Members of the Mount Desert Island cross-country team pose for a photo with the girls’ state championship trophy following the Class B meet Oct. 30 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. The MDI girls completed a sweep of championship season with the fourth state title win in program history. PHOTO COURTESY OF DESIREE SIROIS

MDI girls’ cross-country punctuates dream season with state title

Members of the MDI girls’ cross-country team take off at the start of the Class B girls’ race during the state championship cross-country meet Oct. 30 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

BELFAST — Grace Munger and her teammates couldn’t help but slip.

The tail end of a remarkably wet weekend all across the state of Maine didn’t exactly make for great race conditions for the biggest race of the 2021 cross-country season. On a mushy course at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, there was one corner in which Munger and fellow Mount Desert Island cross-country team members Amelia VanDongen and AyliGrace Munro all took tumbles.

“I watched Amelia fall, and then I watched Ayli fall right after her,” Munger said. “Then, when it was my turn, I fell in the exact-same place. … With how muddy it was, you’d get up to a corner and just watch as people would just wipe out. It was wild.”

The path to the finish line was certainly not a smooth one for any of the runners competing in Saturday’s state cross-country championships. Yet for as messy as the Troy Howard course was, the MDI girls’ team marked the occasion with the cleanest of championship masterpieces.

MDI completed a sweep of championship season by claiming the Class B title in Saturday’s state championship meet in Belfast. The Trojans beat out second-place Cape Elizabeth by 56 points in what was the biggest margin of victory in a Class B girls’ meet in 12 years.

Northern Maine individual champion Amelia VanDongen (fourth place, 19 minutes, 53.54 seconds) was the first runner to cross the finish line for the MDI girls’ team. Munro (seventh place, 20:38.72) and Munger (ninth, 20:50.97) also claimed top-10 finishes for the Trojans.

Ella Joyce (21:09.36) and Meri Rainford (21:20.25) rounded out the scoring for MDI with finishes of 14th and 18th, respectively. Piper Soares (25th, 21:42.25) and Callan Eason (64th, 23:47.28) also etched their names in history as state championship participants for the Trojans.

“The vibe of being on this team is great from the front to the back,” VanDongen said. “They’re awesome people, and it’s so much fun to run with them. … I’m glad we could all do this together.”

MDI racked up 46 points to beat out runner-up Cape Elizabeth (102 points) and third-place Greely (106 points) for the team title. Whereas the Trojans’ top-five finishers all finished in the top 15 of team scoring, none of their Class B counterparts finished with more than two.

Although the MDI girls’ team’s victory came in convincing fashion, the Trojans weren’t aware of how dominant they’d been until well after the race concluded. Munger, in fact, wasn’t even sure her team had won the meet until her dad showed her the final results.

“We were all trying to focus on not face-planting, so when we finished, I truly didn’t know,” Munger said. “I knew we had a really good shot running up the final hill because I could see where the other girls were, but I couldn’t be sure. When I saw [the results], I said, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’”

Even as runners mentally prepared themselves for the treacherous course conditions, the muddy turns proved difficult to navigate. With no injuries resulting from the falls, though, the muddy splotches on the Trojans’ green uniforms did nothing to stain a championship effort.

“We all took a spill just because it was very slippery,” VanDongen said. “All you can do is run through it. Just get back up and keep on going.”

The meet marked the seventh win of the season for the MDI girls’ team. The Trojans previously won the Northern Maine and Penobscot Valley Conference championships the prior two weeks and claimed wins in the Ellsworth, George Stevens Academy, Old Town and Pendale invitational meets earlier this year.

MDI’s Sam York competes in the Class B boys’ race during the state championship cross-country meet Oct. 30 at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast. York claimed fourth place in the 103-runner Class B boys’ field to book a spot in next Saturday’s New England championships.

On the boys’ side, Sam York finished fourth in the 103-runner Class B field for MDI with a time of 17:15.94. Liam McKernan (41st, place, 18:52.33) and Spencer Rose (49th place, 19:03.72) also placed in the top half of the field for the Trojans.

York earned a spot in the upcoming New England championships with his strong effort in the meet. The junior previously placed second in the Northern Maine championships and first in the Ellsworth, GSA, Old Town and PVC meets.

“The course was obviously a lot slower than usual, but it was slower for everybody,” said York, whose MDI boys’ team placed seventh with 191 points. “We got a plan from our coaches, and I’ve just been following that and working as hard as I can in practices and meets.”

The MDI girls’ team will also compete in the New England championships, which are scheduled for noon next Saturday, Nov. 13, in Thetford, Vt. Regardless of the result, that will be the last competition of the season for participating MDI runners.

“I’m so excited to go down there and be able to have this experience,” Munger said. “I was able to do New Englands once before for track, and that was really fun, so it’ll be interesting to see what cross-country is like. I hear the course there is beautiful.”

It’s a meet that will be the perfect reward to a brilliant season for an MDI girls’ team that won the state title for the first time since winning three straight from 2011-13. It’s a championship that the Trojans have been on the doorstep of following near-wins in 2018 and 2019 and the last-second cancellation of last year’s state meet.

There will be no knocking at that door anymore. The Trojans have thoroughly kicked it in.

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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