Sportsmanship rules the trails in cross country

Sportsmanship is a trait that in the heat of athletic competition that occasionally gets lost in the shuffle.

Often times, it gets unnoticed in a sports world often dominated by touchdown celebrations, high-flying slam dunks and bat flips.

But sportsmanship is a large a part of cross country as muck and mire, hill and dale and mad-pack running.

There was plenty of it on display over the weekend at the Northern Maine Regional championship meet in Belfast.

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised one bit, having been around cross country for 17 years as an athlete, coach and now journalist.

There’s perhaps no bigger class act in the sport in this state than Mount Desert Island senior Tia Tardy.

The Trojans’ frontrunner, one of the best schoolgirl runners in the state, recorded a first-place individual finish in helping lead MDI to the Class B girls title, but not even a few seconds after cruising across the finish line, she immediately turned and gazed back at a small hill which takes runners home on the Troy Howard Middle School course.

Not only was Tardy eagerly awaiting to see where the Trojans’ pack would finish, she offered support to Camden Hills of Rockport’s Emma Trapini and Grace Iltis, whose 2-3 finished helped the Windjammers earn a runner-up team finish.

Once the Camden Hills duo crossed that same finish line and caught their breath, cups of water awaited them. Not from officials. Not from coaches. Not from athletic trainers. From Tardy. Every MDI runner who finished the race also had a drink from Tardy ready to be handed over.

Running has always been a sport where friendships are just as important as championship competition. Often times, athletes on separate teams will train together and attend camps together, and represent Maine together in New England competitions.

That was very evident on Saturday.

Kudos to everyone who competed in Belfast for showcasing that friendships are just as important as walking away with a trophy, no matter what jersey that friend happens to be wearing.

Postponement doesn’t deter Maine XC runners.

Like any athlete, runners also have routines. And pre-race rituals. I had plenty of them.

When the Northern Maine regional and state championship cross country meets were pushed back a week apiece due to weather, it could’ve been easy for routines to be disrupted.

For those who left Belfast with championship plaques on Saturday, it wasn’t the case.

In fact, teams wound up relishing the extra week of training, and took it in stride.

Caribou coach Roy Alden, whose Vikings added another Class B regional title to their Aroostook County trophy case, said his club got to add a couple extra long runs to its routine, and didn’t worry about the regional championships until the end of last week.

Orono senior Kassidy Dill, whose first-place run in Class C led the Red Riots to a runner-up finish in another narrow confrontation with George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, said she recently had a cold, so she welcomed the extra time to prepare for regionals.

You would also never know that Belfast was soaked by rain on Friday, as the Troy Howard Middle School course was in pristine shape for racing on Saturday, and will be for this weekend’s state championship meet. There was very few, if any, mud on the runners as they finished racing.

To cross country fans and followers in Maine, that should come as no surprise, as the Belfast course always holds up very well, even in adverse conditions. Administrators in Belfast and meet officials always do an outstanding job of having the course ready, and Saturday was no exception.

Expect a great weekend of individual and team competition when the state meet comes to the Midcoast this weekend.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.