BELFAST – In a 100-meter race, three-tenths of a second might as well represent a 5-kilometer gap between winner and runner-up.
But in a 5-kilometer race, three-tenths of a second represents quite the opposite, a virtual photo finish for long-distance runners.
Ellsworth senior Corey DeWitt was in slightly better focus at the finish line Saturday, edging Caribou’s Sam Sheehan by just that much to win the boys individual title at the fifth annual Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions at the Troy Howard Middle School.
Erica Jesseman of Scarborough won the girls race with a meet record performance, while the Scarborough boys and McAuley of Portland girls won team titles in the state’s largest high school cross country meet, which had 756 finishers from more than 40 schools.
DeWitt, who outkicked Lisbon’s Tyler Clark to win this race by one second in 2005, took the lead from Sheehan for the last time with about a quarter-mile remaining, then withstood a challenge into the finish chute to win with a time of 15 minutes, 59.8 seconds.
Sheehan was timed in 16:00.1, with Clark third in 16:06.8.
“I wanted to take it pretty easy the first mile, mile and a half, and keep them in sight but not run with them the whole way,” said DeWitt. “I was expecting Sam to hold it for a while, but not as long as he did. He definitely put up a fight this time.
“He pulled up beside me again, but I kind of knew I could outkick him if it came to that. I was pretty confident in my kick.”
Sheehan and Clark were among a small lead group that went out slightly ahead of DeWitt, but the Ellsworth standout gradually reeled in his two biggest challengers.
“Corey got ahead of me on the back of the course, and normally that means game over for me because he’s got a lot more foot speed than me,” said Sheehan, who topped his previous personal best of 16:17 for the 3.1-mile distance set here last year. “I was pretty proud of my kick today, I made it close. I said to myself that I’d go for it, and whatever happens happens.
“Mostly I wanted the team to do well, and finishing one or two was a good thing for the team.”
Sheehan’s effort, along with a 17th-place finish by junior Matt Driscoll, helped Caribou finish third in the team standings with 169 points behind Scarborough (112) and Lewiston (150).
Scarborough, ranked second in the most recent statewide cross country poll behind Cape Elizabeth, placed its five scoring runners in the top 38 among a field of 416 boys finishers.
Senior Brecht Moulin placed eighth overall to pace the Red Storm, while sophomore Robbie Leeman was 13th overall to lead Lewiston’s effort.
Ellsworth finished sixth among 32 scoring boys teams, as junior Logan Will placed 11th to back up DeWitt’s winning effort.
McAuley, ranked seventh in the latest girls cross country poll, pulled off a surprise in winning its team title. Abby Iselborn led the Lions by placing fifth, while freshman Liana Rubinoff and sophomore Olivia Mackenzie finished 22nd and 23rd as McAuley edged second place Mount Desert Island 144-153.
Just 49 seconds separated MDI’s five scoring runners, all of whom finished in the top 41 among 346 girls finishers. Freshman Jessica Swanson led the Trojans with her 20th-place finish in 20:34.7, while seniors Susan Falt (27th) and Liela Banks (29th), sophomore Heather Spurling (36th) and Mackenzie Curtis (41st in 21:23.7) all turned in strong efforts for MDI.
But no one was as strong as Jesseman, a senior who remained undefeated this season with a time of 18:26.0, shattering the previous meet record of 18:57.87 set by Maddy Glover of John Bapst of Bangor in 2004.
“It went very well, I was very happy with it,” said Jesseman, who took off on her own from the starting line with Cassie Hintz of Old Town’s course record of 17:52.60 on her mind. “It’s one of my favorite courses. I was kind of looking for the [meet] record, but I had a race on Wednesday and it’s not states yet, so I’m happy with what I accomplished.”
Old Town junior Hilary Maxim finished a strong second, bettering her time here last year by 42 seconds to finish in 18:59.0. Maxim paced herself by running with Iselborn early in the race before pulling away to finish nearly 14 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Molly Peverada, a senior from Hampden Academy.
“I was with Abby most of the way, and just being with her helped because that kind of competition is great,” said Maxim, the first runner to come within a minute of Jesseman this fall. “I don’t even know how to describe it, I just felt so good out there today.”