Runners in the girls race head out on the course at Houlton Middle-High School Tuesday, Aug. 31, in an Aroostook League cross country meet. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — The cross country season is now underway, but the number of students participating in the sport, at least for smaller schools, appears to be down.

Some schools are citing a decrease in the number of students interested in participating in the sport, while a lack of available coaches is also a reason for the decreased number of teams this season.

On Tuesday, Aug. 31, Houlton Middle-High School hosted a multi-school meet, but even with four schools participating, there were only 27 runners in total.

From left: Teanne Ewings of Houlton was the top girls finisher in Tuesday’s Aroostook League meet in Houlton; Racing along the course are Houlton’s Calli Sylvia (left) and Elena Ardell; Jeremiah Bourgoin of Hodgdon races through the woods Tuesday, Aug. 31, in the first Aroostook League cross country meet; Daniel Ross of Houlton was the top overall boys finisher in the first Aroostook League cross country meet held in Houlton Tuesday, Aug. 31. Credit: Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times

Fort Kent, one of the larger schools in the Aroostook League division, fielded a squad of just four girls for Tuesday’s race in Houlton. No Warrior boys competed on the day.

Washburn was a perennial powerhouse in cross country that produced a number of strong athletes, including a four-time individual high school state champion and collegiate runner in Carsyn Koch. This year, however, the Beavers are not competing in cross country for the first time in a number of years.

Mira Kelly of Fort Kent races along the course during an Aroostook League cross country race in Houlton Tuesday, Aug. 31.  Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

For Washburn,  though, it was not an issue of students uninterested in competing. The school was unable to find a person to coach the squad.

Presque Isle and Caribou, although part of the Aroostook League, are larger Class B schools and not experiencing similar problems with participants.

Houlton and Greater Houlton Christian Academy have once again joined forces as a cooperative team and are one of the exceptions to the rule. The Shire girls have 11 members on their squad, while the boys have four runners.

“The rosters and also the amount of schools with teams appears to be low this year,” said Houlton-GHCA coach Chris Rines. “We have rebounded with our girls team. They are riding this wave of success and are a tight group of friends. They did so in track and field and now are doing it in cross country.”

In Tuesday’s Aroostook League meet, the Houlton/GHCA girls and MSSM boys squads took home top honors. The Houlton/GHCA girls finished  with 10 points, followed by Fort Kent with 32. For the boys, MSSM tallied 17 points, while Houlton/GHCA was a close second at 20.

From left: Runners from the MSSM boys cross country team head out onto the course at the Aroostook League meet in Houlton Aug. 31; MSSM’s Emiko Peck races along the course at the Aroostook League cross country meet in Houlton Aug. 31; Evyn Lally of MSSM races ahead of the pack during an Aroostook League cross country meet at Houlton Aug. 31. Credit: Joseph Cyr | BDN

The individual girls results were: 1, Teanne Ewings, Hou/GHCA, 21:14; 2, LEanne Ross, Hou/GHCA, 25:02; 3, Elena Ardell, Hou/GHCA, 25:31; 4, Isabella Ardell, Hou/GHCA, 25:50; 5, Calli Sylvia, Hou/GHCA, 25:51; 6, Emma Landry, Fort Kent, 26:23; 7, Anabelle Reardon, Fort Kent, 26:27; 8, Mira Kelley, 26:35; 9, Natalie Johnson, Hou/GHCA, 26:48; 10, McKenna Phillips, Hou/GHCA, 28:08; 11, Evyn Lally,  MSSM, 29:22; 12, Rowan Tanguay, 30:14; 13, Amelia Drake, Hou/GHCA, 31:58; 14, Kenzie Hodgkins, Hou/GHCA, 33:00; 15, Hope Royal, Hou/GHCA, 34:54; and 16, Emiko Peck, MSSM, 35:33.

The individual boys results were: 1, Daniel Ross, Hou/GHCA, 19:02; 2, Morris McCall, MSSM, 23:01; 3, Philip Espenscheid, Hou/GHCA, 24:00; 4, William DeFroscia, MSSM, 24:11; 5, Jeremiah Bourgoin, Hodgdon, 25:19; 6, Makai Moody-Broen, MSSM, 25:49; 7, Sam Griffin, MSSM, 26:09; 8, Kristian Kellerhals, Hou/GHCA, 29:12; 9, Calvin Akom, MSSM, 34:16; and 10, Jack Hodgkins, Hou/GHCA, 39:06.