HAMPDEN – Hampden Academy senior Evan Piccirillo is one of the state’s top cross-country runners, but like a lot of his running brethren, he trades his running shoes for skis during the winter, along with classmate Ethan Burke, which provides a similar style of training that can be less strenuous on an athlete’s body.

That can be crucial for any high school runner, since pounding the pavement year-round can put some serious strain on an athlete’s runners and knees, which can hinder development.

“I feel like it’s pretty similar, here in Hampden we don’t have the facilities like Caribou, but we get out on the cross country trails and its a really good mental break,” Piccirillo said.

That is translating into results along the running circuit this fall, as Piccirillo tore up his home 2.9-mile course in 15 minutes, 41 seconds to lead a 1-2-3-4 HA finish as coach Dick Balentine’s Broncos galloped to a sweep of a three-way rivalry meet with Bangor and Brewer Friday afternoon.

Burke finished second, Andrew Closson third, Nick Kopf fourth and Mike Wagner 12th for the Hampden boys, which scored 22 points, followed by Bangor’s 36 and Brewer’s 68.

Sophomore Kylee Parker completed the individual sweep for Hampden on the girls’ side, covering the tough, hilly course in 19:27.91 as the Broncos edged Brewer 30-34 while Bangor tallied 57 points.

Piccirillo was never seriously challenged, breaking away from the pack early in the race and cruising from there.

With this being the last time he’ll race on this course, Piccirillo went for former teammate Darik Frye’s 2009 course record of 15:06.77, but learned some valuable lessons in the process.

“I went out in about 5:10 and I came through (mile) 2 in just under 10:50, so I think had I gone a little bit slower in the beginning, the last mile could’ve been faster,” Piccirillo said.

But that’s not to say Piccirillo isn’t slowly but surely rounding into quality shape, as he looked strong on Friday.

“I’m feeling pretty good, this is the best I’ve felt this early in the season,” he said.

Balentine agreed.

“He beat his time from last year and improved quite a bit from the time trial,” he said. “He’s right on target, we don’t want to be running the fastest now.”

The Hampden boys are looking like a team poised to make a run at the Eastern Maine Class B championship later in the fall, with its top four among the strongest in the region.

There is quite a battle emerging for the No. 5 slot, and Balentine is seeking improvement from that contingent.

“If we’re going to compete at a higher level, that group that’s battling for the fifth spot, someone’s going to have to emerge from that and get close to our top four,” Balentine said.

Rounding out the top 10 runners on the boys side were Jonathan Belanger, Juergen Pilot, Jon Stanhope and David Correale, all of Bangor, in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, James Johnson of Brewer in ninth and Bangor’s Joseph Belanger in 10th.

Parker is also coming off a strong summer in which she attended the Colby cross country camp, and the Broncos’ sophomore let Brewer senior Michelle Haluska dictate the pace early on Hampden’s hilly course before eventually taking over.

“I think it was coming down after the first hill, after we got out of the woods,” said Parker, referring to when she overtook Haluska, who finished second.

“I feel the hills are my strength,” Parker added.

Perhaps more importantly, seniors Alley Becker and Blakelee Jordan finished 3-5 for Hampden and junior Hannah Holden ninth, which enabled the Broncos to overcome a 2-4-7 finish from the Witches’ Haluska, Sara Chavarie and Mikaela King.

“The girls all had really solid times, and we’ve got quite a bit of depth, one of the most deep teams I’ve had in a long time,” said Balentine.

Rounding out Hampden’s scoring runners were Courtney Doyon in 12th and Marina Dow’s 15th-place effort.

Balentine is happy with where his teams are from a physical standpoint at this juncture of the season, with the Festival of Champions meet two weeks from now, which is always a good mid-season barometer for runners and coaches.

“We’re just starting what we call our Phase Two training, starting some faster stuff now,” Balentine said. “But we’re right on schedule (with) where we need to be.”

Other individuals who cracked the top 10 in the girls’ meet included Bangor’s Mariah Reading in sixth, Candace Doughty of Brewer in eighth and Allie Rowe of Bangor in 10th.

Avatar photo

Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports freelancer Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.