WATERVILLE — The weather wasn’t ideal for the cross country teams in central Maine.
On Saturday morning, the teams took to the Quarry Road Opener tracks that featured several Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference teams. The event also served as a celebration of a big day for the Waterville and Winslow teams.
The meeting, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, was postponed due to the hot weather conditions, an issue many teams had to deal with during the week.
“It was great to have the race and to have all these schools here,” said Waterville coach Ted Brown. “To come into this facility that still needs work, still needs potable water, but the kids really stepped up today. Everyone has been telling me it’s really good to be here, so we’re happy to make it happen.”
Withdrawn may be an understatement. Teams had to abandon normal training routines due to temperatures reaching 80 and sometimes even 90 degrees.
“Last week, we had to restart (practice),” Brown said. “When we moved it to Saturday, I gave them[Thursday]off, we haven’t had a day off in a while. So we had to take things back a bit. We don’t have indoor cardio facilities, so we had to be creative. We went to Colby to get some shade in there and we figured we could practice without hurting anyone. It was tough, but the kids were great.”
Gardiner coach Gene Boudreau had similar issues in practice during the week.
“It threw our entire week of training out the window,” Boudreau said. “Monday and Tuesday we were preparing for Thursday’s race. Then Thursday came, and we found out we couldn’t train until after 6pm (in the evening, because of the heat). I told the kids to run on their own, and to run as soon as possible, because we got out of school in It’s 11 (am) and after that (Friday) we were not allowed to practice because of the heat, or rather, we were not allowed to do specific training because of the heat.
“But I would call it a down week,” Boudreau continued. “When you’re training for a marathon, you always take a step back. I’ll call it one of those weeks, so we can ramp it up again next week.
Conditions weren’t ideal on Saturday morning either, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s until 9am. However, the teams managed to get to the track, and shade in the woods helped along the two-mile course. In the end, Nora McCourt of Mount Blue won first place, while Lucas Hutchinson of Oxford Hills won the boys’ race.
“It’s my first year racing here, so I didn’t know what to expect, although I’ve ridden ski races here during the winter, so I know the terrain,” McCourt, a junior, said. “I think the conditions were pretty good. There were definitely some muddy spots, but I really like the course. I like the hills. They’re beautiful, I love them.”
“The course was really good, really flowing,” said Hutchinson, a junior. “There are a lot of hills, but it’s even downhill. Then you can go down and charge up a bit. It was shady up there, which was nice on a hot day.”
Hutchinson especially appreciated shade.
“It’s a very desperate need, and if I didn’t have it, I would probably be on the floor (after it’s finished),” Hutchinson said. “I hate heat. I can deal with (any other condition) but heat is my least favorite of any weather conditions you can be exposed to. You just have to take it as it comes. There’s nothing you can do about it, so run.” Just.”
Heat wasn’t the only problem for the cross country teams. Rain has drenched the state all summer and is still playing a role in the start of the regular season. The annual Laliberte Invitational, viewed as the unofficial home run for central Maine’s teams and hosted each year at Coney High School in Augusta, was canceled Aug. 25 due to rain and wet conditions.
“The Laliberte meet is really fun, and it’s sad to miss it,” said Mount Blue junior Henry McCourt, one of the top finishers in the boys race. “It’s a really great way to open the season. Besides that, I feel like we’ve been able to adapt well (to the conditions).”
“(The heat) was very challenging, but it was also manageable,” McCourt continued. “This week in particular, our team has been making sure to be well hydrated. Our cross-country course is nice and wooded. Most of the time, we’ve been on roads, but this week we’ve been doing almost everything on our course, and that keeps the heat pretty much under control.” .
Conditions are sure to change throughout the fall, forcing teams to continue adapting along the way.
“I would say flexibility is key,” Brown said. “Kids who are flexible will be fine (during the season).” “If you beat them (with conditions), they will bounce back.”
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