BELFAST — Before Saturday, a high percentage of Maine’s cross country following had no idea who Carsyn Koch was.
But now it’s a safe bet that the Washburn High freshman made a profound first impression on one of the state’s biggest running stages.
Koch, who won the Eastern Maine Class C girls individual title in 20 minutes, 14.15 seconds over 5,000 meters at Saturday’s regional championships, is on a Washburn squad that is fielding a team for the first time in seven years.
“I came into it and I was really, really nervous and we didn’t get to go to Festival of Champions, so I’ve never run against this many people and I’ve never run the course,” said Koch, shivering slightly on a breezy but sunny afternoon.
While Koch, Old Town’s Dacie Manion and Kathleen McMahon of Brunswick proved to be the top individuals, Mount Ararat of Topsham, John Bapst of Bangor, and Lee Academy won the team titles in Classes A, B and C, respectively.
The Crusaders had to sweat out a determined effort from MDI for the second week in a row, but held off the Trojans 72-80 while Caribou was third with 117 points.
Seven Class B teams qualified for next week’s state meet, also in Belfast, so that means Hampden (129), Winslow (161), Medomak Valley (166) and Presque Isle (188) are also moving on.
Adrienne Carmack and Amanda Lalime earned top-five finishes for coach Joe Capehart’s Crusaders in finishing fifth and 10th while Mary Carmack was 12th, Maggie Bryan 21st and Laura Donovan 24th to round out the scoring runners.
MDI’s challenge didn’t surprise the Crusaders, as the young, talented Trojans mounted a similar threat on the state’s third-ranked team at the PVC Championships last weekend.
“We’re motivated by it, we keep looking ahead,” Bryan said. “States is our last big challenge, so we’re just looking towards states.”
The spread between Adrienne Carmack and No. 5 runner Donovan was a solid 1:54, which was pivotal in Bapst holding off MDI.
“We definitely have good team dynamics, and we’re very motivated together to succeed,” Adrienne Carmack said.
The Trojans are certainly going to be around for a while, as they feature four freshmen and a sophomore among their top 5, which was led by freshman Nora Hubbell’s ninth-place effort.
OT’s Manion, who posted the fastest time of the afternoon at 19:03.64, remained undefeated against Eastern Maine competition and won her second straight regional title, pulling away from Alecia Palmer of Presque Isle (second) and Ellsworth’s Aleta Looker (third) early on.
“I think it was that long gradual hill right after the mile I started to pull away a little bit,” said Manion.
In Class C, only five schools fielded full teams, thus only three moved on to state meet.
The Pandas led those teams with 48 points, while the other qualifiers were Orono with 53 and Bucksport with 62.
Lee’s winning pack consisted of Cassidy Spencer, who was fifth among scoring runners, followed by Chasity Beach (sixth), Missy Wilson (ninth), Marina Mann (10th) and Ashley Dill (18th).
Washburn’s Koch, who also plays soccer, pulled away from Foxcroft Academy’s Chelsie Oldfield early and won comfortably, making a statement.
“There was one fan that, when I was running by, they were like, I didn’t even know Washburn had a team, and I was like, they know now,” she said.
Koch also plays soccer along with teammates Carmen Bragg, who was third overall, and Nicole Olsen, who didn’t compete Saturday due to a knee injury. Koch will hit the pitch when the Beavers play Deer Isle-Stonington in a Tuesday quarterfinal in Washburn.
In Class A, Mount Ararat dominated the field in scoring 34 points to runner-up Brunswick’s 75 while Mt. Blue of Farmington was third with 88.
Brewer qualified for states for the sixth straight year, scoring 135 points to take fourth while Messalonskee was fifth and Edward Little sixth to round out the qualifiers.
The Witches were led by Michelle Haluska in 10th place while Sara Chavarie, who didn’t run in KVAC’s due to knee tendinitis, gutted out a 26th-place finish.