in their lineup, Abby Samuelson, the daughter of Maine running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson.
Freeport only has one other upperclassman – junior Tess Deutsch – and the other eight runners listed on the Falcons’ roster are three sophomores and five freshmen.
Local individuals who qualified on the girls side include Molly Peverada of Hampden Academy, John Bapst of Bangor’s Madeline Glover, Shauna Lynch of Ellsworth, Megan Nealey of Belfast and Hannah Saunders of Caribou.
Local boys qualifiers are Ellsworth teammates Corey DeWitt and Louden Jellison as well as Sam Sheehan of Caribou.