BELFAST — This coastal city was packed with 1,700 high school runners and their families on Saturday, and the Mount Desert Island runners were among the best of them.
The MDI High School boys’ and girls’ teams finished a respective 12th and 23rd to earn top-half finishes at the annual Festival of Champions on Saturday at Troy Howard Middle School. The Trojans’ showings on both the boys’ and girls’ sides continued a strong year and set the team up for further success as championship season progresses.
The scene was a wild one: team tents occupied much of the space outside the school. Runners wore colors of schools all over New England and parts of Canada.
Crowds of spectators lined up on both sides of the roped-off course for each race to cheer on runners of all ages and schools.
“It’s always a difficult race when we come here, but it’s a very important meet because you’re up against of the best of the best,” MDI Coach Desiree Sirois said.
“It can be really tricky for runners to pass each other because you’re up against a field that’s bigger than any of the other ones you’ve faced.”
Despite that large field, MDI’s boys’ team produced some of the day’s best finishers. In the freshman race, Finian Burns crossed the finish line in 17 minutes, 52.34 seconds to finish 11th of 213 runners. Jon Genrich finished 33rd in that race with a time of 18:39.93.
Thorin Smith, who won the boys’ race at the Old Town Invitational one week earlier, was the Trojans’ top finisher once again. He finished in 56th place overall, but his time of 17:02.70 was nearly a half-minute improvement over the one he posted in last week’s win.
Among the MDI runners to post a personal record was senior Matt Perconti, who finished the Section B portion of the unseeded boys’ race in 19:18.16. The finish earned him a spot in the top third of that race’s 262 runners.
“It’s a fast course, but the running conditions were great,” Perconti said. “The biggest thing was that it wasn’t too hot, because that was an issue for us last week [at Old Town]. We were all cramped for space, but I just stuck with it and did what I could with what I had.”
Katelyn Osborne was the top finisher for MDI’s girls’ team. Her time of 21:08.58 was good enough for 87th place in the seeded girls’ race and 112th out of 759 runners overall. Louise Chaplin and Emily Banks also finished in the top 200 overall for MDI.
Perhaps the most dominant performance for the girls’ team, though, came in the unseeded race. Olivia Watson finished fifth of 315 runners with a time of 22:36.05, fellow junior Lily Cook was close behind her in 11th, and sophomore Sofie Dowling was 29th.
Next up for both the boys’ and girls’ teams will be the Hancock County championships in Bucksport on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 11 a.m. The meet marks the first of four championship races in October, which also will see the Trojans compete in the Penobscot Valley Conference, regional and state championships.
“I think we’re in a really good spot right now as a team,” Perconti said. “We have a strong group, and our freshman and sophomores keep doing really well. There’s a lot of potential all around, and it’s going to be fun to see where we can go from here in these next few races.”