“She’s one of those runners who had a horrible sophomore year, barely made varsity and mentally and physically was just stuck in a spot,” said MDI coach Desiree Sirois.
But now Driscoll is a senior, and seemingly poised for a strong finish to her high school career in the sport after outlasting talented Orono sophomore Hannah Steelman to win the Penobscot Valley Conference girls’ individual championship Saturday at Bucksport High School.
Driscoll was timed in 19 minutes, 54.51 seconds over a course many competitors felt was slightly longer than the listed 3.1 miles.
That was 4.24 seconds ahead of Steelman, who earlier this month finished second overall among 693 schoolgirl finishers at the prestigious Festival of Champions in Belfast.
“Today (Driscoll) said she was feeling pretty bad, and a lot of times in cases like that athletes have a choice in any sport. They can say, ‘Oh, this is a rough patch that defines me,’ or ‘Oh, this is a rough patch that can make me feel better,’ and she chose (the latter) and I think that’s very honorable.”
Driscoll led five MDI runners who placed among the top 12 finishers overall as the Trojan girls joined the Caribou boys as winners of the conference’s large-school championships.
Orono swept the small-school titles — with the Red Riots’ girls squad winning for the sixth consecutive year while the boys team made it three in a row — and sophomore John Hassett of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill won the boys’ individual title.
The MDI girls finished with 19 points in the separately scored large-school meet, as Waylon Henggeler (fifth), Lydia Dacorte (seventh), Sakura Sunagawa (10th) and Emma Strong (12th) helped Driscoll pace the Trojans to their fourth straight PVC large-school crown.
MDI was followed by Caribou (51), Ellsworth (96), John Bapst of Bangor (101) and Presque Isle (138) as the top five teams among the eight participating large schools
Steelman led five Orono girls among the top 13 finishers overall, with Kassidy Dill (sixth), Lily Koffman (eighth), Liza Gallandt (11th) and Olivia Fandel (13th) adding to the depth of the reigning Class C state champions.
The Red Riots finished with 21 points, followed by George Stevens (43), Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (76) and Lee Academy 95.
“We knew the competition was going to be really tough and we just wanted to come and run the best race we could, run a team race,” said Koffman, a senior. “We’re preparing for the two weeks to come (regionals and states), but every race we see as an opportunity to keep getting ready and coach (Lin) White tells us how we’re going to use each race to our advantage,”
The only non-MDI or Orono finishers among the top 10 were Tia Tardy of Mattanawcook (fourth), Haley Lawrence of Ellsworth (fifth) and Eliza Broughton of GSA (ninth).
Caribou used a strong pack-running approach to win the boys large-school crown, with the top six Vikings all finishing within 21.65 seconds of each other between eighth and 17th places overall.
Chathu Karunasiri led the Caribou contingent in eighth, followed by Elijah Verhoff (ninth) and Mitchell St. Peter, Caleb Hunter and Daniel Randolph in the Nos. 13-15 places — and teammate Lukas Lagasse was less than two seconds behind Randolph.
“We all ran as a pack. We stayed together, fed off each other and gave each other the encouragement we needed,” said St. Peter. “It wasn’t exactly a pack; it was like a straight line but we could all see each other.”
Coach Roy Alden’s club finished with 39 points, nine better than runner-up MDI in the boys large-school ranks. Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft was third with 107 points, with Old Town (118) and John Bapst (132) completing the top five.
Orono scored 26 points to edge GSA (32) for the small-school title, with Lee (77) and Central of Corinth (91) next.
Orono was paced by the 3-4 finishes of Tristan Butterfield and Matt Keresey, while Hassett took control a half-mile into the boys race to win in 17:15.07.
“I knew I just wanted to get ahead of everyone, just go out hard and then hopefully I wouldn’t see anyone,” said Hassett, whose teammate Devlin Valle turned in a seventh-place finish.
Hermon senior Josh Zapsky finished second in the boys race in 18:01.06. Others among the top 10 were fifth-place Ralph Mangani of MDI, Jason Bartley of Presque Isle (sixth) and Cooper Nelson of Foxcroft (10th).