Oct. 29—CUMBERLAND — Carter Libby had already come from behind to take the lead in the most competitive race of the day at the cross country state championships Saturday at Twin Brook Recreation Area.
But with two runners still in striking distance, why not add a bit of excitement? Coming around the final hairpin turn leading to the downhill sprint to the finish, Libby slipped and fell. But the Gray-New Gloucester junior, who had finished third at the South regional, popped up quickly and completed his winning effort in Class B.
"Going down the hill, I slipped and fell on my back," Libby said. "I was in the lead and I got up and just kept kicking. I never lost the lead. It was close, though."
Libby finished with a time of 16 minutes, 50.13 seconds to hold off Sam York of Mt. Desert Island (16:51.18) and Logan Ouellette (16:59.93) of Leavitt. South champion Henry Horne of Freeport was fourth in 17:14.39, leading the Falcons to the team title.
Charlie Collins won the Class A race in the day's fastest time of 16:29.57, and his Hampden Academy team repeated as state champion, beating South champion Portland.
In the Class C race, George Stevens Academy won the team title and junior William Hileman of Bucksport cruised to an impressive victory in 16:45.21 — the fourth fastest time overall and 33 seconds faster than Class C runner-up Kaleb Colson of Sumner — despite his own tumble on the final turn.
"I wiped out and did like two rolls and just got up and started sprinting to the line as fast as I could because I had no idea if the guy had passed me, or how close he was," Hileman said. "I almost felt more energized after I got up. It just got my adrenaline up a little more."
In the Class B race, Horne went out fast and had about a 10-second lead on Leavitt's Logan Ouellette after a mile. He said later he was making an attempt at the course record of 15:43 — nearly a minute faster than his winning time the previous week — in part because he was confident Freeport had the depth to win the team title.
But when the runners came out of the woods a second time, it was a tightly bunched pack of four, with Libby leading York, Ouellette and an obviously tiring Horne.
"You've got to put yourself out there sometimes," Horne said. "I don't know if it was worth it."
Libby, who finished third at the South regional behind Horne and Ouellette, said he purposely didn't try to chase Horne in the early going.
"I took it slower in the first mile, just based off last week," Libby said. "About two miles, I took the lead and we were in a pack, and right when the pain cave hit, I just went.
"I knew these northern guys were probably going to take the first mile out fast, just like last week. I just stayed back and slowly caught up to them and I was like, 'Oh, I can win this.' So I did."
It all added up to the most dynamic race of the day.
"That was a fantastic race. I had a lot of fun," Ouellette said. "Granted, it would have been better to win, but having that type of competition, I always look for that. I saw (Libby) slip and I thought, 'Oh, I might have an opportunity because I wasn't sure if he would lose all momentum,' but he got right back up."
Freeport's Will Spaulding was able to pick off runners over the final half of the race to place fifth. Freeport also got strong runs from Teo Steverlynck-Horne (12th), freshman Alex Gilbert (14th), and sophomore Connor Smith (15th).
Camden Hills, which was third in Class A, and Class B runner-up York qualified for the New England championships on Nov. 12 at Ponaganset High in Rhode Island, along with the three team champions and Portland. The three individual champions plus the next 22 fastest runners overall also qualified.
Portland had hoped to be able to push Hampden in the Class A race, but the Broncos won comfortably, 52 to 103.
Noble junior Maddox Jordan was second in Class A, and Scarborough senior Adam Bendetson placed third. Jordan cut seven seconds off his regional time.