Harwood boys' and girls' teams impressive in Maine outing

The misty rain and warm ocean breezes set the stage for ideal running conditions for the Maine XC Festival held in the town of Belfast last Saturday, October 4.

Fifty-five runners from Harwood's cross-country team made their annual trip to the Maine seacoast town. Virtually every school from Maine and the top schools from Rhode Island, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island competed. In all, 77 schools and 1,700 runners competed on the course at Troy Howard Middle School, which will also serves as the site of the 2014 Maine State Championship.

Harwood runners competed in several categories. Tristan Touchette set the stage for what proved to be an impressive day for the Highlanders. Tristan ran to a personal best time and placed 17th out of 370 runners. Aenea Mead (8th) and Nicole Cutler (14th) continued to make an impression on the minds of the spectators from Maine and the Atlantic provinces. Both had personal bests while competing in the 300-runner field.

The Harwood momentum continued to build. Harwood showed dominance in the freshmen races. Harwood boys Morgan Baughman (3), Anthony Palmerio and Daniel Bevacqui (22) led the Harwood freshmen in the 185-runner field.

It was the girls' freshmen race where Harwood truly dominated. Erin Magill took the lead in the 160-runner field 1.5 miles into the 3.1-mile race. Erin fought hard but was nipped at the finish by Anna Slager of Gorham who is considered to be one of the best runners in the state of Maine. Erin's efforts as part of the "fab freshmen four" were supported by Isabel Jamieson (10th) who had the most outstanding race of her short career. Jordy Kulis (12th) and Phoebe Sweet (13th) gave Harwood four runners in the top 13.

Harwood's Anneka Williams made a great recovery after succumbing to heat prostration the week before in Manchester, New Hampshire. Anneka placed 15th in the elite field of 260 runners. In doing so she became only the fifth girl ever at Harwood to break 20 minutes for a 5k. Charlotte Boyden ran well, breaking 21 minutes and finishing 38th overall.

The highlight of the day was the boys' seeded race. Harwood's Sam Nishi found himself in a pack of 12 at the one-mile mark. The pack was down to four runners at two miles. With about 800 meters to go Sam and Sean Laverty of Cumberland, Rhode Island, remained. Sam made his move on the only hill with less than 500 meters remaining. Sam breezed to the finish in first, in 15:50. He became the first Vermonter to win the Maine Festival of Champions. His winning time broke a 33-year-old record (15:54) for 5k set by Eric Morse in 1981 when he placed seventh at the New England Championships in Manchester, New Hampshire. Eric went on to become one of two Harwood runners who eventually broke 4 minutes in the mile.

Sam's victory, the dominance by Harwood freshmen girls and the outstanding performances by all of the Harwood runners were impressive.

"We have been planning for this race since last June. The kids met my greatest expectations and more," said coach John Kerrigan.

Kerrigan also received this compliment from friend and fellow cross-country coach George Towle.

"Your kids made quite an impression on the cross-country running families in the state of Maine today," said George Towle, head women's cross-country and track coach, University of Southern Maine.

Coach Kerrigan and the Harwood runners thanked all of the members of the Harwood community who helped to make this event possible.

Harwood runners will now be at home for the next three meets. See related article.