BELFAST, Maine — If the Orono High School girls cross country team felt pressure entering Saturday’s Class C state championship race, it was hard to notice by merely watching the Red Riots run.
Not only did coach Lin White’s squad roll to its second straight state crown behind the 1-2 finishes of sophomores Hannah Steelman and Kassidy Dill, Orono posted the best score of the day regardless of class when all times in the Classes A, B and C were combined to determine qualifiers for next weekend’s New England championships.
“There was definitely that pressure,” said Steelman, “but we were going into this weekend thinking it was just another race. We knew anything could happen, but we were prepared for whatever did happen.”
Scarborough and Greely of Cumberland also won team titles on the 3.1-mile Troy Howard Middle School course, both with narrow victories after a cold rain began to fall midway through the event.
Scarborough edged Massabesic of Waterboro 92-96 for the Class A crown, while Greely topped Yarmouth 59-64 in Class B.
Orono faced no such post-race scoring uncertainty, as the Red Riots placed five runners among the top 11 finishers to total 31 points, far ahead of runner-up Waynflete of Portland (71). George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill was third with 86 points with Merriconeag Waldorf School of Freeport (113) and North Yarmouth Academy (145) next.
“I think that was one of the best races we’ve ever had,” said Dill, whose team had edged Washburn by two points to win its 2013 state championship. “I know I did not expect to get what I just got today. We all expected Hannah to pull through for the win but our team competed so well. I’m so proud of our team.”
Steelman quickly took charge of the field and won the Class C race by more than a half-minute in 19 minutes, 16.99 seconds.
“I was feeling great today,” said Steelman, also the Eastern C champion a week earlier. “It was a little nerve-wracking, of course, it always is. But my job was just to run my race and that was the job for everybody on the team.”
Dill ran much of the race with Hannah Austin of NYA, Tia Tardy of Mattanawcook and Ellie Chidsey of Waynflete, but a late surge produced her second-place finish in 19:53.59, four seconds ahead of Austin and eight seconds ahead of Tardy.
Chidsey finished fifth, followed by Waynflete teammate Phoebe Colvin-Oehmig.
Orono also got a big performance from junior Olivia Fandel, who finished seventh overall, as well as teammates Liza Gallandt and Lily Koffman in 10th and 11th places.
“We knew it was a huge deal to try to keep up the image that we earned for ourselves last year,” said Dill. “We knew a lot of teams were watching us and trying to beat us, but we knew if we competed to our abilities we had the capability to accomplish it again.”
In Class A, Scarborough avenged an 11-point loss to Massabesic at the Western Maine regional thanks in large part to four runners who placed among the top 16.
The Red Storm had no finishers among the top 10 overall but led by 11th-place freshman Bethany Sholl had four of the next eight runners to win the program’s first state title since 2008.
Laura Volan (14th), Marisa Carbone (17th) and Samantha Saraceno (18th) were next for Scarborough, followed by Morgan McKeown in 41st.
Massabesic actually had the tighter pack, with Emily Wasina leading five runners between 11th and 31st place.
Eastern Maine champion Hampden Academy finished third with 145 points, edging regional rival Brunswick (149) and fifth-place Falmouth (151). The Broncos were led by senior Elizabeth Labun, who placed sixth overall.
Westbrook senior Halee Phelps, who finished fifth at the Western Maine regional, outlasted Marshwood of South Berwick senior Maddy Doyle to win individual honors with the fastest time of the day, 19:10.42.
Doyle was 2 seconds back, followed by Cony of Augusta’s Anna Guadalupi, Tessa Cassidy of Brunswick and Katherine Leckbee of Mount Ararat of Topsham.
In Class B, sophomore Katherine Leggat-Barr and freshman Izzy Evans finished 1-2 to help Greely edge Yarmouth for its first state title in 13 years after falling to the Clippers by six points in their regional a week earlier.
Leggat-Barr, the Western Maine individual champion, established a comfortable lead midway through the race and finished 16 seconds ahead of her teammate, who improved on her fourth-place regional finish.
“She struggled a little bit with her foot last week so I’m so proud of the way she came in here today,” said Leggat-Barr of Evans. “She completely improved herself.”
Emily Nason finished 11th overall for the Rangers, followed by Sophia Stickney (23rd) and Kate Curran (31st).
Yarmouth was paced by three top-10 finishers in Anneka Murrin (sixth), Grace Cowles (eighth) and Abigail Hamilton (ninth).
Cape Elizabeth was third with 84 points, followed by three-time defending state champion and Eastern Maine titlist Mount Desert Island (129).
The Trojans were led by senior Caroline Driscoll, who edged Ellsworth’s Haley Lawrence by 0.08 seconds for third place.
Teams earning spots in the New Englands were Orono, Yarmouth, Greely, Scarborough, Massabesic and Cape Elizabeth.